Denim is as classic as they come, a tried and true fabric not bound to any age or gender. For Gary Lenett, though, jeans, especially for men, lacked something critical: change.
The Vancouver-based Lenett is something of a denim veteran, having collaborated with brands including Levi Strauss, Wrangler, The Gap, GUESS, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Nike (Michael Jordan), and Harley Davidson. He launched Dish jeans, a popular line of women’s denim, in 2001, but took it off the market in early 2013 after growing bored with the predictable trends rotating through the industry. He wanted to do something innovative, something that worked with his active lifestyle. Inspiration struck when Lenett was talking with his New York-based friend Steven Sal Debus, who has background in athletic wear and supplies fabric for Under Armour. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we do something together?’” Lenett recalls. The plan was to focus on the “athleisure” demographic: people who want style without sacrificing function. Two and a half years of testing, researching, and planning later, Dish is back with an entirely new set of fabrics called L2X (Leisure to Extreme) and Nature 2X (Nature to Extreme); on top of that, Lenett has launched a line of high performance men’s jeans called DU-ER.
Both the men’s and women’s products are stretchy and lightweight; the proprietary fabric is made with INVISTA COOLMAX fibres and Tencel to keep the pants cool, manage moisture, and fight bacteria. DU/ER designs have lined pockets to protect men against cellphone radiation, and have five times the stretch of most men’s jeans. They expand and give when in movement but don’t bag out over time—they can be biked in, hiked in, maybe even Warrior Two-ed in. Overall, the point Lenett is trying to make is that one pair of jeans should be able to get active Vancouverites through the day, from cycling to work in the morning, to attending a meeting, to grabbing drinks for happy hour.
The “performance denim” collections were unquestionably designed for function, but Lenett is quick to ensure that the aesthetic matters, too. “They had to be functional, but they also had to look nice,” he says, adding that while he is involved in the creation of every product, he also has a team of trusted designers. “I wasn’t interested in creating ugly jeans that perform well, or nice jeans that have no give.” Lenett is celebrating the launch of both brands with a pop-up shop in Railtown (339 Railway St.), complete with exposed brick and bicycle wheels, which will run through the summer. He also has plans to pop up at other locations around the city as well as throughout North America, starting with Seattle and Portland.
Though DU-ER and the reincarnation of Dish are still introducing themselves to the denim world, Lenett says he has been blown away by the positive reception thus far. If someone does, however, want to return a pair, there is one caveat. “You can’t return them with the tags on,” Lenett says. “You can’t return them without giving them a real try. We want people to really experience them and live in them, ride them hard.” An order to get messy, and with it, a promise of true blue.