Words Gordon Ritchie
Photography Manu Zafra
“We are a destination store. People come to us from all over the world, as well as the UK, to see our brands in the flesh. There are perhaps a dozen stores like Rivet & Hide around the world at best.”
I was cutting through the South East corner of Fitzrovia. A believer in taking the road less travelled, as I got to the junction of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street I realised I had never actually turned right and gone down Windmill Street before, so I did. In the distance, at the far end of the street, I could see a grey walled, canteen type café with large windows and a cool white, minimal interior looking all Scandinavian and Berlin-ish, which looked interesting, it actually turned out to be more Austrian/Bavarian.
I was just beginning to think how this side road had a similar atmosphere to Aoyama or Omotesando in Tokyo where you can find fantastic stores in the backstreets when, glancing to my right, there was a large picture window drawing me in. On display was dark denim, military jackets and the title, Rivet & Hide in a classic gold scrolling typescript across the door.
I’d always thought, with the huge amount of media companies in this area, there were a lot of young men around with money to burn, and nowhere to burn it, on clothes. Now someone had done it. I stepped in to the interior. The shop felt welcoming; an impressive wood-floor led my eyes down the long interior, with natural light appearing to flood in at the far end. A friendly hello, a swathe of dark, stiff, flat Japanese selvedge jeans along one wall accompanied by the sound of tap, tap, tapping, and then a slightly heavier hammering, adding to the fresh atmosphere.
It felt warm and welcoming, like a workshop, and the friendliness definitely added an echo of the Japanese level of service. The extensive denim selection was accompanied by t-shirts in subtle shades, and substantial leather wallets and accessories in natural, nude tones. Old wood and metal school seating, wood and glass cabinets, and copies of Men’s File magazine contributed to the air of investment in authenticity.
Danny Hodgson and his partner, Junior, faced a mountain of a deposit to secure the lease on the property in Fitzrovia, but, with determination they did it. We got talking… ”we decided on Fitzrovia pretty quickly. We looked at a unit further up Charlotte Street which we liked but, when we saw No. 5 windmill Street and the unique charm of this area, I knew this was where it had to be. It’s not easy getting a landlord to take on a new tenant with no trading history, especially in a market like London. I wanted to be somewhere easy to get to but off the beaten track in central London. Fitzrovia to me feels like village London; albeit a very busy village with a charm of its own.”
Rivet & Hide opened its first front door early in 2014. They had already been selling online for around 2 years. A well-travelled Danny had discovered the Japanese selvedge denim culture on his frequent trips to the US and Japan, where his job with an airline often took him. Learning and being drawn into the detail of the artisan aspects of Denim brands like Flat Head, Iron Heart, Pure Blue Japan, 3Sixteen and Stevenson Overall Company, he began to gain the trust of selvedge Samurai.
“You have to build strong relationships with the Japanese to do business. I meet up with the brand owners twice a year to discuss the collections and any collaboration. I could not do that if I had an endless brand list. The connection with the brand is important.” They educated Danny in the irregular aspects of the weave in the denim cloth produced by Toyoda looms. He also learnt the Aizome way of indigo dying the cotton fabric, and was taught the technique required to operate a union special machine to chain stitch the hems.
“We love small batch brands that are devoted to their craft. The denim we carry is the best in the world, made on vintage looms by some very skilled craftspeople. The brands themselves have big personalities and the denim they produce has tremendous character.” It’s not just the denim that is top-grade though: there are great flight jackets and pea coats, checked and flannel shirts and sweats.
“I also like lifestyle brands; ones that produce a whole range of apparel to complement their denim. It keeps the narrative of the store very focused.” Danny had never seen these brands in the UK, and coming across a new British Brand, Huit, who were using Japanese bought denim to make jeans in Wales, and Dawson Denim who were using the tough, dark, unwashed cloth to craft heavy duty aprons in Brighton, he began to see the future and the concept that could bring all these labels together and sell them under the banner Rivet & Hide.
“We are a destination store. People come to us from all over the world, as well as the UK, to see our brands in the flesh. There are perhaps a dozen stores like Rivet & Hide around the world at best.” The interior of the store attracted curious Fitzrovians eager to see what this store was going to be all about; with its laying down of an impressive floor made of oak and groyne, reclaimed from Sussex and South Coast homesteads – which will age and change over the years in the same way a pair of jeans bought from Rivet & Hide will acquire character over their lifetime. Engaging them with the beauty of the pieces they would be selling, their stories of far easterly lands, plans and enthusiasm when they opened, the Fitzrovians came back ready to be inducted in the rights of raw denim.
Danny sums up the future. It’s simple: “To continue introducing new customers to some seriously good denim and work-wear of unsurpassed quality.” So, walk to Windmill Street and find a quality store with fine product and a growing following. Rivet & Hide are constructing a reputation built to last and age with distinction.