Questions we very often get asked are - "What made you guys start Léon Denim?" and "Why do you do what you do?"
To answer the first question, the beginning of our story goes back to 2014, and was borne out of shared passions and interests. Iver Aldas and I were former workmates in the same large company, meeting by chance when we separately bought vintage watches from the same seller. Jake Antig was already a friend of Iver for some years, brought together by their love for photography. The binding connection for us was a common love for clothing, and what started out as a mere experiment to make raw and selvedge denim for personal consumption became developed into something more. It made us realize there was no local, homegrown brand that made artisanal jeans in the traditional way, using the right materials and proper construction. Though from our respective backgrounds we knew how clothes were and should be made, we had no formal background in tailoring. We sought ourselves a tailor (ironically, whom we did have to train) and in the matter of a few months, with Jake's brother Albert joining the fray, we decided to establish the brand. And armed with nothing but a keen desire to continuously learn, a good dose of grit, and a genuine love for high quality raw and selvedge denim and heritage-inspired garments, was born Léon Denim in late 2014.
It's been several years already since, and our work has extended into other articles of wear like military-inspired clothing, bags, headgear and other accessories. We remain a small, tight-knit team, producing only in limited quantities using the best available fabric, materials, and hardware from Japan. We like making clothes that people enjoy wearing, and that that we enjoy wearing ourselves, first and foremost. Thankfully, we have succeeded in establishing a niche presence in the Philippines, and while we have no retail presence abroad, we have customers located in over 12 countries around the world. For four people who are ardent lovers of clothing and are self-taught from scratch, this thrills us no end.
How we do our work
We do all aspects of our business in-house: from design and development, up to and including manufacturing and sales. We have a small workshop in the suburbs of the metro, containing all the proper (many of them vintage) sewing machinery and equipment we had saved for and acquired in progression the past few years. We enjoy researching about clothing and style and studying construction details especially those which have real utilitarian purpose. We delight in bringing these garments into life for others to also enjoy. We spend hours scouring vintage markets, enjoy travel and art and yes, science for inspiration. Keeping it small and all in-house has its challenges - not all of us in it are full-time yet, we are not a low-cost manufacturer, and we do things a bit more slowly (yet deliberately). The upside is that our creative process is not limited, and it is only really up to us to do what we want to do. We are extremely grateful to our customers who appreciate our work - we can genuinely say we wouldn't still be here if not for all of them.
Establishing our brand has resulted in ourselves meeting and learning from some of the best people around, very many of whom have become our friends. From the very first group of mentors who challenged us way back in early 2015, up to the wider communities we helped establish since as a result, it has been one heck of a wonderful, fun ride. We've met so many people both face-to-face and virtually who are very supportive, and we remain so inspired because of that. It's the best outcome we derive from doing what we do. This is the fuel that keeps us going.
And so to try and answer the other question, why we do what we do: it's because we enjoy doing this. Fun is at the heart of what we do. We enjoy studying, we enjoy learning from others, we enjoy starting as amateurs and becoming consequently better at what we do. We get excited coming up with new things. We thrive on building relationships - starting with our own, and with others next. We get absolutely thrilled when we see people enjoy wearing the clothes we make for them - on their special occasions, and yes profoundly so in the humdrum of their daily lives. It makes us feel we are a part of all these.
Raul Lejano, Co-founder