Indigo Invitational Year 2: The Contenders Series, The Keilhofers

by | September 7, 2020 | Interviews, Indigo Invitational Contender Series

Indigo Invitational

Couples that fade together stay together. Spend a little time on either Franz or Nadine Keilhofer’s Instagram feeds and be prepared to be blown away by creativity. From Nadine’s stunning eye for an image and Franz’s gorgeous woodworking, this couple is a powerhouse for artistry and craftsmanship. The two seem intrinsically made for one another. It’s a beautiful thing to witness in a couple; no, not every couple has this quality, you know I’m right.

Newlyweds, Franz and Nadine, are experiencing year one of marriage in one of the most bizarre and arguably intense years in recent history. Pandemics, global racial tension, goddamn murder hornets, and zombie cicadas, wildfires, and freak storms surround all of us at the moment. Uncertainty is a constant in 2020. Now imagine, then, this well-suited pair were about to embark on another journey, a self-elected hardship if you will, just to make this year a little more interesting.

While I have come to know more than one couple is competing this year in the Indigo Invitational, the first I got to talk with was Franz and Nadine; best friends, creators, and now competitors on the field of indigo fading. I spent some time speaking with them about this year’s Indigo Invitational, love of denim, partnership, and sabotage. Come, get to know this power-couple of fade and wish them the best of luck in the competition and marriage!

INDIGO INVITATIONAL Y2 CONTENDERS: Franz and Nadine Keilhofer (@the_dusty_fader @label.herzfilmmern)

Franz and Nadine Indigo Invitational Conternders

THE ARCUATE: This is something truly unique and, quite frankly, badass. Today I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing Franz and Nadine Keilhofer, selvedge denim power-couple, and the only registrants in this year’s Indigo Invitational that happen to be married. I’m not even sure where to start, but I think some basics make the most sense. Would you both mind telling us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?

Nadine: Hi, my name is Nadine Keilhofer. I’m 30 years old and work as a photographer, illustrator, and graphic designer. Born and raised in Vienna, I moved to Salzburg at the age of 19 to study multimedia arts. Seven years ago, I moved to Bischofswiesen, where I live a happy life surrounded by the Bavarian Alps. I started my own business while working on my bachelor’s degree and finished my Master of Arts in 2015.

Franz: Hi, my name is Franz Josef Keilhofer, and I’m 33 years old. I started a woodturning business in 2010 and also work as a self-employed math tutor, photo model, author, and content creator. Born and raised on a small organic farm in Bischofswiesen, I made an apprenticeship as a precision engineer and studied engineering science. During a break from university, I discovered my love for wood and decided to become a full-time woodturner. My workshop is located on our farm, which dates to the 17th century. It’s home to Nadine and me, my parents, my brother and his girlfriend.

TA: I’m always curious about how people found themselves addicted to selvedge/raw denim. In this case, I think it’s even more interesting because there are two of you. Were you both fans of this life before meeting each other, or did one influence the other; how did you both find your way into indigo addiction?

F: I stumbled across raw denim by accident, while I was working on a new series of wooden bowls, inspired by travels through Japan in 2018 while exploring different methods of dyeing wood with indigo. A fellow craftsman posted about his new Naked and Famous “Elephant 7’s,” and so I got to know about Naked and Famous denim. I didn’t know about raw/selvedge denim at this time, but I liked the idea of heavy denim that outlasts what you usually get to buy from “mainstream and fast-fashion” companies. 

It always fucked me up when I saw people buying “damaged” clothes that looked like they had been worn hard for several years from the start… I mean, like how stupid is that? I still have t-shirts from when I was 16 years old that I wear at least once a week, and although I didn’t think about fades until recently, artificial wear patterns always hurt my sense of aesthetics.

So, long story short, I grasped the opportunity to buy two pairs of N&F’s on a trip to Hamburg. I instantly became addicted and went down the rabbit hole, where I also learned about the Indigo Invitational.

N: My story is a bit shorter. Although I couldn’t really understand Franz’s fascination for raw denim, I loved seeing him smile while he was brushing his jeans and inspecting them for new fades every day before going to bed.

I recently lost some weight, and since all of my jeans started to become loose, I decided to get my first pair of raw/selvedge denim, and soon after, I decided to join Franz in the competition.

Nadine Keilhofer, Indigo Invitational Contender

TA: I love that you found selvedge and the Indigo Invitational, not through pursuit of fashion, but art, Franz. I think that is truly a unique denim origin story. With regard to the Indigo Invitational, my wife still doesn’t fully understand why I am so excited about a denim competition but loves me for loving this life. That said, she sure as hell wouldn’t join me in the Indigo Invitational. Whose idea was it to compete, and did it take much convincing to get the other person on board, or were you both instantly into the idea of wearing two pairs of jeans between you for the next year?

F: I basically decided to join the Invitational five minutes after discovering the Indigo Invitational Facebook group in the “recommended groups” section. I (more as a joke) asked Nadine if she wanted to join me, and she instantly said yes, why not!

