Who is Johan Blom? Like most people, Johan was born. But, unlike others, legend has it he was born wearing selvedge denim. While I am 90% sure that I am 100% joking, I am 100% certain that Johan is one of two masterminds behind the SOSO Clothing. Johan and Jannis started SOSO Clothing in 2010, and has become a worldwide Swedish denim brand, with their production base in Central Bangkok. With Jannis in charge of production and Johan running marketing, the two set off to start their empire. Later, in 2017, Fredrik Schoultz joined the team, spearheading sales, and they became a denim tripod!
As previously mentioned, when you are new to the denim community and and you carry about as much weight as Laura Flynn Boyle, it can be daunting approaching a company for an interview, let alone one as reputable as SOSO. Through their awesome and open engagement with their client base on social media, I was able to start a conversation with Jannis Hoff which turned into a conversation and interview with Johan Blom! I’m not going to lie, I was so excited that I wanted to pee a little, but didn’t want to wash my jeans, so I refrained. We all know what happened last time I had to do this prematurely.
What follows is our second “15 in 15” interview, this time featuring Johan Blom of SOSO Clothing. In this interview we learn a little bit more about the man, the brand and we get an early insider announcement made here, at The Arcuate, first.
The Arcuate: Johan, I know there is information about SOSO and its origins, but could you tell me three little known facts about you?
- I’m a huge wine lover.
- My wife only owns 1 pair of SOSO jeans.
- I’m stubborn as hell…
TA: How did selvedge denim become part of your life and why did it make such a big impact on you? What was your first pair?
JB: We have our first Indian contact to thank for that. He showed us our first fabric from Kaihara and told us everything there was to know about selvedge denim and it’s heritage. The first pair of selvedge jeans was that exact fabric, and our first Slim Darryl sample; 13.5 oz redline that I still have today.
TA: That’s so sick that your first sample is your first and oldest pair of selvedge. What is the denim culture like in your part of the world?
JB: In Sweden, we have a growing community of denimheads. It’s still extremely limited in turns of guys wearing cuffed, redwings, 3-layered denim. But we have it. My surprise is that far more “ordinary” customers buy selvedge denim because of the increased, and perceived quality.
TA: Do the three of you run SOSO full time or do you have other side hustles, if so, what are the day jobs, if not what financed you while you guys got SOSO off the ground?
JB. Yes, we run SOSO full time, which is a blessing. To be able to do what you love and nourish, is a gift! When we started we had 0 dollars, and financed everything from our own pockets, with the help of our student loans. But we wouldn’t be anywhere without the support from our friends and family.
TA: What backgrounds lead you all to make the transition from simply wearing selvedge to making your own clothing?
JB: Well, we didn’t wear selvedge denim before founding SOSO. The fascination with selvage denim came naturally with the first Slim Darryl.
TA: You guys have a couple different paths to your products, ready to ship products and the custom path. I went the custom path and love my products. On our blog I wrote an article about the paradox of choice, do you think too much choice can be a challenge especially with custom denim?
JB: The “Ready way”, has been an experiment, since we are keen on getting more customers comfortable with raw denim and selvedge. We noticed that there were a lot of Scandinavian customers, not too familiar with our products, and felt that the choices became overwhelming.
So to answer your next question, yes, too many choices can be challenging. But we are trying to make it easier to put together a pair without having to go through all the options. That is now called “SO Easy”. Basically we have 5 best selling denims, with safe details chosen by us.
TA: From my own experience working with you, you put a lot of time and effort into making sure customers have their own unique experience and that the finished product is exactly as requested and of the highest quality. For me quality is king, what do you place as the highest importance for your brand (can be multiple things)?
JB: Honesty. We are still a small company, and even though we have 93 countries so far, we have no shareholders, no board of directors, and we still want every customer to feel like a part of our family. That means, communicating everything without sugarcoating it.
Quality is of course something that we work with every day. We are trying to become the world leading company in the denim industry.
We pride ourselves in our customer service that we take care of 24/7 to our best extent. Customers are surprised when they get an email from one of the owners and not someone in India. I feel that our communication is the most important thing, and since I do have the time to sell my brand, I should also have the time to communicate with my buyers.
TA: The denim market is getting more and more saturated. Everyone tends to have similar offerings. Obviously, the custom way is a differentiator for SoSo. What else do you guys want to accomplish to truly set yourselves apart in the market?
JB: I wish I could tell you more about that. We are working with something revolutionary that still is a couple of years away from being released. But it involves technology, and outside the box thinking. 😉
If that is fulfilled, you will definitely know what sets us apart from our competitors.
TA: Haha, fair enough, that is very intriguing, so I will be sure to keep up with you on that little bomb drop, if that is OK? You source denim from a lot of different mills from different regions, which do you like the best and why?
JB: In these times I love that we can support the smaller, local suppliers. Our factory delivers lots of Japanese fabrics from small suppliers all over the world, especially Japan. It is so important to know that, even if a selvedge denim does not come from one of the larger well-known mills, there’s still small manufactures that LOVES making denim with equal, or sometimes, better quality.
TA: Which mills have surprised you the most in terms of quality and characteristics?
It’s a small Indonesian manufacturer that will start supplying us with our own proprietary fabrics.
TA: What is next for SoSo; do you have new products, collaborations or design ideas?
JB: You will be the first to know this: We are releasing a new product category. Custom-made Waistcoats will be available in April. We are also looking for collaborations but nothing in the pipeline as we speak. We are releasing some new fits, and also revised ones, to better suit our customers.
TA: Uh….what? That’s amazing. I will definitely be first in line for a waist coat. Thanks for the exclusive knowledge on that ! I’d love to pry more, but as we are so close to April, now, I think I will refrain and push on. So, have you made the pilgrimage to Okayama yet? If so what impressed you the most?
JB: We were actually planning a trip to Tokyo and Okayama this year…But since the situation of COVID 19 has escalated, we will look to postpone the trip to next year unfortunately.
TA: Unfortunate to hear that but definitely a wise decision given the current state of affairs. What’s the longest you’ve gone without washing a pair of jeans and how abused did your friends and family have to make you feel before you caved?
JB: I still have a pair of 24.5 oz indigo x indigo jeans that I haven’t washed for 5 years now. I do not cave that easily… remember question 1: I’m stubborn 😉
TA: What is the most embarrassing song on your phone right now, but still listen to?
JB: Marc Anthony – Vivir Mi Vida. I’m a sucker for Spanish music.
TA: OK, it’s that time: Two Truths and a Lie about you. Don’t tell us which are true, and which is a lie. We will guess and follow up a week after we post!
- I love wearing pre-washed denim.
- I have 5 pairs of Levi’s jeans in my closet.
- When I die, I will be buried in my SOSO denim suit.
TA: Oh dang, this is a tough one. OK, first, I hope the denim suit is true, because that is some bad-ass shit right there. I am going to say that you don’t love wearing pre-washed denim. I’m calling bullshit on that!
Johan, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you a little better. We are so grateful that you were willing to participate in this 15 in 15. We look forward to seeing the rollout of the new waistcoats and everything you have planned in the future. Stay safe, stay raw!
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