When artist and musician Max Decker was looking for the perfect denim jacket — something sturdy and practical — he decided the best approach was to make his own. It wasn’t too much of a stretch for the Island-born and r-aised artist to switch from painting to clothing design. During the 10 years he spent in Brooklyn pursuing a career as a musician, Decker worked for a boutique jeans company, sewing and selling denim products.
“I’ve always liked the idea of being able to make and build the things I use every day,” writes Decker on the website for his burgeoning clothing line, Max Decker Co. “I’m curious about their inner workings, and I want to have a hand in the entire process.” The artist and musician also has a background in construction, and he sees his new endeavor as a comparable process. “Working with denim is similar to woodworking — just stretchy,” he says.
Decker’s launch product is a utilitarian-yet-stylish men’s/unisex jacket called the Chore Coat, available in a variety of fabric and hardware choices. It’s a simple, straightforward design that hits right around the hip and hangs rather loosely, as opposed to being fitted and constricting. “I think denim jackets are way too complicated,” says Decker. “I wanted to make something as simple as I possibly could. You can’t find something that is really simple and of good quality in the denim world. Like anything well-designed, the fun is in the details.”
Those details include three large patch pockets, and copper or brass snaps or tack buttons. As well as selecting your own hardware, customers also have the choice of four different colors of denim, or a treated fabric called “tin cloth.” The denim options include deep indigo, black, a natural, unbleached off-white, and what Decker refers to as the Classic — indigo blue with contrasting brown stitching. The designer sources his denim from Japan and Italy. “The Japanese are known for their selvage denim,” says Decker, explaining that this sturdier type of denim is produced using “an old-school type of weaving that makes for a less homogenous, higher-quality product.”
Tin cloth is a type of treated canvas cloth that is ideal for outdoor work. On his website, Decker explains, “Tin cloth refers to the old method of treating a fabric with linseed oil and wax to form an incredibly durable and water-resistant garment. Popular back in the day with hunters and loggers, not only does it make for excellent workwear, but it looks great and takes on the appearance of leather as it ages.” Decker designed his own machine to treat the cloth prior to sewing. He explains that although he loves the look and durability of tin cloth, it’s not for everyone. “Tin cloth is very stiff,” he says. “It needs some breaking in, but it wears down to a leathery kind of look. It’s a very specific taste. It’s great if you want something really durable.”
Decker made his first jacket about two years ago, after around a year of experimenting with different styles and fabrics. So far he has mostly sold to friends or people who have seen him wearing one, but he has a very stylish website where one can order any of the options for around $200 and up. Eventually Decker hopes to add other items to his clothing line (including a version of the Chore Coat specifically for women). For now, he’s happy to have added another creative outlet to his repertoire. As an artist, he has earned a name for himself on the Island, where he shows his landscape and still lifes at the Field Gallery. On keyboards, guitar and vocals, he has recorded an album with his former band, Papertwin.
“I enjoy doing it just as a hobby for right now,” says Decker of his clothing design work. “The manual labor side of it makes for a good break when I’ve been painting for a while.”
Check out Max Decker’s designs at maxdeckerco.com.