New British premium denim brand Saltspin aims to take its share of the jeans market with a collection that is forged by artisans to the highest sustainable standards. Isabella Griffiths hears from founder Manoj Bharwani why affordability and accessibility are key to his strategy.
There’s a new kid on the block in the world of luxury denim, and it’s already making waves among jeans aficionados and those in the know. Designed in London and hand crafted in Italy, Saltspin aims to bring an artisanal element to the blue stuff, with each pair forged by craftsmen in the finest Italian mills and styles that are timeless, understated, long-lasting and created to the highest production and environmental standards there are.
The brand was founded by Manoj Bharwani, who has been heading Alpha 211, denim suppliers to large retail groups throughout the UK and the EU, for over 15 years. Saltspin is evidently his labour of love, and he has great ambitions for the label. “I have been involved with denim design, laundry and production for over 25 years, supplying to large retail groups which has taken me all over the world,” he explains. “Having worked in the industry for so long, I understand what women want. Subtle changes in fabric stretch, weight, pocket detailing or front/back rises might make a small difference individually, but consolidating these and improving them as a collective makes for a far superior jean. It’s all in the detail, as they say.”
Evidently, what he doesn’t know about denim is not worth knowing, and it’s not surprising that the range has gone through five years of rigorous development before launching earlier this year, with each pair being meticulously handcrafted to achieve the ultimate level of smoothness to enhance a woman’s shape, and just the right amount of stretch for all-day comfort.
Bharwani is clearly very proud of the product, and his passion for jeans is palpable. “Denim is mind-blowing and something which is always evolving. The complexity and infinite ways you can launder denim inspires and enables you to create the most innovative and unique jeans. Some of the technical details are not always known by the consumer, so it’s like this hidden family secret that only those in the industry are familiar with,” he enthuses.
The name Saltspin also reflects the intricacies and complexities of the fibre. “We believe each person is the salt of the earth. I wanted to create authentic and trustworthy denim which caters to the needs of the individual – ‘salt’. Meanwhile, ‘spin’ stems from denim being spun from cotton, and the fact that you never know what will happen in the future. Bring everything together and you get Saltspin,” he explains.
The brand is pitched alongside the best in the luxury denim sector, with the likes of J Brand, Paige and Frame among the main adjacencies, as well as contemporary labels such as Stella McCartney, Equipment and Theory. “That said, I also feel that as the product is so versatile and timeless, we can just as easily sit alongside accessory and lifestyle brands such as Loewe and Andrew Martin,” says Bharwani.
“We don’t really have a signature style per se. The denim is always clean and elegant so that it can become that wearable wardrobe staple.”
The collection itself is diverse and offers a range of fit options for every taste and body shape. There’s the skinny collection, the default fit of the brand; the comfort skinny collection, created for a more relaxed fit; the boyfriend collection for effortless, laid-back style; the kick-flare collection featuring slimming and leg-lengthening jeans; as well as a skirt and jacket denim range complementing the selection.
Bharwani explains: “We don’t really have a signature style per se. The denim is always clean and elegant so that it can become that wearable wardrobe staple. Our branding is subtle with a single branded rose gold rivet as a stamp of approval, to allow the denim to speak for itself. On the other hand, in making the brand more accessible I wanted to appeal to a wider range of women so the collection will always have the minimal denims alongside bolder fashion styles. Wearing Saltspin denim should give women the confidence to be more ambitious with their fashion choices.”
Retail prices reflect the level of production and complexity, of course, with prices starting at £120 upwards, though Bharwani is eager to stress that he wants Saltspin to remain accessible. “Whilst our product is luxury, I didn’t want to restrict people from being a part of the brand and wanted to be able to reach the woman who felt she previously couldn’t buy into premium denim,” he says. “Our RRPs range from £120-£225 for a fully flocked fashion jean with zips. The core offering, which includes skinny styles and Mom jeans, ranges from £145-£165. The highest priced item in the collection is our Carbon jacket, a coated biker that looks like leather, which retails for £320. Quality doesn’t always have to mean expensive, and I wanted to make luxury products more affordable,” he adds.
At the forefront of Saltspin’s DNA is the artisanal touch, achieved not only from the painstaking, hand-crafted production process, but Bharwani’s commitment to being as environmentally-friendly as is possible in denim manufacturing. Only BCI approved cotton is used, and sustainable production processes utilised, including water reduction methods and cutting-edge denim recovery technology for an authentic and long-lasting finish. “We are continuously looking at new ways to ensure production is the most sustainable it can be – our next collection features a ‘detox denim’ which uses 80 per cent less water, 50 per cent less energy and 30 per cent less chemicals,” reveals Bharwani.
With the product on point, Bharwani’s attention is now on distribution and on growing the label through selected wholesale accounts and premium boutiques in the UK. “We are looking towards luxury department stores (such as Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Liberty) and key independent boutiques in terms of brand partners. These stores understand the value behind quality products and have an aesthetic which complements Saltspin’s powerful visual identity,” he says. “We have recently launched with Press in Primrose Hill and are having a fantastic first response – the Carbon jacket in particular has been a huge hit. Being a British brand, we are currently focusing on solidifying the UK market in terms of wholesale, before looking further afield on a more international level. Obviously, if any interesting opportunities arise in the interim, we will certainly look to see how we can get involved,” he adds.
When it comes to the type of women who would wear Saltspin, Bharwani is equally clear. “Our target market are professionals who are fashion savvy and on trend, but who perhaps no longer want a skin tight super skinny or to dress how they did when they were younger. That’s not to say they want to dress in a more demure way; they are still stylish, they just have a different view on what luxury artisanal denim is.” He continues: “The woman who wears Saltspin is more conscious of what she is buying and where it came from, which is why we place a huge focus on sustainable production methods and innovative fabrics. They feel confident and feminine in our denim, not only physically but also emotionally.”
Channelling 25 years of extensive experience into the Saltspin brand, and with the strategy, infrastructure and product all in place, the denim market has just got itself another serious player.