TA: A couple that fades together and all that! You guys are newlyweds, what do you think will be more difficult, year one of marriage, or wearing one pair of jeans for 365 days? 

F: For me, it will be super easy. I spend most of my time in my workshop, so the only thing that makes sense is to make my competition pair my workshop pair. There they will get dusty, dirty, and filthy in no time. I will also wear my pair when working on the farm. For my other business-related activities that require a proper look, I will start a second pair, and in my free time, I will stick to my usual rotation. When being self-employed, it’s essential to have a good work balance. Changing pairs helps me to draw a line between work and leisure.

N: It’s basically the same for me; also, I don’t necessarily need to change clothes to maintain my work-life balance. I’ve got some jobs that require the be dressed up appropriately (and yes, jeans are can be part of a “formal” outfit, but probably not if you try not to wash them for a possibly long time) like weddings or business shootings. I also won’t take it to an extreme level… It will kill the mood if I force myself to wear my pair… 

Having the best fun is more important to me than having the best fades.

F+N: Being married will be even easier; we’re not only marriage partners but also best friends. We both work from home, and apart from when one of us had to travel abroad, we almost spend/spent 24/7 together for the last 7 years… this doesn’t work out if you’re not a good team and don’t get along well!

TA: Haha, fair enough. That was a little bit of a joke, sort of, but nevertheless, one pair of jeans for the next year is quite the commitment, especially if you are a collector. What did you both decide on for your competition pairs?

N: I tried Franz’s pair of “dirty fade – super guy” as a joke, and we looked at each other and were like, “wow, that looks surprisingly good!” So, I decided to wear a pair of “natural indigo selvedge – super guy” in a smaller size from N&F.

F: I haven’t decided yet. My preferred pair of jeans for the Indigo Invitational from N&F has a release date too close to the start of the competition, so I opted for a pair from a smaller brand, and I am really looking forward to seeing many small brands in the Invitational. Unfortunately, the size chart wasn’t clear, and I had concerns that I couldn’t shrink the unsanforized fabric enough to make it. In the end, I hardly could button them up when I received the jeans, pre-soak.

That was just too much of a risk for me… My second choice is a custom-made pair that came with a broken rivet and is being returned for repair. Miss again. So, I decided to go with the company that sparked my love for raw denim, Naked and Famous. I still haven’t decided on a specific model yet. I hope to see as many different fabrics in the Indigo Invitational as possible, so it probably will be a last-minute decision.

Franz Keilhofer, Indigo Invitational Contender

TA: Franz, that is an insane string of bad luck. I’m sorry for the tough time, hopefully, you will find the perfect option. So, are the two of you naturally competitive? Is either of you concerned about sabotage by the other? Again, mostly joking, but this is a really unique situation with competitors cohabitating!

F: After 7 years of putting nut-chocolate (is. Nutella) in Nadine’s underwear while she sleeps and enjoying her embarrassment in the morning, I think I will definitely find a way to sabotage her during the competition…


N+F: Just kidding, we’ll be supporting and encouraging each other like we do it with everything else.

TA: How do you think each of your lifestyles, hobbies, and professionals will impact the way your jeans will fade? 

F: I hope my fades will reflect my life as a craftsman. I do a lot of hard physical work in my workshop and on the farm. There are many repetitive motions and things I carry in my pockets that will (hopefully) leave distinct wear patterns.

N: For me, it will be a total surprise, and that’s what excites me the most! Since I always carry my camera with me, there will be many updates on our progress, and while Franz plans to post daily updates on his newly created fade account for the Indigo Invitational, @the_dusty_fader, I will share my progress on @label.herzflimmern.

TA: Everyone eventually hits a breaking point with raw denim and giving their jeans the first wash. Which one of you will break first?

N: That one is easy to answer, Franz! Last year he had to wash his pair four times when he planned to not wash it at all… Franz stabbed himself with a carving knife and soaked his jeans in blood, had a table saw accident (soaked his jeans in blood again), spilled a whole can of hard wax oil finish over his pants, and got a good load of polyurethane foam on his denim as the valve of a cartridge broke.

TA: The big and final question: There are many great prizes this year, one even made by you, Franz. Should you win one, or hell, two, what are you most excited about, and if only one of you wins something, will you share?

N+F: We both would join the competition if there weren’t any prizes at all. 

We’re both huge fans of Japan, and since we had to cancel our honeymoon trip to Japan due to COVID, we both would go with the Japan trip. But actually, all prizes are great. We, of course, will/would share!

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About the Author

Grant Schildhouse

Grant Schildhouse

Grant, our Editor in Chief, is a denim enthusiast and writer; The Arcuate is his attempt to combine these loves in one place. He wants to tell some of the stories behind those who make and wear denim with a passion. His journey into the world of denim continues, and he hopes you'll co-journey with him, allowing him to be your fireside storyteller.