Well-respected in the denim scene for his independent and custom designs, Ande Whall is a one man denim workshop â€“ designing, drafting patterns, garment constructing, branding, sourcing raw materials, and doing sales. Previously specializing in one-of-a-kind pairs, recent Ande Whall releases have been limited to 18 pairs ensuring an exclusive wear. Although he lives in New Zealand, Formatâ€™s Western ignorance has grouped Ande in with the Australian issue to discuss his history in fashion, his denim, and his expansion to a full clothing collection.
â€œin the past it has literally been blood, sweat and tears, trying to carry on with the dream and still eating.â€
Format: Please introduce yourself, and discuss your history as it relates to the design and fashion industry.
Ande: My name is Ande Whall. I am an independent designer from New Zealand. My first label was released in 1995 into local stores – a very small indie street label called “Dune.” I ran it while still working full time as a graphic artist/digitizer at an embroidery factory. Closing down Dune in 1999, I attended a course in Fashion Design and Technology for two years, dropping out to launch the new Ande Whall line in 2001. Since then I have been making small collections for local NZ stores, but the last two years have been spent exclusively producing hand made limited edition, semi custom dry denim jeans for customers all over the world. The majority of jean sales come through guys on Supertalk and Superfuture.com who are extreme denim nerds, to say the least. Now I have just launched the andewhall.com webstore. Kicking off with four new graphic t-shirts, more products will be added as soon as they roll off the drawing board.
Format: You attended a course in Fashion Design for two years, after running your clothing line Dune. Why did you enroll initially?
Ande: Working on Dune I found it really hard to get exactly what I wanted in terms of cut and quality of the clothing. Being reliant on so many different companies for patterns and garment construction was a bit of a nightmare. I wanted to be in complete control of the patterns and have good production samples when turning up to the factories. I didn’t really see myself making the actual garments, but as it turned out I was quite a good sewer, Also having no real capital, I just went for it and made my own little one man sweatshop.
Format: Why did you drop out to create Ande Whall?
Ande: I dropped out in year two of the three year diploma course. We were starting modules in kids clothing, womenâ€™s lingerie and tailoring suits, which wasn’t really up my alley. I had learned what I needed from year one, which basically involved pattern drafting and garment construction. I had already gained a lot of industry experience from working at the embroidery company for seven odd years and working on Dune. Fashion school was invaluable and I can’t recommend it enough â€“ best thing I ever did.
Format: You run Ande Whall alone. What unique challenges and opportunities does this present?
Ande: There are lots of good challenges, well it’s a crazy business to begin with. Getting quality products made, sourcing quality raw products and having good systems in place is an ongoing job. Time management is a biggie, doing a lot of the hands on work is very time consuming. I sort of go from one thing to another setting things up, working on patterns, doing drawings working on sales etc. Then there is the old, art vs. commerce hurdle, putting food on the table, in the past it has literally been blood, sweat and tears, trying to carry on with the dream and still eating.
Format: Ande Whall recently released a set of four tees. What was the general theme or driving inspiration behind this collection?
Ande: I used to run with themes in the past, but found I have so many random ideas and influences that now I roll with whatever is in the forefront, design wise. Skating through the 80s and 90s has had a huge impact when it comes to drawing graphics – nine times out of ten they end up as some monster or weird piss take of something popcultural. I have hundreds of sketches laying around, just waiting for some love and development, and finance to get them realized.
Format: Please take a moment to discuss one, or all of the shirts specifically.
Ande: I am particularly fond of the “Flossin'” one. Flicking through an old “The Face” magazine, I came across this great picture of Macaulay Culkin flossing his teeth so I re-worked him into this original “lo-fi” flosser dude illustration. It’s a bit of a dig at the bling culture that is hard to escape these days. That graphic is actually hundreds of dots from a trusty Sharpie pen, I never use computers for graphics. None of the shirts are really serious, just fun stuff to draw and you can make up your own story if need be or follow my dodgy ones on the website. Some graphics don’t start with a concept in mind, they just evolve from a picture or a random sketch and slowly take on some weird backstory while developing the drawing. I have a hobby of always ripping out the strangest photos while flicking through mags I have a drawer full that I look through from time to time.
Format: Ande Whall will soon be releasing crews, hoodies, and track-suits. What can people expect from these items?
Ande: These items will all be cut ‘n’ sew garments. The graphic T-shirts are the only pieces where I use industry blanks, distingushed by the purple woven labels. I have been working on a certain type of track-suit for a few years, still testing the cut of the pants. I released a bunch of them in a womenswear collection in 05′ also a few menâ€™s track jackets and have been tweaking the patterns ever since, but alas the jeans have kept me tied up. I have access to excellent quality 100% cotton fleece knitted in NZ which will be used exclusively. The sweats will be great shapes and I have always been fond of the raglan cut. Like the jeans, I have developed the patterns over the last six years, so they fit pretty good now. I plan on doing a few minimal pieces, but most will be inked up with graphics.
Format: Most of your time is spent creating custom denim, why are you now taking a break to produce other clothing?
Ande: I got burnt out making so many pairs of jeans solidly over a three year period and wanted to get some work done on setting up a store, get back to working on t-shirt graphics etc, then come back to the denim with a fresh head. I didn’t really mean to get so involved in denim, but just caught the bug and couldnâ€™t leave it alone. I plan to get away from sewing altogether in the near future so there is more time for organization, patterns, graphics and just getting more stuff out a whole lot quicker. From looking at the website it looks like I havenâ€™t done much, but my studio is full of crazy stuff. It’s just frustrating not getting more out quicker, but hopefully that will change soon.
Format: Please run our readers through the process of producing hand made denim.
Ande: I actually posted a picture essay “Pictures of making a pair of jeans” thread in Superdenim when I first started posting there. This was back in the early days of the V1’s. The V2 denim set-up was the most intense. I had pictures of the different cuts, denim, thread colours, pocket lining prints and back pocket branding options that customers could choose from. Guys would send me in their order and I would go about cutting and sewing them from the ground up. It was a lot of fun and I got to talk to really cool dudes from all over the world, and they were very happy to have a hand in choosing what their jeans ultimately ended up like. I wish I could still do it but it’s really not feasible in the long term because it’s so time consuming. I could only make approx five to six pairs a week after running around picking up different thread, fabric, talking to customers and then having the machines set up specifically for that one pair of jeans.
Format: Who is your average denim customer, and why do they choose to purchase from Ande Whall?
Ande: I think it’s guys who want something a bit different, jeans that no one else has and are trying to get away from the mass consumer type products. They are actually mostly extraordinary cats that have stumbled into fashion forums which has opened up this whole new world of brands to them, then they get hooked on denim. In previous collections I think customers have chosen AW firstly because they like the overall look, how the jeans are cut, how they fit and the silhouette created. Knowing it has been hand made with their own choice of custom options is a bonus. Also they can talk to me directly, knowing I am the guy making them and have cut the patterns, so I know every millimeter of the jeans, they can ask questions about sizing and stretching and whole bunch of other stuff. It’s just a bit different than going down to the local store.
More Info: http://www.andewhall.com