The Blue Delta

Jean Co. Story

What do custom-tailored jeans and lifelong friendships have in common?

 

Some things just fit.

There’s something synonymous about well-made denim and homegrown relationships.

 

Nick Weaver and Josh West are lifelong friends turned business partners. The Pontotoc, Miss. natives are the duo behind Blue Delta Jean Co., a made-to-order, or “bespoke,” denim company based in North Mississippi that was founded in 2010.

 

Well before this joint venture, when the old pals spent their teenage days tearing up the streets of Pontotoc, West and Weaver never dreamed they’d be in business together. 

 

“Back in high school, I think Josh and I would both agree that we could find better business partners than each other,” Weaver said, joking. “But I know he’s always got my back, and I always have his.”

 

Their mutual trust for each other made it easy for Weaver to readily agree to West’s proposal for Blue Delta Jean Co. five years ago.

 

West, a self-proclaimed creative-type, asked Weaver to partner up in a humble custom jean operation. They got their hands on some abandoned sewing machines from a defunct garment operation in Memphis and trucked them over to a warehouse factory in Tupelo, Miss.

 

“My initial reaction that night was, ‘yes,’” Weaver said. “Josh bills himself as a designer and a businessman, but he’s a heck of a salesman. I didn’t even know what raw denim was.”

 

Today, West oversees the business model and Tupelo operations, while Weaver spearheads business development and maintains the company’s first studio in downtown Oxford, Miss.

 

West and Weaver possess diverse skill sets, which enhances the partnership. Without one another, Blue Delta Jean Co. wouldn’t have made it, West said.

 

“[Nick]’s a salesperson and I’m detail oriented. He’s a hard sell and I’m a soft sell,” West said. “It’s worked out really well. Some days I want to kill him and he wants to kill me, but that’s with every great partnership.” 

 

Each pair of jeans is handmade in their warehouse in Tupelo, where, under yellowy lights, several seamstresses work alternating evening shifts. It’s there, to the constant, mechanical rhythm of vintage Singer’s and Juki’s, a century-old Reese 101 buttonhole machine and the hammering of copper rivets into thick raw denim, NFL players, celebrity chefs and bestselling authors’ jeans are made.

 

“Each jean is its own project, which makes us unique,” Weaver said. “We are doing this one at a time and the old-fashioned way. It’s not some big company that uses software. It’s us taking measurements in our own backyard.”

 

Over in Oxford, a steady stream of customers file in and out of the Blue Delta Jean studio in the South 11th Street alley off of the downtown square. A spectrum of colored spools line the exposed brick wall, and samples of raw denim hang on bolts.   Conversations echo across the hardwood floors, and more often than not, Nick’s got a to-go cup of Bottletree Bakery coffee that he nurses all afternoon.

 

There’s no fabrication in Weaver’s sales pitch—Blue Delta jeans are simple. The cotton is grown in Texas; the jeans are Mississippi made. And the jeans come with the guarantee that you can return to the studio at any time, even years after the jeans are made, and the crew will check the pants’ fit and quality. 

 

In the midst of the company’s recent success and growth, West believes this exclusivity and uniqueness of a pair of Blue Delta Jeans will not fade.

 

“Even as we grow, as long as we stay close to our business model—bespoke denim—we won’t lose that feeling,” West said. “[Our customers] always have to be touched, fit, measured. It’s not a product you can click a button and have the next day.”

 

Blue Delta Jean Co. started with a few sewing machines, one seamstress and a handful of promotional parties and fitting events in patrons’ homes. Now, retailers in 19 U.S. cities and London are certified to measure for the jeans, the Tupelo operation is growing steadily and there are plans for more measuring studios across the South in the near future.

 

It’s as if, like the West-Weaver friendship, their jeans are exploring once-unimaginable avenues. What started as a simple concept, rooted in the Mississippi qualities of hard work and patience, has gone global. The partners’ tenacious nature and entrepreneurial spirit has made that happen.

 

“One thing that I think we do well together is that we don’t give up,” Weaver said. “We were stupid enough to think we could do this, and stubborn enough to actually stay with it.”

 

Giving up was never an option, even in the beginning when the numbers didn’t make sense or product development was in a slump, he said.

 

The first night West and Weaver set up the sewing machines in Tupelo, they cut a jean pattern and prototype. Weaver remembers feelings of excitement and accomplishment from the evening.

 

“We turned on the cutter and cut our first piece of denim, and we were like, ‘This is it…This is easy,’” he said. “We thought we’d made our first pair of jeans. It’s a long road, and I think about how naïve we were then.”

 

Now, Eli Manning’s tenth pair of Blue Delta jeans, a thick-legged pair of duck canvas work pants, are draped over the studio’s bolts of sample denim. With almost every concert staged at the Lyric Theater next door to the studio, musicians drop in to see if the hype lives up to its stories.

 

Blue Delta Jean Co. has staying power. West and Weaver’s friendship lives on, now stronger than ever. And like a well-made pair of jeans, both should only get better with age.

© 2020 by Sarah Bracy Penn. All rights reserved.