Kyatlami Jeans are a fucking trainwreck. I don’t say this lightly.
You could almost forgive them. You could, for instance, write off their many faults, putting them down to language barriers and inexperience, but here’s the rub: as bad as their product is (and it’s the worst-constructed pair of jeans I’ve ever seen), their conduct as a company is worse.
It gives me no pleasure to say this. I hoped I would never have to write a takedown piece. I always hope that the products I buy and the brands I buy them from exceed my expectations rather than fall short of them, but Kyatlami has essentially forced my hand. I feel a moral obligation to inform the denim community and protect those who might, like I was, be tempted.
Kyatlami Jeans: Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.
I’ll get to the product itself below, but I want to start with the company. The first thing that should have set alarm bells ringing is the fact that, unlike other brands trying to gain a reputable foothold in the scene, Kyatlami doesn’t have a website. They sell through LinkTree (a broken toy at best) or through Instagram, but not through sales buttons.
No, they comb through posts on the platform, looking for anybody that has ever tagged SoSo or handwoven denim. Unsolicited, they slide into that account’s DM’s. New brands do this all the time, so it’s no crime, but it’s not exactly kosher. These messages are variations on a single theme: “Hello, Bro. We have special summer price for our handwoven jeans, only $110. Same mills as your SoSo handwoven.” I should have seen the red flags, but that price!
I have a special place in my heart for the guys at SoSo. When I first got into this way of life, the Selvedge Way, I got a little carried away. I overbought. SoSo was one of the first custom brands I discovered in this space, and I bought armloads of their denim. Jannis, Johan, and Fredrik have always been patient and willing to talk with me, which was critical at the start of this blog. I’ve reviewed many of these pieces on this blog, and I posted an interview with SoSo co-founder Jannis Hoff about their handwoven denim.
When I got Kyatlami’s message, my journalist senses started tingling. Here was a chance to compare two products, one from a Western company, the other straight from the source. Something felt very off about Kyatlami’s approach, but their use of SoSo’s brand equity was compelling. There was a clear implication that the product would be virtually the same, and I was curious to see how the two pairs stacked up next to each other.
I answered their message. Their terms sounded reasonable enough. There was an additional $50 charge to ship from Indonesia, and their production time was one week. Even with some size alterations, custom back pocket linings, and bespoke arcuates on the back right pocket, their production time was still one week—and there was no additional cost for these bells and whistles. I paid my $160 and held my breath.
A few weeks later, the jeans had still not arrived, and I was starting to see that I had not been the only one to take the bait. One customer had received jeans that were a full size too small. When he tried to pull them on, the belt loop came off in his hands. I had a sinking feeling. I might as well have set fire to that $160, I thought, but a shred of hope remained.
A few more weeks go by, nearly a month after purchase, the jeans arrived. On one hand, they fit surprisingly well, and aesthetically, the denim looks great. It’s got a soft hand feel and feels great against the skin when worn. It’s almost like denim sweats and less like denim. Color me surprised.
On the other hand, it was immediately clear there was a large gap in quality between the Kyatlami jeans and SoSo’s handwoven jeans. The quality in construction was noticeably different: loose threads, sloppy finishes, buttons, and rivets that were already loose and crooked seam lines plague these jeans. Bluntly, it’s sloppy fucking work. Kyatlami’s denim felt cheap, loosely woven to the point I had little confidence in them holding up while sitting on a park bench, let alone putting them through anything more strenuous.
The honeymoon period ended rather abruptly. Four days later, the jeans failed: the chain stitching in the crotch completely let go, and the exterior stitching was coming loose just as fast.
I went back to the brand through Instagram messenger and reported the issue to them, and it was all apologies. They accepted that they were at fault, and they suggested that I should find a tailor to fix the defects. I looked, but I couldn’t find anyone in my area who could do chain stitching. When I told them this, they asked me to send the jeans back if the cost isn’t prohibitive (which it was). Finally, they offer a replacement pair.
