Indigo Invitational Y2 Top Ten: The Best of the Best
When this competition started thirteen months ago, there were early indications that the Indigo Invitational Y2 would be a tight race. There were some early front-runners, but with each passing month, new potential champions appeared. Those who looked like definite podium finishers at the start never really managed to stretch their lead, and hungry challengers closed the gap.
The race tightened more and more with each passing month. By the time we crossed the half-way mark, there were well north of 100 faders in the lead pack. It was anybody’s game, and the close race seemed to bring out the best in our faders.
As we closed in on the finish line, more and more faders pulled into that lead pack. By the time we waved the checkered flag on October 1st, there were hundreds of frontrunners. More than half of the field was either at or near the front of the pack. In every way imaginable, it was a photo finish.
There were no easy cuts. Trimming the field down to 50 faders was intensely difficult, and when we turned it over to the community, many of you told us that it was close to impossible to pick only ten. If you found it difficult to pick your top 10, spare a thought for our judges. We gave them an impossible task, and they rose to the occasion.
A common theme in the judging comments they provided was that every pair in the Top 20 deserved to be recognized for a truly spectacular effort. There were, said Linda Rieswick, “no losers” in the field. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and no two judges had the same top 10.
There were, however, trends in the voting. This year’s judges were clearly drawn to the fades that look natural and unforced. For Erik Brodt of Ginew it boils down to the fabric’s essence. Jeans are, he says, “the true, blue-collar, working man’s garment.” Great fades are the product of “real, rugged, and utilitarian wear”. They are, Brodt emphasized, above all, “authentic”.
This word popped up quite frequently in our judges’ notes. They preferred combs, stacks, and whiskers that look uneven and accidental to those that looked as though they had been meticulously manufactured. They liked pairs that had clearly been lived in, and they wanted to see more life left in the pairs. They were looking for that balance between rich indigo tones and heavy fading, preferring this to pairs that had been bleached by the sun and beaten down to the white core of the yarn.
Their highest praise was reserved for pairs that spoke to them, telling them something about how and why the jeans were worn. As you’ll see, in each of our winning pairs, our judges could read a story–a true blue denim love story.
The Official Indigo Invitational Y2 Top 10
After 365 days of fading and nearly a month of voting, deliberation, and tabulation. we have our Official Y2 Top 10. Here’s a quick overview of the voting process that helped us determine our winners:
- The Founders reviewed each of the 326 finishers and, with the help of Dave Stewart (aka @Japanalogue), we cut the field down to 50 pairs.
- All registered competitors were allowed to cast 10 votes for their favourites from the Top 50, with each vote being worth a single point.
- The 16 pairs with the highest point totals went through into the finals.
- The Founders picked 4 deserving wildcards to round out the Top 20.
- After reviewing the Top 20, each of our 8 judges picked their Top 10. They also provided detailed judging notes, which we’ve summarized below.
- Points were awarded for each appearance in one our judges’ Top 10 lists. Faders were awarded 10 points for each first place finish, 9 points for each second place, so on and so forth.
- When the votes were tabulated, we had two ties in our Top 10. We used first-place finishes to break both ties. The fader with the most tens was given the higher position in our Official Top 10.
Without further ado, here is our Official Indigo Invitational Y2 Top 10.
|1||Harry Kasim||Singapore||Iron Heart 777XHS|
|2||Amin Fadzil||Malaysia||Cheese SF-09X|
|3||Ricky Mataac||Australia||Iron Heart 555XHS|
|4||Christopher Wyatt||USA||Naked & Famous MIJ6|
|5||Charles Stockstrom||USA||Naked & Famous Super Heavyweight|
|6||Puriwat Nanchaika||Thailand||Ruttloff H2-17|
|7||Florent Lefeuvre||France||Strike Gold 3109|
|8||Mousam Gogoi||India||Samurai S5000VX|
|9||Ivan Velez Salas||Canada||Naked & Famous Elephant 4|
|10||Rudss Jengss||Malaysia||Iron Heart 666S|
Judging Notes: What Our Experts Said About Our Top 10 Pairs
Some of our judges were brief and to the point. Others spoke at length about particular pairs or about the entire field. Below, we’ll look at each of the pairs in our Top 10 and some of our judges’ comments. We’ll start Rudss’s beautiful tenth place pair and work our way up the ladder to Harry and his gold medal-winning Iron Hearts.
