Tucked within the neighborhoods of Austin’s eastside, a small dark blue building sits, resembling the contents it contains. Traveller Denim Co. was founded in July of 2013 and since then has served hundreds in the creation of custom, raw denim jeans.
By Sarah Montgomery
Austin’s cultural environment has created a space for small businesses like Traveller Denim Co. to exist, and over a year of successful sales shows that custom jeans are something that locals are interested in. “You know where it is being made. You know where the fabric is being sourced. You know where the money is going to, down to the thread,” co-founder Selenia Rios says. “You spend $300 on a pair of jeans that will last you five years.”
Traveller Denim Co. was created with the goal of creating a sustainable product. After working for years in the film industry, founders Erik Untersee and Selenia Rios decided to change fields. “We started talking about creating something that’s timeless. It was denim,” Rios says. “We were sick of buying things that were made and outsourced in other countries.”
The company depends on a small team of eight, who all take on a variety of tasks to keep their business running. In addition to their small shop on Chestnut Avenue, they have a factory location off of Bolm Road where the jeans are made.
Robyn Brooks has been working at Traveller Denim Co. for a little over a year and refers to herself as a “jean doctor.” Brooks does almost everything from sewing to taking orders, but specializes in making patterns for custom jeans. “With every client we have a first fitting, and with that first fitting you get to choose all the details of the jeans, but we also have to get to know the person a little bit,” Brooks says. “We have to figure out what style of jean they really want.”
Jeans at Traveller Denim Co. are raw, sanforized and 100 percent cotton. Raw denim has never been washed and has no pre-wear. Sanforized means the jeans don’t shrink.
Jeans sold in department stores often come pre-washed and have added wear in order to add style to the jeans, which shortens their lifetime.
All the jeans are made on vintage Singer machines with fabric that is either American or Japanese. “What a lot of people don’t get is that 100 percent brand new cotton is not always the most comfortable thing, so you have to break them in,” Brooks says. “When you’ve put them on, they’ve only ever been folded once.”
Brian Takats comes to the shop on a Tuesday afternoon to try on his new jeans and proceeds to do a series of silly squats and stretches across the floor. Despite the initial discomfort, Takats is one of hundreds of customers that think purchasing raw denim is worth every penny. “When I have things either fitted or measured, I go from looking good to looking fantastic,” Takats says.
Traveller Denim Co. plans to grow, but not exponentially. They will continue producing custom jeans and their ready-made line, as well as increasing their whole sale units to stores around the country. Still, Rios emphasizes the importance of maintaining the small, handmade culture of Traveller Denim. “We don’t want to be this huge company. We really want to maintain how special this is,” Rios says. “We just want to be happy.”