I am so excited to bring the first interview in the Females of Fade series. When I met Suzy Marnell on Facebook, I knew that she was the kind of badass human I wanted to know. Suzy is passionate, loves to sweat and spend time with her family. I just know she loves hard. If we needed a role model to look up to, we might have found it in Suzy.
Yes, denimhead culture seems to be a mostly male-dominated counter-culture. With that said, since joining The Arcuate, I’ve started paying closer attention to the community, and I have noticed more females are interacting and leading the charge than I would have thought. It makes me damn proud to be standing alongside these powerhouse female faders. I am sure you’re asking, what does all this have to do with the Indigo Invitational?
Today’s subject for the Females of Fade Series, Suzy Marnell (@edenforest), is part of a group of females registered and competing in this year’s Indigo Invitational. It was easy to see right away the passion that Suzy has for this community. The level of interaction and the amazing photos being shared gets me excited. I wanted to connect with her to get her perspective on what it means to be a female fader in this competition.
Female Fader: Suzy Marnell
THE ARCUATE: Hi, Suzy! First, Thanks so much for answering my questions and being such a standout female in this competition. I’ve asked everyone to start the same way, so would you mind telling us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?
Suzy: Hi Rachel! Thank you for thinking of me for this! I am a military brat that has settled in Kennedale, TX (near Fort Worth), and I am a Project Manager for a telecommunications company. I am also a wife and mother to 3 little boys aged 5 and under.
TA: That sounds like so much fun; I am sure your little ones keep you busy! I’m always curious about how people found themselves addicted to selvedge/raw denim. Everyone has that first moment when they suddenly realize this will be a bit of an obsession or way of life (sounds less severe that way). What brought you to not only dive into selvedge but kept you here? What is it you love about slow fashion?
Suzy: Honestly, my obsession started with a Vimeo video my friend Jillian sent me in 2010 called “Traveling Denim – Recording color fade for two years.” It followed a woman as she traveled the world in a single pair of jeans and I was fascinated by it!
My other biggest obsession is leather goods because I love how everyone’s wallets and bags get a unique patina based on their lifestyle, and raw denim is precisely the same way. I did a fading contest in 2013 with Railcar denim, and everyone wore a pair cut from the same roll of denim, so it was really cool to see how different everyone’s looked by the end of the year.
TA: Okay, that is pretty amazing! I am going to have to look up this video. I couldn’t agree more; I love watching leather patina. You’re part of a community within a community, in a way, being a female within the denimhead community, which I feel is dominated by men. How would you describe your role as a female in this community? What would you say to females on the fringe of this community, interested but perhaps hesitant to join for whatever reason?
Suzy: I think one of my main roles in the community is to help share my raw denim experience and show that many men’s cuts can also look great on women. I think one of the biggest reasons females are hesitant to try raw denim is the whole idea of not washing them for months at a time, and they think maybe they’re going to be gross or stink.
I’m sure it totally depends on your job/lifestyle, but I have been wearing raw denim exclusively since 2012 and have never had that problem. Even after being around campfires or bars, the jeans smell like nothing again by the next day. It’s magical! Ha!
Finding the right fit is also a massive thing because unless you live in a metro area, you have to buy your raw denim online without trying them first, and I think there is a lot of confusion on sizing since it differs so much between the brands.
I’m 5’7″ and wear anywhere from a 31 to a 34 right now, depending on the brand. There is also a big learning curve, so it can be confusing if you don’t have someone to help answer questions, and you can end up with a pair that fit great when you buy them but stretch out to be too loose in a few weeks if you aren’t aware of that.
TA: I love your position of being a storyteller in this community. So I have to ask, do you generally seek out female cuts in raw denim, or do you prefer to go with non-female specific cuts? How did this choice impact choosing your pair of jeans for the Indigo Invitational? What did you go with, and why did you choose them?
Suzy: I have only ever owned one pair of women’s cut denim (the Railcars I used in the 2013 contest) and have worn men’s cuts ever since then. I prefer larger pockets, and they just seem to fit my body better. For me, the most critical measurement after the waist size is the Front Rise because I don’t want to have a massive bulge in front. Ha! I only buy denim with a rise of 10.25″ or less, and my favorites are under 10″.
Until the very last minute, I hadn’t planned to do this year’s Indigo Invitational! I had already bought many new pairs over the summer and didn’t want to have them just sitting in storage all year. My BFF, Marc (@marc.from.earth), who discovered raw denim earlier in the year, reignited my passion for it. I decided two weeks out that I would really regret not doing competing, so I had to scramble to find a new pair.
I ended up with 15oz Brave Star Skeleton Skinny, mainly because several people had recommended them to me as my next pair to try, and I had also really wanted to try Cone Mills denim again. The quality really surprised me because they cost a fraction of what I usually pay, but they have a lot of great details, and I found the stitching is excellent.
TA: It sounds like you have really dialed in what you want in a pair of jeans! Also, shout out to @marc.from.earth; I wouldn’t have met you if he had not reignited your passion! Since you know what you like, what is your favorite pair you own, and what makes them stand out to you so much?
