The Denim Craftsman: Mike Hodis Of Rising Sun

Mar 17, 2014


In a relatively short amount of time, Rising Sun has become one of the most respected heritage jeans brands in the menswear industry. The company was started by master denim craftsman Mike Hodis, and his inspiration stems from the golden age of All-American workwear. His goal was to craft denim garments that looked great, functioned exceptionally, and aged well with time. To achieve this, he insists on working with master tailors, paying painstaking attention to the most minute details, utilizing early 20th century methodologies and sourcing only the best materials. Presently their collections have also grown to include a wide variety of highly coveted, non-denim items; boots, blazers, caps, henleys and much more.  We reached out to Mike Hodis to learn more about Rising Sun’s overall brand philosophy. In the beginning, what was your main reason for starting Rising Sun, especially with so many jeans brands already in the market?

Denim is what I know best. I’ve never been intimidated with denim because it’s the element I feel most comfortable working with. Simply put, I didn’t see anyone making jeans the way that I thought they should be made. I saw opportunity in the fact that at that time, the denim industry was in a very different place than where I was looking to go. This was almost seven years ago. The Rising Sun brand started in my garage, with just myself and Belar, a master tailor who is still with us today.What do you feel is the main factor that sets your brand apart from anything else available to male shoppers?

It’s all within the details, it’s a competitive market but the details are what will set you apart. For example, we are very proud of our needle work. Our jeans have about 12+ stitch-per-inch count, which is really high for a pair of jeans. Not only does it look sharp, but it also increases durability. We also use a canvas duck waistband to prevent the waist from stretching and retracting. We use custom copper hardware, and small batch cone mills denim. Some guys will notice these nuances right away as they have an eye for it, others will just see a really clean finished product. Either way they’ll get what our vision is and why it is a special product.

You really swear by the Made in America ethos – can you briefly tell us the different components that go into making a pair of American-made Rising Sun jeans?

I suppose it begins with sourcing, as the raw materials are the basic foundation of a really strong product. We source our denim from Cone Mills in North Carolina, in small batches. We’ve worked with Cone Mills for a long time now and they really do it right. The history of that plant alone is worth looking in to if you aren’t familiar with what they do and how long they’ve been doing it. Once we’ve amassed all the raw materials the production process begins. We still do a good bit of production on turn-of-the-century machines in-house that we’ve collected over the years. You can come through our workshop six days a week to see the tailors working their magic. If it’s not made right here on premise, we have a few incredibly skilled workshops that we work with here in Los Angeles. All of these people we’ve developed partnerships with have the same commitment to quality as we do. No matter the step in the process it is all done here in Los Angeles; washes, finishing, distribution – everything is done where we can make sure it is up to our standards. Some of these pieces are so labor-intensive it’s really incredible. For instance, our Yukon style of jean features all single needle stitching; our tailors can only produce about 2 of these jeans a day.

Talk to us about the craftsmanship/tailoring involved with your garments – do you ever do any mass manufacturing?

We like to do things the old-fashioned way, not because of a sellable gimmick, but because if you know how to get the best of these machines, the end product is fantastic. Nothing we do is manufactured at a “mass” level, not only because we haven’t any need to produce like that, but also because quality would eventually suffer immensely. We are control freaks here, at this price point and level of quality you have to be. Every step of the process needs to be examined with a fine-tooth comb. Our tailors are as good as you can find, and it takes a special person to work at the pace they do while remaining flawless in operation. There are certain details and techniques we use in construction that just couldn’t translate at a mass level, and that’s just fine with us.

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