OK, not going to lie. I am really pumped about this interview. As the father of two toddlers, one of which is my two-year-old daughter, I am always encouraged when meeting women breaking “the norm” and shattering gender stereotypes. My hope for my daughter, her future, and the future for her entire gender, is one of equality and not being told: “you can’t, you’re a girl.”
Yes, denimhead culture seems to be a mostly male-dominated counter-culture. With that said, since starting this blog, I’ve started paying closer attention to the community, and I have noticed there are way more female selvedge fans than I realized. While that, in and of itself, feels a slightly ignorant thing to say, I certainly don’t mean it that way. What’s all this have to do with the Indigo Invitational?
Today’s subject for The Contenders Series, Rachel Richardson (@well.worn.collective), is part of a group of females registered and competing in this year’s Indigo Invitational. While I haven’t cleared the entire 300+ registrants for a firm figure on the number of women competing this year, Rachel stood out in a few posts on the Facebook community. I wanted to connect with her about what it means to be a female fader in this competition and see what I could learn about encouraging my own daughter.
INDIGO INVITATIONAL Y2 CONTENDER: Rachel Richardson (@well.worn.collective)
THE ARCUATE: Hey, Rachel! First, Thanks so much for answering my questions about your participation in the Indigo Invitational this year and being a bad-ass role model for my little girl! I’ve asked everyone to start the same way, so, would you both mind telling us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?
Rachel Richardson: Thank you so much for asking me! I am honored to help be the voice of women in the denim community! My name is Rachel Richardson, and I am from Boise, ID. (Born and raised) I am a nutrition coach and personal trainer.
TA: That’s awesome! Thanks for that. 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 raw life?
RR: Haha, it is definitely a way of life! I have always been notorious for not washing my jeans, and when I started dating my fiancé, he told me all about these new jeans he had and how much he loved them and that he never had to wash them and they fit great! Naturally, this got me really curious since I didn’t like washing mine, but they would get really loose and fit poorly. We took a trip to Seattle (there is nowhere in Boise, ID to buy women’s cut raw denim). I tried on a pair of Naked and Famous and was sold. The fit just gets better and better over time!
TA: Man, feels like a lot of first-time buyers find themselves with N&F. I know women cuts probably narrows that field of choice though. You’re part of a community within a community in a way, being a woman within the denimhead community, which seems dominated by men. I apologize in advance if this is a loaded question, but what is it like to be a woman in this world? What would you say to women on the fringe of this community, interested but perhaps hesitant to join for whatever reason?
RR: I love this question, and you know what? I have never really thought of it that way. I am a competitive powerlifter, a pretty male dominant sport; I was a HUGE “tomboy” growing up (always playing in the dirt, camping, playing sports). I think that has always been my normal to dive headfirst into something I am passionate about and not care about the judgments others have of me.
Any women who want to join this community should! I have always been so welcomed by everyone, and you never know who you might inspire to take a leap of faith when they see you take yours. We were not created to live inside a perfect little box, life is messy, and I want to see more women embrace that and not care about what others think!
TA: This might be a slightly ignorant question, but to build off my previous question, are there many makers with female-specific fits? I only know of a small handful of makers that do. How did that impact choosing your pair of jeans for the Indigo Invitational? What did you go with, and why did you choose them?
RR: I do not think this is an ignorant question because there are so many makers WITHOUT female-specific fits. There are some amazing ones out there, though, and I feel more and more rising to the surface. Many of the female-specific fits have stretch in them, though, which is something to look into depending on what you are wanting in your jeans. I knew I wanted something new and different; I wanted a challenge for myself for the Indigo Invitational, so I chose the Benzak W-01 Straight Special #2 15oz. I was in Amsterdam recently and tried them on in Denim City and loved this denim’s look and feel.
TA: It would be cool to maybe team up and do some research on that, compile a list of makers with female cuts and see if we can get in a few pairs for you to try and review! On fits, as a fellow gym rat and fitness-focused person, how do you find the fit finding process? What challenges does your fitness lifestyle present in your denim lifestyle?
RR: HARD. This is the most challenging and most frustrating part of denim for me with an athletic build. I am still searching for a pair of jeans that will fit me in both the thighs and waist all at the same time! I have to size up to fit my legs, but the waist never fits. With the Indigo Invitational coming up and some powerlifting meets, I might just have to lift in my jeans…
TA: I’ve literally seen guys training in jeans, not jorts, jeans, and I don’t think I could do it. Feels like a lot of friction in sweaty places. Yuck. Haha. At the start of the Indigo Invitational, we all start 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?
RR: My favorite part of a fresh pair is that pure, consistent indigo all throughout; I love looking at it and imagining the possibilities of what this pair will become. What can I keep in a pocket to get a unique fade… my least favorite is how stiff they are. Getting past that first couple of weeks while they learn and form to your body is always hard for me, but I am dedicated!
TA: A year of the same pair of jeans is a long time, there’s a lot to consider; was, don’t wash, soak, rain baths, Harry Potter magic; what will your approach to maintaining and repairing your jeans be like? Do you subscribe to any denim care philosophies?
RR: Every pair I own, I have only ever soaked to have them repaired. No washes, nothing. I think this pair I will try to wash every couple of months just so I don’t end up with a blowout (big thighs, I am telling you). It will be a new strategy for me, but I am excited to see what comes from it.
TA: Usually, this would be the point where I would ask how your significant other feels about you wearing one pair of jeans every day for a whole year, but in this instance, your fiancé is competing as well, right? How did the conversation go regarding the decision to join the Indigo Invitational, and who’s the idea was it anyway?
RR: He is! I am so excited we are doing this together. He told me about it when he started seeing posts for Y2. He followed along with the Indigo Invitational in Y1 but did not compete. The second he told me about it. I knew we had to join! I signed up and purchased my jeans and kind of dragged him along with me. We get married 9.25.21, so right before the year is over, I am trying to convince him to wear his denim for the wedding!
TA: Are the two of you naturally competitive? Are either of you concerned about sabotage by the other? Who is going to break and be the first to wash their jeans? Are you sleeping with one eye open?
RR: VERY! We are both current and/or past competitive athletes, which carries over into other parts of our lives. I will probably scare him into thinking I will sabotage him, but he might be the one to throw mine in the wash while I am sleeping. I’ll have to set booby traps. Thank you for reminding me
TA: I’ve stopped asking about what prizes the competitors are all eye-balling. 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. I will close by asking, what are you most looking forward to from this experience?
RR: I am so excited to see the evolution of everyone’s denim. It is an art to me, and I cannot wait to document the process and celebrate someone’s first fade, first repair, a first significant milestone in their denim! I’ll try not to wear mine under my wedding dress.
Rachel, It has bee nan absolute blast getting to know you. Thank you so much for speaking up for the females in this competition and flying a flag for those to follow after us. I showed my daughter your pictures (she is two) and her response was”strong like daddy!” You have your number one fan, already! Good luck and we will check in again.
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