Austin Stubbs / Whiskey Stitched Denim Co.
How did you become a Sewist / Designer / Master Tailor?
I grew up around sewing. My mother and grandmother were both incredible seamstresses. I worked every job imaginable, but there was always an undercurrent of sewing in my life. In January of 2017 I went into my sewing room with a jeans pattern and some denim and emerged 16 hours later with a pair of jeans and I knew it’s what I wanted to do from then on. I embarked on a journey of learning and studied every bit of information on tailoring and pattern making that I could get my hands on. I am self taught. I was never able to find a master tailor to take me on as an apprentice. I think this allowed me to develop my own style and way of doing things.
How did you become interested in the industry?
I’ve always had an interest in making things. I was working as a bike mechanic in DC when I first saw sewing as a potential business. My wife and I became really interested in bike camping and we started building our own bike packing gear. I had no idea that I would one day work in the garment industry. I didn’t want to build clothes until I worked on Patagonia’s Worn Wear tour, traveling the country offering free sewing repairs. After that experience I became obsessed with finding a way to build the best, most ethically sourced, handmade clothes that I could.
How long have you been in the industry?
I have been working full-time in the sewing industry for about 3 years, but I’ve been doing it part time for nearly a decade.
Do you have a back story about your business? How many years?
I had an amazing job traveling around the southeast working as a field marketing rep for an outdoor gear brand and our team was laid off in december 2016. I didn’t have a plan about what I wanted to do next, but I knew that I wanted to work for myself and I wanted to do it with a sewing machine. I assumed I would make outdoor gear. I had purchased some White Oak Selvedge denim from Cone Mills while I was out on tour with Patagonia and decided I would try to make a pair of jeans. My first pair took me 16 hours to build, and they were completely unwearable, but I was hooked. I knew then that I wanted to build clothes, specifically jeans. I never looked back and we’ve been doing it ever since. That was 3 years ago.
What Makes your business different than others? How do you stand out?
I believe that our commitment to an old world level of quality, craftsmanship, and garment manufacturing techniques makes us unique in the modern world. We have built our business around the idea of slow fashion. Making things that take time to create and are built to last. We build our garments using techniques that allow us to repair them more easily in the future. We truly aim to take responsibility for everything that we make in this way. We specialize in 100% organic cotton denims and deadstock selvedge denim fabrics.
What was one of the most challenging / creative jobs you have ever done?
Running a small design and manufacturing shop like ours is without a doubt the most challenging, creative, unpredictable, and rewarding job I’ve ever had. I love everyday that I am privileged enough to show up at my shop and build jeans.
What Do you do to keep up with the industry?
We spend a lot of time researching and speaking with different fabric mills around the world in search of the highest quality textiles for our products. We want to make sure that the mills we partner with maintain the highest standards in regards to quality, environmental impact, and working conditions.
What is new and exciting for 2021?
We have some brand collaborations that we are working on, we are planning some of our first interstate pop up shows, and we are finalizing our patterns for several new incredible product releases including our first line of women’s jeans.
What do you like best about WAWAK?
Wawak has been an integral part of building our business. We source all of our thread from Wawak, nearly all of our measuring and pattern drafting products, (I buy a lot of rulers), scissors, cutting room supplies, and so many other notions and shop supplies. I love the elevated level of customer service and expedient fulfillment that Wawak provides. We have always been made to feel like part of the family.
When it comes to your company, what are you most proud of?
I am immensely proud of the fact that we exist as a business at all! 2020 was the first year that we ran our shop out of a retail storefront space and it was an incredible challenge. Our ability to survive that and continue to drive our creativity and process forward in such an uncertain time for a small business felt like no small feat.
When advice do you give to the next generation of designers?
Move forward always. As designers we need to lean into creativity not just for our craft, but to find joy and meaning in our work and our lives. Never give up on that, and continue to challenge yourself and chase that feeling. I believe that stagnation is detrimental to the well being of any designer or maker. The creative spirit needs constant nourishment. We learn more from failures than successes, so fail often and keep pushing forward.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop?
I am learning to be truer to our vision and our business plan by saying no to a lot of work that walks through our doors, while simultaneously being far more open to different opportunities as they arise. We are actively seeking the chance to partner and collaborate with some of our favorite designers and the people that inspire us so that we can support and cultivate a broader field of designers in our business landscape. We endeavor to make small batch, custom products, sourced within the communities where we live the norm not the exception. The only way to do that is to lift up people and businesses around the country that share that ideal and goal.