We’ve reached peak denim. Menswear archaeologists of the future will look back on 2015 as the year every abandoned warehouse in the San Francisco Bay produced artisanal denim goods. Most brands won’t survive the end of the year. One new company that’s here to stay? Monrovia, California’s Railcar Fine Goods. This up-and-comer crafts quality denim using truly antique manufacturing equipment—we’re talking more than a century old.
Founder, owner and dogsbody Steven Dang still works on the production line alongside the crew. He founded Railcar four years ago when he was still working as a diesel mechanic for the Metro in Los Angeles. When I show up at his 1,000-square foot factory, office and storefront in Monrovia, a suburb about half an hour outside of the city, he’s dressed in a pair of his own jeans and a flannel shirt he made a few years ago.
Denimheads, the crowd of people who think nothing of dropping $400 on a pair of jeans, aren’t an easy group to please. It’s not terribly surprising that people who would spend that kind of coin on jeans would be so particular about such a simple garment. Most new American brands cropping up over the last few years (often derided as “peak denim”) earn themselves nothing but scorn. Dang and company, however, have quickly garnered a loyal fanbase in a crowded market, as well as respect in the overall community.
“I don’t run this like a cool, hip denim company. I run it like a manufacturing business. I’m just a regular guy. If I like something, I figure other people will like it too.”