The Dutch brand Benzak excels in pureness & details in raw denim.
How it started
Lennaert, the visionary behind BENZAK, stumbled upon the captivating world of Japanese denim during his high school years. It all began with the discovery of Evisu, a prominent and widely available brand in Europe during the early 2000s. The allure of the deep indigo blue hue and the distinctive selvedge at the outseams, revealed when cuffing the legs, left a lasting impression. In an era of pre-social media dominance, where information wasn't as readily accessible, Lennaert immersed himself in internet forums where kindred spirits worldwide convened to share their passions. After two years of exhaustive research and absorbing as much knowledge as possible, Lennaert's desire to establish his own brand emerged not from identifying a market gap, but from his fervor for crafting something new, rooted in raw selvedge denim and compete with the Japanese brands.
Realizing the importance of education and networking, Lennaert enrolled in Fashion Management at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) and began his journey in the industry as sales assistant in shops and later as product developer for various brands. During a business trip in 2011, fate intervened as he crossed paths with individuals from Japan Blue Group in Kojima, ultimately becoming BENZAK's first and current supplier. Two years of development culminated in the release of the first BENZAK products in September 2013, marking the birth of the brand.
Evolving the Identity
The initial collection at the 2013 launch comprised a modest six items—two jeans, two tees, and two accessories. Concurrently employed by another brand, Lennaert managed BENZAK on the side. In subsequent years, the collection organically expanded, deliberately avoiding transient fashion trends and emphasizing enduring garments. This concept is still present in the brand to this day.
The brand's core remained rooted in Japanese-made jeans, but this also provide a big challenge for further growth: cost price. Even though these jeans are worth every cent, a price tag of €300+ isn’t for everyone.
In response, Lennaert streamlined the product, emphasizing high-quality fabrics, impeccable construction, and superb fit. Shifting production to Portugal in 2016 – closer to home and within the EU – resulted in BENZAK European Made, coexisting with the Japanese line, offering a more affordable option at around €200. With the launch of this extra product group, Lennaert was also able to quit his other jobs and allowed Lennaert to commit full-time to BENZAK.
From 2016 onward, the collection flourished with additional fits and diversified offerings, including jackets, shirts, sweatshirts, and women's raw denim styles. Presently, the collection boasts 100+ items, with 60% forming the core collection, ensuring availability year-round. Functionality over fleeting fashion remains a cornerstone, exemplified by the enduring popularity of the BDD-006 fit—a Japanese style present since the brand's inception.
BENZAK's journey is punctuated by distinctive projects, notably the denim fading contests; a group of people would start wearing a pair of raw denim jeans all at the same time, usually for the period of 1 full year, trying to get the best fades as possible. After this year, all end results are compared, and one pair is crowned as winner.
These contests, fostering a unique connection between wearers and their jeans, have been a longstanding tradition for Lennaert, predating BENZAK's establishment.
Hosting two contests—2017-2018 with CULTIZM and Robin Denim, and 2021-2022 in collaboration with Samurai Jeans—further solidified BENZAK's commitment to the raw denim community.
The 10-year anniversary collection, a recent milestone, exemplifies BENZAK's dedication. Developed in collaboration with major denim supplier Candiani, the collection features a bespoke 15 oz. denim fabric with gold accents, including a golden selvedge ID and real gold-plated buttons, limited to 535 pieces across four men's fits.
A Glimpse into Tomorrow
BENZAK, having cultivated its brand for over a decade, remains steadfast in its commitment to high-quality, enduring products. The mantra "Never change a winning team" underpins their approach, promising consistency in future offerings. The next decade holds promises of market expansion and fortified existing markets. Anticipate innovative fabrics, such as hemp blends and super heavyweights, but do not expect heavy washes or stretch denim.
While BENZAK's genesis may have been inspired by Lennaert's passion for Japanese denim, its essence remains unchanged - denim developers by default, 100% privately owned, and fully independent.