An Interview With Melissa Farmer of Farmtown Denim
- May 13, 2014
- Written By Timothy Nguyen
Farmtown Denim, founded by Melissa Farmer, specializes in handmade denim goods that are manufactured by hand in Sacramento, California. A friend recently brought the brand to my attention and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her work since. Of all the items she has to offer, the dopp kits in particular are what really piqued my interest. I was quite impressed by the amount of detail and craftsmanship that goes into everything she makes. I knew that I had to reach out and find out more about Melissa and her work.
How did you end up with the name Farmtown Denim?
Having the last name of Farmer lends itself to many nicknames, and Farmtown was one of those. I’ve also been known as MFarm, MelFarm, Felissa Marmer, M-Dawg, Farmdawg…the list goes on and on.
I absolutely love your logo. Could you explain to me the thought process behind it and what it means?
My logo says “hero” in Elian Script, an alternative writing method meant to combine function and art. It’s a shortened form of the full quote “be your own hero,” from the movie Whip It. It’s a mantra I try to live my life by – if there’s something you want or something you’re unhappy about for whatever reason, instead of waiting for someone else to fix your problem, go on ahead and do it yourself.
When was your first experience with raw denim?
My friend asked me to help him take progress pictures of his pair of raws, which I found weird and amusing. I asked him what was so special about his pants and he explained the entire idea to me. I bought my first pair a few months later, and made my first pair about a year after that.
What is it about raw denim that draws you in compared to other hobbies?
I’m a pretty sentimental person, so I was initially drawn to the story aspect of a pair of jeans and how it becomes a record of your daily life. Now that I’ve learned and experienced more, I also love the attention to detail and excellence of construction that comes along with a well-made pair. There’s something very beautiful about an item that not only functions properly, but also looks good while doing it.
Were you sewing before your interest in raw denim or was this a spur of the moment type thing?
I’ve been sewing since I was young. My mom is a very crafty woman, and when I was little she loved giving me smaller versions of the projects she was working on at the time. I remember making pillows, pajama pants, and lots and lots of stuffed animals. I started working with raw denim a little more than a year ago, when I became frustrated with my inability to find a pair for myself that had all of
the features I was looking for.
Who would you say is your biggest influence would be? Do you have anyone that you look up to?
My biggest influence is probably my friend Greg. Not only is he the one who introduced me to raw denim, but he is also the one who pushes me to improve my skills the most by challenging me with new projects (like a 21oz pea coat) and by being incredibly picky about the smallest details. I follow something we call the “Pfaff Rule of Quality” – if something I’ve just made is not good enough to be photographed in extreme detail from every possible angle, it must be fixed.
How do you feel about raw denim becoming increasingly mainstream?
Of course, I’m all for more people being introduced to raw denim. I just hope that new and upcoming brands are able to find the courage to continue to innovate and introduce new ideas to the industry. Websites like Kickstarter can make it incredibly easy to get started, but can also make it incredibly easy to fall into a mold. In the end, nothing can substitute for true passion.
Of the things you’ve made, which is your favorite?
That’s a really hard choice, but I’d probably have to go with my tote bag. They’re one of my favorite things to make, and the one I’ve been using daily for the past few months has been aging beautifully. I also really love the chambray tank top and henley that I’ll be releasing soon.
Is there any particular denim you just can’t get enough of?
I’m currently in love with this 50% sugarcane denim I recently got ahold of. It’s got an amazing texture and variation of color. I’m usually more of a fan of wearing smooth textured pairs myself, but that stuff is just so cool. I’ll be treating myself to a work shirt made from it.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently grading the pattern for the chambray tank tops and henleys, as well as sourcing a fabric for an oxford cloth version of those dyed with natural dyes. I’m also working on finalizing the pattern of some coveralls, as well as the work shirt for myself. It’s pretty typical for me to have a bunch of projects going on at once!
Are there any future products you are interested in making but haven’t had time to get to yet?
I want to keep exploring natural dyes. I’ve tried a few in my apartment kitchen, but there’s so many colors and processes to try. I’m also planning on expanding more into clothing – button down shirts, jackets, and eventually jeans.
What were some of the mistakes you made early on?
When I first started, I tried to take on too much too quickly. I made my first draft pair in a nonstop 15 hour long stretch, and when they didn’t fit in the end, I nearly burst into tears of frustration. I’m much more likely to make an unfixable mistake – like slashing fabric with my seam ripper while I’m trying to take out some bad stitching – when I’m tired and cranky. Since then, I’ve learned the importance of snack breaks, mental breaks, and sleep breaks. I’ve never been a patient person, but in the creative process, it’s better to take all the time necessary to get the best result instead of working quickly and shoddily.
What are you currently fading?
I’m split between my two handmade pairs – 13.5oz Cone Mills, and 13.25oz Kurabo indigo/indigo.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into raw denim?
Read all that you can! There’s so many resources throughout the internet and beyond to teach you about the pair of jeans you’re wearing. The history and function of the aspects of each garment are completely fascinating, and make putting on your jeans in the morning so much more interesting and meaningful.
Thank you so much for taking time for this interview. Any final thoughts for the readers?
When Ellen Page expresses her admiration towards the roller derby girls in the movie Whip It, Kristen Wiig tells her, “Well, put some skates on, be your own hero.” If there’s something you want to do in your life, whether it’s roller derby or making jeans, don’t be afraid to get up from the sidelines and do it. With enough blood, sweat, and tears –all of which are surprisingly a big part of sewing – anything can be within your reach.
To check out all that Melissa has to offer and find out about new releases, visit her Facebook and her Instagram
Farmtown Denim’s Etsy store will be fully open with new products on May 17, 2014 so I would definitely keep an eye out for that.
Photo credits: Gregory Pfaff - Flickr - Blog - E-mail
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