A week later, I check in with Kyatlami on the shipping status of my replacement jeans. They are finished and shipping soon, which is a vast improvement from the first time around. But a few days later the jeans still haven’t shipped. I send them an enquiry, and they respond with excuses about their leather patches running out. They need another week, they say. A week later, the jeans are in the mail, and two weeks later a pair of jeans land with a thud on my doorstep.
I say, “a pair of jeans arrive,” and not, “my jeans arrive,” because they sent the wrong cut and the wrong size. Let’s be more specific, the jeans that arrive are a full size too small and in the skinniest cut of denim I’ve seen since My Chemical Romance was relevant. I’m seething now, and this turns to white hot rage when I start to look closer. There is a hole in the crotch about the size of a number two pencil eraser. This from a brand that purports to inspect each pair personally.
I message them immediately, and I don’t get a response. Then I get a WhatsApp message from an Indonesian number. It’s Kyatlami, and it’s all excuses, shock, and denial. This has, they say, never happened before. This is far from an isolated incident, but all I’m interested in at this stage is how they’re going to make this right. They settle on sending me a third pair in a different fabric, entirely custom. Fuck it. I agree to give them one last chance to get their shit together.
A few more weeks go by, and the once jovial and chatty Kyatlami owner is now all business. He tells me the jeans will be ready in a week. Ten days later the jeans are “still in the workshop.” They will, he says, “be ready in 3-4 days.” This is the last message I receive from the brand. All further communication attempts are met with silence.
October 28th, “Hey guys, hope all is well, any update?” The message is marked read around 1pm EST (lawd bless “marked read,” on WhatsApp.).
November 4th, “Hey guys, is everything OK?” The message is marked read around 6pm EST. This marks the final communication attempt with the brand.
Kyatlami Jeans: The Worst Experience I’ve had in Denim
I filed a complaint with PayPal. Through their buyer protection program, I was able to recoup the purchase price of the jeans, but not the shipping. I lost fifty dollars in the end but gained an education worth so much more.
First, borrowing brand equity is fucked up. Using an established brand’s reputation to overstate a loose affiliation with them to gain their customer base’s trust is tremendously sideways as a business practice. I don’t think this is common practice (I’ve never seen anything like it), but it’s a giant red flag if it does happen. If you’re determined to roll the dice, there are a few other red flags to watch for: poor or inconsistent communication; a price that seems too good to be true; and frequently missed deadlines. The Kyatlami experience was 2020 in a nutshell—a three-ring circus taking place inside a dumpster fire.
There’s a second as well. Indonesia is kind of the Wild West of denim right now. The scene is rapidly growing in Jakarta, and great brands (e.g., Blue States, NBDN, and Sage) are emerging from that part of the world. My advice is simple: if you haven’t heard of them, if you can’t find any reputable web presence, and if their social media following is low compared to other small brands, don’t take their word for it. Ask around. If that still turns up nothing to support the credibility of the brand, walk away.
I spoke with SoSo Co-Creator Johan Blom upon completion of my experiment to gain additional information about the nature of the business relationship between SoSo and Kyatlami. I learned that while SoSo procures their handwoven denim from Kyatlami, the fabric is proprietary and based on Johan and Jannis’ specifications.
None of the Kyatlami designed fabric is used in SoSo denim. Additionally, Kyatlami dyes, weaves, and rolls the denim, then ships it to SoSo. From there, SoSo’s tailors see to the cut and sew operation. This is an important distinction: Kyatlami both manufactured and tailored the jeans reviewed in this article. Having experienced both products, to compare SoSo and Kyatlami and imply they are the same is like comparing a wolf to a jackal. Sure they are both canines, but an apex predator and a bottom-feeding scavenger are not equal.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch or a cheap pair of good denim. We all know what the going rate is for entry-level, mid-level, and premium denim. Trust that knowledge; trust expertise, and trust your gut instinct.
My intuition told me to walk away, but I had a bone between my teeth. I wanted to prove a point, and this ended up costing me. You definitely get what you pay for in life (and especially in the world of denim). Want cheap jeans? Go grab a pair of Levi’s from a big box store and leave those messages from Kyatlami and the other brands peddling their horse shit unanswered. You’re better to spend your money on a mass-market than to take a flyer on an unproven brand. At least you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.
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