My stay in North Carolina was hedged with some trepidation, due to recent state issues on LGBT. Should I have followed Bruce’s example and not go? But you don’t learn about stuff unless you travel and how better to experience the inner workings of a state than to go see it close up? *
And if I hadn’t have gone to Greensboro, I’d never have visited Hudson’s Hill, a fabulous denim and leather store part owned (he is one of three co-owners) by the inspirational Evan Meyers Morrison, artisan maker, US denim and work wear history consultant and all round good guy.
Hudson’s Hill is one of those shops my heart skips a beat over when I go in, the place is full of locally made jeans brands (such as Raleigh), vintage denim pieces, beautiful leather bags and accessories and gorgeous, locally made hats. Evan’s workshop sits at the back of the store, full of vintage sewing machines (all the better to create authentically stitched denim pieces on) and leather making tools, where he makes and mends much of the store’s own range.
I commissioned him to make a tiny phone-bag, so’s not to have it in my hand continually, it was $35 and is beautiful. I really lucked out that the store sat right over the street from the Elsewhere Project and it didn’t take long to make friends with Evan and his hat-making assistant Carmen.
Greensboro as a town is on the cusp of having a ‘moment’, due in part to it being a great place for artisan brands like Hudson’s Hill to grow. It’s reasonably cheap to rent space and there’s a strong creative community bringing innovative art and clothing concepts to life (there’s even a gin distillery opening this September, a sure sign of a place on the up). Evan is a big part of the denim resurgence.
He is hugely knowledgeable about North Carolina’s denim history, which was once the centre of denim for the US. Cone Denim still produces yarn and fabric but the huge jean manufacturers of old have mostly moved abroad, although Wrangler still has its headquarters in the town. Many local brands -including Wrangler- use Evan to learn about their own brand history and source important vintage pieces for their archives. He’s keen to put the town back on the denim map, with initiatives such as having an annual Jeansboro Day – recently sanctioned by the local mayor – to celebrate the town’s denim history.
So what is it about denim that Evan loves? “It’s a fabric that truly tells a story and the vintage community thrives on the narrative behind the product,” he told me.”You can look at a piece of denim like an overall or a dungaree and tell what the person did or how hard their life was or how many people the piece was passed down through because of where the different knee patches are. It’s enchanting and beautiful to me; the wear and tear, the hand repairs, the stains, that beautiful fade, you don’t get that with many fabrics”.
Evan has extended his collection by foraging for old pieces – together with his friend Henry Brown – in derelict houses around the state. He continued “It’s the thrill of the hunt. We find old jeans and overalls and my first time out we found some WW2 uniforms. There’s no protein value in cotton fibres, so it isn’t eaten by animals, people put their old work wear in attics as the earliest form of insulation, they jammed them down between the eaves to keep out the weather. I’ve pulled full pairs of overalls out of cracks in floorboards, often you don’t recognise what they are, they’re full of so much dirt they are like cardboard, but when they wash up they have these beautiful fade patterns.
The vintage pieces Evan has found (he reckons he has about 2,000 whole pieces in his collection) are used to inspire his own range, which features vintage hardware too, such as the shatterproof buttons from Illinois state penitentiary and belt buckles from the 1900s made of solid marine brass. The quality is superior to anything you can buy today, he reckons and it allows him to create a product that is as authentic as he wants it to be.
He mostly makes menswear, sadly, but I’ve picked out a few pieces that would look brilliant on grown up women too.
Firstly, a pop over workshirt (above and below) that was inspired by one designed in the 1930s, worn by workers building US national and state park system. Evan really likes utility pockets and the ones here are designed so even if you do a handstand wearing it, nothing will fall out of the pockets. it’s a boxy shape with sleeves that finish just above the wrist to enable you to work without interruption.
The Grand Pere, $70, is a pop over workshirt, so called because the expandable pocket placement is consistent with grandpa keeping his tobacco in it. Evan said “It has a dust proof chin strap detail as at the turn of century, before work wear really came into play, folks were going to work in their suits, a chinstrap on an overall would stop dust getting down and soiling your clothes” It has mother of pearl buttons, hand carved in Maine and the fabric is five ounce chambray, woven at Swift Mill in Columbus Georgia, with every seam double reinforced.” Reader, I bought one, it is lovely, although it is slim around the hips, so maybe not a great shape for anyone a bit hippy.
This terrific leather postman bag ($225) was seriously tempting. Evan based this design on a vintage bag he found in an antique store, which actually pre dated the US postal service, although it’s similar in design. He’d always loved the US Postal bag and was interested in recreating something similar, this has beautiful hardwear, all made from solid marine goldbrass. I suspect it will last forever and a day, and only get better with age.
And lastly, with a nod to the athleisure trend, a hooded sweatshirt, in super-soft marled terry yarn, based on a 1930s style, with patch pockets popular in that era for sportswear. The rib at the neck and cuff are in indigo yarn, which will fade like denim. The hood is attached after the indigo fading aspect…you can take a stitch ripper to it and have just a sweatshirt.
Evan will also make the leather phone pouch should anyone be interested, or if you have any other questions regarding shipping (he sends to the UK) or making, then contact him here. He or Carmen (who also takes orders on her gorgeous hats) will be happy to help.
*Proud to say that the Elsewhere Project M.A.D was involved with has an excellent QueerLab programme, supporting young LGBT-ers in Greensboro.