Blue Delta Jeans tailors everything to the customer
All Josh West needed was a meeting place, a really great salesman and a napkin to get his idea of a tailor-made business off the ground. Five years ago, West met Nick Weaver, his long-time childhood friend, at the McAlister’s Deli in New Albany to have a meal, and a chat.
With the help of a napkin and a pen, West was able to sell Weaver on the idea of creating a company that literally hand-crafted jeans for consumers who were interested in top-of-the-line materials and quality. And made in America, by workers that have worked extensively in the garment industry.
While the business model changed a little before becoming more official, the genesis of the napkin creating Blue Delta Jeans still lives on.
“It’s fun to think about something in your head becoming a reality. I think anyone with any business ambition has ideas, but to see them become a reality, it is fun. I had been thinking about the idea for Blue Delta, the concept had been running around in my head for months,” said West, BDJ’s CEO who went to South Pontotoc High School with Weaver and now calls Oxford home. “That night I was selling the idea to Nick because I needed a salesman to come on board. I needed someone with his expertise. When I got through writing it all down, he said he was in. We literally wrote that business plan on that napkin. Of course we have made that a much more stable document and changed it a little bit, but we really stuck to the basics that were on there.”
West, a graduate of Delta State and husband to Ole Miss graduate Jill West, felt fine with title of “idea man” in the partnership. He handles the design of the product and most of the manufacturing.
Weaver, the COO with long-standing family ties to the Delta, met West while growing up in Algoma. He is full of energy and charm, with a sense of humor, perfect for dealing with the needs of the customers.
Weaver is heavily involved with the personalized service of the operation, which includes fittings and tailoring for both men and women at the Oxford studio located on the Square. Ironically, it’s Weaver that called West a great salesman for convincing him to become a partner in a business that was popular in America decades ago.
“He must be a great salesman because I’m sitting here today,” Weaver said with a smile. “It was a great idea. It’s a great business model. People are starting to understand what we’re doing. We do private fittings and have them scheduled every day. It’s supposed to be the slow time because it’s the summer in Oxford but we’re booked.
“People are coming in and asking questions and then they’re coming back. The first time people come, nobody buys or does anything. Their mouths are open and they leave very quietly and then they come back, so it’s funny to see them come and go.”
Weaver admitted he didn’t know a thing about jeans, or the bespoke denim the company uses to make them, prior to his meeting with West. But Weaver, who is a history buff, has increased his personal knowledge on the subject, in a matter of four years.
“We as Americans, we invented jeans. This is something we should be the trailblazers on. Levi Strauss sold his antique looms to Japan when he did all the machines. Now the big thing is the Japanese Selvage jeans. Well, these were the antique looms that we made, this is our product, so it’s good to bring it back home,” Weaver said. “Denim is hard. There is a reason other companies don’t do this. People say if you don’t mass produce, if you don’t make a rack jean, then you can’t make money. You can’t touch the masses.”
Mass producing jeans is not in the cards at Blue Delta, not with the experience they have at their disposal at the manufacturing plant located in Verona.
“Our head seamstress has been doing this for over 25 years. Our second seamstress has trained for over 18 years. It takes about three hours to sew one pair of jeans. There are no assembly lines. Henry Ford would be mad at us,” Weaver said. “When you do an assembly line, the quality of the product drops. We’re hand-drafting the pattern for you, we’re hand cutting it. Then we have an experienced seamstress that is putting the jeans together for you. Then we have a 42-point inspection, making sure everything is done right.”
The return date on a pair of jeans is four to six weeks, from the time a customer is fitted by Weaver to the time the pair is completed West said, who added doing the product in North Mississippi was a real key.
“Tupelo has a tremendous history in garment manufacturing and before it was the furniture industry, it was the garment industry. There is just a resource of talented seamstresses in this area. The two lead seamstresses in our studio made Levi jeans and both are relatively young. So while we’re a young company, we have a lot of talented, seasoned professionals. I knew we could find those type people,” West said. “The second reason to do it was the jean. I call it the base of fashion. It’s worn by literally almost everyone in the United States. It’s a product everyone can relate to and in the end, it’s a product people are willing to spend money on. We have a niche market, we understand that, but a good pair of jeans, people will splurge on it and when you’re making good products and making it in America, we believed the consumer would do that and they have.”
Fittings at Blue Delta Jeans aren’t just personalized, they’ve become events for customers. Weaver said he has closed the office on the Square for private fittings since opening the weekend of the Double Decker Arts Festival in April.
“These jeans are made for you. Everyone is part of the design process. This is Oxford, this is Ole Miss. This fits in to what Ole Miss is, class, and the locals have been great to us so far. We’re excited about football season already,” Weaver said.
Courtney Hiatt, a sophomore at Ole Miss, helps Weaver in the store. She said several of her Delta Gamma sisters have come in for the personalized experience, leaving very satisfied.
“To be able to come in and say this is what I want and I can actually get it, that’s huge. I have that perfect piece in my closest, it’s always in my head, but I can never find it in a store, ever. So it’s nice to come in and say I can make it the way I want it,” said Hiatt, who said the eyes of her sorority sisters light up when they find out about BDJ. “I have little bitty legs and a long torso, so growing up, I always stepped on my jeans when I walked. It’s all made for me, my shape, it’s fantastic. I love my jeans. At the end of the day, because they break in so well, they aren’t loose. They are the same all day.”
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