Coffee & Conversation with William Kroll of Tender
British denim brand Tender have been on my radar for a long time and it was an absolute pleasure to talk with founder William Kroll back in 2015 or a piece I did for PORT Magazine over how he started.
Did you have a love and interest in vintage clothing and was that a catalyst to starting Tender?
Up to a point- I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore vintage guy, and I’m certainly not the most knowledgable. I’ve learned a lot more about vintage clothes over the past few years while doing Tender, actually, than I knew when I started the brand. More than what is normally considered ‘vintage’ in fact (which I’d say starts in the early 20th Century and mostly relates to casual, sports, or workwear), I came from looking at tailoring, either made in the 18th or 19th Centuries, or handmade more recently but using the same techniques. I studied with a Savile Row tailor & cutter during college, and seeing things made in a way that exactly related to historical garments felt really exciting.
You started with a handful of garments such as jeans, denim jacket, tshirt – did you plan on growing the collection and even broadening into other product categories, or was it an organic growth into things you liked?
It’s been very organic from the beginning, and continues to be. I didn’t have a long-term plan (I still don’t) and the broader things that I’ve produced since the first season have just been a reflection of what seems interesting and the people who I meet. Things like ceramics, brass, and glass were originally going to be a special products website (the Trestle Shop) but the mainline stockists were interested in them too, so they’re now a permanent part of the collection.
I love your concept of a Tender product reaching it’s full potential once become part of the owners life and been worn. Do you take satisfaction over the idea that your garments and products will be used by people for many years to come?
Thank you! Yes, it’s lovely to know that people really form relationships with the things that I make, and one of the nicest things is when I see photos of worn and used things, or when I get garments back for repairs a couple of years down the line. I’m fixing up some broken seams on a couple of pairs of jeans at the moment, sent back by a very good customer and old friend of the brand- they’re from the second and third seasons, back in 2011, and he’s been wearing them continuously since then. They’re beautifully faded and worn, but most of all they feel so personal and different in character from how they went out.
Would you consider yourself as part of the ‘slow-fashion’ movement – on the principal of rejecting mass production and making all by hand.
I’d rather not consider myself part of any movement, really, I try to approach what I do on its own terms. I don’t necessarily have a problem with mass production, but as a small brand I’m in a stronger position to do something interesting on a small level than I would be trying to compete with bigger companies. I think it’s more about control of your process- if you’re huge and can scale production in your own factories so that you can make exactly what you want to the right quality, with respect to the people who do the work, then that’s more similar to what I’m doing with a tiny production made by a handful of individuals, I think, than if you’re dealing without accountability through faceless sourcing offices where you can’t trace or understand what’s being made in your name.
I noticed you have a lot of stockists in Japan – what is it about the Japanese do you think that they embrace your products?
I’m really lucky to have some great relationships with fantastic shops in Japan, who have supported my brand from the beginning. There’s an infrastructure of small shops and their customers all over Japan which really responds to the kind of products I like to make, but it’s certainly not just a Japanese thing- I work with really great shops all over the world, all doing things independently and in a really interesting way.
You can also get hold of the latest season at the following UK retailers;