Suzy: My favorite pair is my first pair of Rogue Territory SK’s. They were a style called Tonal Indigo, and the stitching is Navy Blue, so you couldn’t see the seams at first, but you can now that they have faded. I’ve had them since 2015 and have worn them 507 times. They have only been soaked twice and washed three times. They are my most faded pair.
They are also full of some of my best memories. I got them before I had any kids and have worn them at all 3 boys’ birth. Countless other milestones have been etched into these jeans. It doesn’t hurt that they are so broken-in that they feel like pajama pants. They’re so soft!
The Rogue Territory SK fit is the “gold standard” that I use to compare all measurements when looking at new brands. If you cannot try them on, comparing sizes to a pair of jeans you already love helps find a great fit.
TA: Dang, 507 wears, that’s impressive and so many big moments! At the Indigo Invitational start, we all begin with a blank, starchy-stiff canvas. The break-in period, people either love it or hate it…tolerate might be a better word; what is your favorite part about starting anew on a fresh pair of selvedge? What would you say is your least favorite?
Suzy: I definitely think my favorite part of starting a new pair is deciding which wallet I will carry and what I will be keeping in my pockets. I like to stick to the same things in my pocket every day for whatever pair I’m wearing, so picking new items is so exciting for me.
My least favorite part is, of course, the first few weeks because I like to buy them as tight as I can tolerate since they stretch out a bit. Trying to put on boots before they stretch out is the worst part!
TA: I couldn’t agree more! Trying to bend down to get boots on in a fresh pair of jeans is downright painful sometimes! I know you mentioned above that your Rogue Territory SK’s have only been washed three times. 365 days straight of the same pair of jeans is a long time. There’s a lot to consider; wash, don’t wash, soak, rain baths, spot cleaning; what will your approach to maintaining and repairing your jeans be like? Do you subscribe to any denim care philosophies?
Suzy: I definitely never soak before 180 actual days of wear. I spill stuff on my jeans all the time, but I always just spot clean them (mustard) or just leave them alone (beer). When I finally soak, I have always used Dr. Bronner’s Organic Castile Liquid Soap in Lavender and soak in warm water for 45 min, then rinse clean in the shower.
I air dry them until they are almost dry and then wear them dry to help stretch them back out. Squats and lunges are essential! I usually take my jeans to a tailor when I need repairs, but I plan to do my own repairs this year.
TA: How amazing to take on your own repairs for this year? That will definitely cut down on days when you cannot wear your jeans. I have seen some amazing photos you have posted of your competition pair. Did you have to do your first repair? What was that process like? Did that add any stress to the competition?
Suzy: I did get to do my first repair on Christmas Eve this year! I had been using a wallet with a brass snap with raised print, and it made a hole in my jeans really quickly. I didn’t mind that at all, but I found out I had ruined all of my kitchen chairs with scratches from the snap! Oops!
I had a repair kit from Nudie Jeans Co. that I used that came with some pretty generous pieces of denim in different colors and indigo soaked thread. I patched the pocket from the inside. I definitely welcome any future repairs because I’m making them my own, and each spot will have its own story.
TA: I am looking forward to seeing your future repairs as well. This year may look a little different for many of us, but what is your go-to outfit with these jeans?
Suzy: Before Covid, my answer for the last decade would have been a plaid flannel shirt and boots, but I have been working from home since March 2020, so my daily outfit has really changed. Now it’s usually a t-shirt, my Brave Stars, and some old Jack Purcell sneakers unless I actually leave my house. Then I’ll grab a light jacket because I’m usually cold in grocery stores or restaurants.
TA: I am always freezing too! Speaking of freezing, it snowed for the first time this winter (this year, decade, eon?!) in Texas, where you live. Did you try the Snider method? Haha.
Suzy: I sure did! Even with my measly 1″ of snow, it was cold and enough to soak them a little! I posted a video of it and realized I have no coordination. I also did it on the front side down instead of on my back because I didn’t want to get my new vegan leather wallet wet. Ha!
TA: Yes! The attention to detail, I love this! Haha. Are there any prizes you’ve got your eyes set on? I know everyone thinks the prizes are fine and grand; however, people seem to really be in it for the sheer accomplishment of completing the year and the camaraderie. What are you most looking forward to from this experience?
Suzy: I think my main goal is to get through the entire contest with no days of wear missed! When I did my contest in 2013, I had 7 days missed by the end, and I regretted it. I also mainly did it for the camaraderie and new friendships.
I’ve already met so many incredible people because of the Indigo Invitational! I have been obsessed with raw denim for eight years now, yet all of my denim friends have been online only. I have yet to geek out with someone about this stuff in real life!
TA: I feel an Indigo Invitational meet up should be in order once we can gather. How rad would that be to hang out with like-minded people and meet one another!? I will close this out by asking (because I am on a mission), do you have a favorite plain white tee? If so, let’s hear the details.
Suzy: I do not, yet, but I have been on the hunt for years! My current favorite white tee falls short because the neck is too broad and the sleeves are too short (women’s), but I am excited to check out some of the ones on the Denimhunters Buying Guide for T-shirts!
TA: Suzy, It was amazing getting to talk with you. Thank you so much for your time and being such a stand-out in this competition. I hope you have all enjoyed the first installment of Females of Fade, an Indigo Invitational Y2 Contender Series. Stay tuned for more.
If you wear it well, it will be well worn.
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