10. Rudss Jengss – Iron Heart 666S (18oz)
“Classic Iron Heart tough beauty. Love the knee damage that shows how hard they’ve been worn.” —Rain Delisle
Rudss started making waves early in the competition with his almost perfectly horizontal honeycombs. More than a dozen overlapping sharp horizontal lines behind the knees pulled our judges’ attention deeper and deeper into this pair. Normally, you’d expect to see combs like this on pairs that are worn extremely tight around the knees, but Rudss somehow manages to produce these without cutting off the blood circulation in his legs. We’ll be begging him to share his fade recipe with us very soon.
It’s well done of Rudss to unroll his denim for the photographs. It really shows how far he’s pushed the denim below the knee (a notoriously difficult part of heavy pairs to fade), and it gives a great look at the incredible stacks—crisp on the back of the jeans and beautifully marbled on the front.
Jason summed it up nicely: “When you think of what a faded pair should look like,” he said, “this is pretty much it.”
9. Ivan Velez Salas – Naked & Famous Elephant 4 (22oz)
“If I had ranked the jeans in order of coolness/stylishness, this pair would have been my winner.” —Ryo Nakakoji
Undeniably, the coolest pair in every room they enter, these Elephants absolutely stampeded through the ranks this year. The whiskers are as thick as Canadian maples, and the combs produced gasps of admiration from our panel.
Like some of the other heavyweights in our Top 10, there is clearly still a lot of life left in this pair. Brands take note: if you’re looking for a fade pattern for your next collection, you can’t do much better than this. Whiskers and combs like these really turn heads.
Even our judges that normally steer clear of heavier denim had to tip their hat to Ivan for these high-contrast fades. As Ryo of TCB noted, these kinds of thick whiskers and combs are only possible when the denim is heavy, and you can read the weight of the denim in these fades from across the street.
We hope we’ll see Ivan back for Y3 with another heavy pair—though we’d also love to see what he can do with a pair of middleweights.
8. Mousam Gogoi – Samurai S5000VX (21oz)
“You can see the work, you can see the effort, you can see that the pair is authentic—no gimmicks to improve fades or wear. He lived in his jeans…unapologetically.” —Erik Brodt
With some of the thickest whiskers we’ve seen all year, Mousam has striped the top of this pair like a tiger’s flank. The top block has all the hallmarks of hard-worn heavy selvedge. The heavy work continues in the crooked whiskers, which cut jagged rivers of beige across the top of the thighs.
The pair looks like it’s never been fully clean. There’s a beautiful earthiness through the thighs and knees, and it’s clear that these fades have been earned with day after day of hard and sweaty work.
Jason absolutely adored how the fades on this pair make the red contrast stitching even more prominent. The heavily raised belt loops really catch the eye thanks to this red thread. There’s a lot to capture the viewer’s attention, and we couldn’t take our eyes off Mousam’s Samurais all year.
Mousam has definitely earned his slot in this year’s Top 10. He picked a great pair, and he’s produced some of the most eye-catching fades in the competition. We hope we’ll see him back next year for another run at the crown.
7. Florent Lefeuvre – Strike Gold 3109 (17oz)
“What’s not to love about these high-contrast fades? The snow-white fades alternating with the intense blue shades of indigo make this an absolutely fantastic pair of jeans.” —Robin Meijerink
A pair that tells a remarkable story. The doubled phone fade and the combs (sharper on the right leg than on the left) tell us something about how this pair was worn for the duration of the competition. He’s found the pair that is perfectly suited to his lifestyle. No blowouts or holes in the knees. Just a beautiful painted canvas.
Our judges also gave props to Florent for his washing routine, which might have a lot to do with why his pair has held up so well. The denim is crisp and clean, with vivid white shining through in all the heavily faded areas. He’s managed to do this without losing the sharp contrasts. Well done.
The back pockets really stand out as a showcase of his hard fading. The cotton threads have frayed and snapped. The arcuates have almost completely disappeared, and the left pocket has lifted off the jeans, giving us a peak at the vivid and indigo-saturated denim behind it.
