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Portfolio Profile: Denim for the Rodeo

During my time at Miller, International in Denver, our focus was set completely on rodeo-wear. With their core brand CINCH being a household name throughout the rodeo circuit, it was important for our apparel to be durable and comfortable for the variety of sports involved in rodeos. It was also essential for the quality of our garments to live up to the stellar brand name the company had created for years within the industry. From barrel racing to bull riding and everything in between, we made sure that our athletes were happy with the garments provided to them for their sport.

One of the most crucial parts of a cowboy or girl’s outfit is their denim. It supports them while they’re riding a hard leather saddle, and must be accommodating enough for ample movement, protection from dirt and abrasion from inevitable falls. At a time when the denim market was turning to lightweight fabrics and high stretch for extra comfort, we were consistently searching for the heaviest options available. The last thing we wanted was for an athlete to wear holes in their pants while they were training, practicing or competing in our garments.

The trickiest task when dealing with heavy, low stretch denim is the fit. When your denim has a large percentage of spandex, the extra stretch throughout the legs and hips will allow for some fit forgiveness. But when you’re using tightly woven cotton, it really must have proper pattern shapes and sewing techniques implemented to make it feel comfortable on the body. I was coming into this company at a time in my career when I’d just helped complete a previous employer’s denim re-launch, so I was excited to get my hands on this core product line. And after about a year of proving my abilities with woven shirts and trendy western tops and dresses, I was given the opportunity to expand my reach.

Learning from experts who had been developing and fitting rodeo denim for decades was such an awesome educational experience. I had the opportunity to travel several times to our factories in Mexico where they manufacture the garments. I even got fairly decent with my Spanish speaking abilities. My favorite visit was when they allowed me and a colleague to distress and wash out a pair of raw denim ourselves. Goggles and face masks on, we saw how difficult it was to control the machinery. Our appreciation for their exactness and craftsmanship went up exponentially that day!

Sadly, after I left Miller, I have not had the opportunity to work on denim products since. I miss the artform that is required to properly manipulate denim goods, and I’d love the chance to work with a denim company again. Maybe someday that will happen, and I can put my skills and knowledge back to good use.

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