[FABRIC INSIGHT] Lt Blue Cotton Chambray
It’s time for another installment of FABRIC INSIGHT, a series we created in order to give our customers a peek into the background of the fabrics that make up their favorite Engineered Garments pieces. Each season, the brand’s items are constructed from a range of fabrics, sourced from all around the world, imbuing each collection with a new dimension and an irreplaceable quality. This time, we are focusing on Light Blue Cotton Chambray, one of the cornerstones of the Engineered Garments identity.
As we have discussed before, the roots of Engineered Garments run deep and spread far. From time to time, unexpected styles like 1980s sportswear designers or Thai fisherman’s pants make an appearance. But these unexpected influences are only able to play a part due to the structure provided by the brand’s foundational building blocks. As Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki explains, alongside denim, chambray is the brand’s most important fabric, providing the base that allows for daring creative expression.
Chambray is a very simple fabric, using a colored yarn for the warp and a natural yarn for the weft in a plain weave. Like its denim counterpart chambray is made using indigo dyed fibers. Every time it’s washed, a bit of both the dye and the fiber will detach, creating an unmistakable soft, worn-in look. This simple construction also means that its color is even on both sides, unlike denim which uses a twill makeup.
The history of Chambray stretches back hundreds of years, to the French region of Cambrai, where the material was developed from linen for use in high-fashion items. As fabric-making technology improved, attention shifted to its durability and comfort, and became a natural choice for the first shirts made by Levi Strauss & Co., the pioneer of American workwear. Farmers, miners, and factory workers all adopted this iconic garment. Chambray fabric became so ingrained in industrial uniforms that the term “blue collar” was named for these ubiquitous shirts.
But the material was not exclusive to industrial workers. In 1901, the US Military first issued a set of chambray shirts and trousers. More breathable and lightweight than the previous duck canvas, the new duds were still hardy. Used through World War II, this outfit became an icon of the 20th century.
Given its equal footing in the realms of workwear and military wear, it is natural that chambray occupies a seat at the nucleus of Engineered Garments, making an appearance in each Spring Summer collection. However, despite its pervasiveness, all chambrays are not created the same. Like many made in the USA goods, there is a peculiar imperfection about American chambray that is unique. The lackadaisical manufacturing process meant there were inconsistencies, even between production runs made in the same mill - some of them shrank, while others loosened, and the colors could vary fiercely. Yet, this quality of purposeful imperfection speaks to the Engineered Garments philosophy of artful defects.
Sadly, there are no more American mills making chambray, and the reserves of deadstock fabric are rapidly depleting - leading Daiki to look elsewhere for the Spring Summer 2022 collection. Wanting to capture the same spirit, he found a mill in Italy that produces a unique kind of chambray. While crafted with a high attention to detail, the Light Blue Cotton Chambray is not overly technical - retaining many of the traits that made American chambray so special. The blue of the warp and the white of the weft give it a pleasant powder blue hue, and this color is remarkably consistent throughout the collection. Despite this, small imperfections can be found throughout fabric, providing a richness of character. The fabric also washes well, meaning that it will last over time while also breaking in, giving each item a unique aspect.
How a fabric is applied is equally as important as its quality. Here, Engineered Garments lives up to its reputation for pushing things forward while preserving the heart of originality. Naturally, the fabric is used in a traditional work shirt, harkening back to the industrial heritage of the material. But there are some inventive applications as well - such as the hunting-inspired Upland Vest and the Jungle Fatigue Jacket which takes its cues from a 1960s US Army Jacket.
Chambray forms part of the bedrock of American design. Its use in both workwear and military spheres inextricably links it to the culture of the USA. As both genres have undergone an osmosis into the world of aesthetic fashion, Daiki has served as a caretaker, using Engineered Garments to cherish the flaws that made this material so special to begin with. Take a look for yourself and discover a shining example of American creativeness, elevated with a lightly modern touch.
The Engineered Garments Light Blue Cotton Chambray is used in the production of the following items for Spring Summer 2022:
- Banded Collar Shirt
- Popover BD Shirt
- Work Shirt
- Upland Vest
- Racing Suit
- Jungle Fatigue Jacket
These items are available for purchase in-store and online at nepenthesny.com.