Florent has really helped bring the beautiful denim that Strike Gold is known for to life. Both Florent and Strike Gold have got to be intensely proud of this masterpiece. Bien fait!
6. Puriwat Nanchaika – Ruttloff H2-17 (17oz)
“The patina at the front is so washed out, yet there are still layers of colour beneath. The combs at the back look defined, but they don’t dominate the piece. Great balance overall.” —Jason Jules
We were thrilled to see Puriwat come back after an extremely strong Top 10 finish in Y1. He brought his prize with him—a beautiful and extremely slubby pair of Ruttloff H2-17s.
Our judges were immensely impressed with Puriwat’s fades on this pair, but equally impressed with the pair itself. Jason referred to the “incredibly high standard” in the dyeing and weaving, and the fades are of an equally high calibre.
Puriwat reported that his Ruttloffs were extremely stubborn at first. This meant that he was slow out of the gate, but he broke into a run near the end of the competition. You can see that this pair has refused to lay down for its owner. There’s still a ton of texture, even in the most deeply faded areas. The sharp whiskers and combs cut through this texture beautifully, creating a beautiful tension between the vertical and the horizontal.
Another pair that both maker and fader should be intensely proud of. They’re an exemplary East/West collaboration between denim artisans—one a world-class maker, the other a champion-level fader.
5. Charles Stockstrom – Naked & Famous Super Heavyweights (32oz)
“The high-contrast honeycombs are fantastic—this is what denim love and dedication look like.” —Robin Meijerink
Quite a few of our judges gave Chuck props for wearing 32oz denim for a full year. It shows a level of dedication to the fading arts, and that dedication has clearly paid off in a big way. He’s managed to turn an extremely heavy and cardboard-stiff pair into something that looks very wearable—even, dare we say it, comfortable!
With such heavy denim, it’s not entirely surprising that the pair looks like it could go another 10 rounds. Rain noted the stunning vertical texture that is unmissable on the thighs and other heavily faded areas. He may have absolutely shredded his cuffs, but there’s tons of life and texture left in those thighs.
We look forward to seeing more of Chuck’s beautiful photographs. He’s one of just a small handful of faders in this community who are absolute and undisputed masters of denim photography. Keep giving this pair hell, Chuck, and keep sending us photos. We have a feeling that this incredible story is only getting started.
4. Christopher Wyatt – Naked & Famous MIJ6 Emperor of Slub (23oz)
“It takes a good amount of wear and love to get fades like these. Very authentic. The sashiko hand-repairing adds flair. I wonder what the three red crosses mean to the wearer!” —Ryo Nakakoji
A number of our judges zeroed in on Chris’s pair as the most naturally faded pair of the bunch. There doesn’t seem to be any fade recipe at work here—just a heavy pair and a well-lived life.
The result is striking yet subtle. The whiskers are short, but pronounced, and it’s immediately clear that Chris spends a lot of time shuffling around on his knees. He wore straight through the right knee, and the other looks like it’s on its last legs.
What really put this pair over the top was the elegantly executed sashiko knee repair, which quite a few of our judges made note of in their comments. Start with textbook all-over fades, add a dash of sharp contrasts, and top it all off with some beautiful repair work. It’s a recipe for a podium finish if we’ve ever seen one.
Get off your knees and take a bow, Chris.
3. Ricky Mataac – Iron Heart 555XHS (25oz)
“The gradient from the outside to the inside of the knee creates a beautiful play of highs and lows. The subtle yet marked fades at the bottom of the leg are stunning; they look like the artist’s signature at the bottom of the canvas.” —Simon Giuliani
Our panelists had a lot to say about this pair. Robin said that the fading pattern is “almost perfect. Whiskers and honeycombs are perfectly formed.” Rain found them downright sexy, saying that Ricky’s Iron Hearts “capture the sex appeal” of that clean-fading 25oz XHS fabric. “Those jewel-tone blues just absolutely slay me!” she said.
Jason pointed something out about the pair that we had missed. The pockets really stand out as looking fresh and almost unused. Ricky clearly wore his pair hard, but, as Jason noted, “he travelled light”, and this results in a picture-perfect pair that, if packaged, would sell like hotcakes.
Rather than standing out (as they usually do) as high-traffic areas, the pockets both in front and behind blend effortlessly with the rest of the fades. This allows Iron Heart’s impeccable stitch work to really shine, and it makes the pair look like a showcase jewel. Spectacular work and a well-earned bronze medal for the Australian.
2. Amin Fadzil – Cheese Denim Works SF-09X (17oz)
“It’s as if the denim has not only faded but also matured. The contrast between the heavily faded areas and the rest of the jeans isn’t as stark as you might see elsewhere. This adds to the sense of it being more of an aged piece. Harmony between the fading and the non-faded areas.” —Jason Jules
We had a few pairs of Cheese Denim Works in the competition this year, and it was hard not to notice. Amin’s pair got off to a fast start, and they ran in the lead pack the whole way. They stayed at the front during the judges’ deliberations, running neck and neck with Harry until the very last second. We needed extra deliberation just to decide which pair would be this year’s champion. It was the hardest decision we’ve had to make all year.
Wouter summed it up perfectly, saying that this is simply a “perfect worn in pair”. The leg twist, the deep fading on the thighs, the fat stacks on the back, and the chaotic-yet-harmonious combs—all this adds up to absolute perfection. They’d be a gold medal pair in any other competition, and they were very nearly the gold medal pair in this one.
Rain loved the overall contrast and the “great blue midtowns in the thighs”, and nearly all of our judges noted this pair’s beautiful balancing of vintage and contrast fades.
The strong finish from this pair has put both Amin and the Malaysian selvedge brand with the cheesy name on our radar in a big way. We’ve been intensely impressed with what the Malaysian scene has brought to the table this year. We’re excited to see what they can do next year. We’re expecting both Amin and Cheese Denim Works to make another big splash in Y3.
1. Harry Kasim – Iron Heart 777XHS (25oz)
“Without a doubt, this is my favourite pair. They have reached the climax of the transformation process. The balance of contrasts and fades is mesmerizing” —Simon Giuliani
Thanks to his immediately recognizable cigar cutter fade, this pair has been unmistakable from the very beginning. The story you can read on the surface of this pair is truly remarkable. You can see the shape of his legs, how he uses the pockets, and how he wears them over his boots.
Like so many of our other favourite pairs, the fades here don’t seem forced or gimmicky. They’re just faded to absolute perfection through hard wear and a vigorous lifestyle. Robin summed it up nicely: “In one word: PERFECT. Harry has magic legs”
Jason put his finger on what a lot of the judges described in their comments. “These have a kind of animate feel to them,” he said, “as if the fades will continue and become more exciting as they do.” The pair is still alive, still a work in progress that might continue for years. They could be archived as is, but this would not do them full justice. Give these another year or two and these will be ready to hang in a museum. These are a Mona Lisa of well-made selvedge in the making.
Simon noted that, “Thanks to the heavy yarns in the warp, in the thighs and on the lower backside we can see a marked, streaky ring effect, which emphasizes the authentic character of ring-spun denim.” Harry has done more than produce a beautifully faded pair. He’s also helped us see exactly why Iron Heart prefers ring-spun yarns, and, he’s definitely helped us see why fade fanatics all over the world are so quick to reach for Iron Heart pairs.
There’s no stronger argument for the brand than this.
We want to thank all of our judges and all of our competitors for everything they did to make Year Two a success. It’s been an incredible journey in the midst of trying times, and we want to thank all of you for sharing so much with us over the last year.
Like so many of the great pairs in our Top 10, it feels like our journey is only just beginning. Together, we can make Year Three of the Indigo Invitational the biggest thing the selvedge world has ever seen. We’ll be opening registrations for Y3 later this year, and we’re hoping to see more than 1,000 competitors on the starting line on April 1st of 2022.
The denim world, thanks to pressures from all sides for slower and more sustainable approaches to fashion, is poised for a sea change. Well-made selvedge may soon have its moment, which, with a strong enough push, might turn into a movement. We want the Indigo Invitational to be that push.
Together with this incredible community, we have showcased what is possible when we have a common goal and a shared passion. We’re winning new converts every day.
Continue the excellent work you’re doing. Keep on talking about denim and fades until you’re blue in the face. Bring friends and loved ones into this community. Share this love that we all share with each other and, together, we’ll start a revolution.
Stay raw, brothers and sisters.