My Levi’s® brand 501® Interpretation: Hanif Idris & Vincent Paul Yong

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source: Levi's

Passion runs deep in these denims. In JUICE x My Levi’s® brand 501® interpretation, we hear it from the horse’s mouth as we get down and personal about the brand with 2 interesting individuals from different career fields – Hanif Idris, a lawyer that’s gaining traction as an art collector and a vintage denim enthusiast and Vincent Paul Yong aka VPYP, fashion photographer, vintage denim collector and passionate Levi’s fan.

HANIF IDRIS Lawyer / Art Collector / Levi’s® brand 501® enthusiast


Hi there, tell us about yourself.
I’m an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.

You are both a denim and an art collector. When did your passion in collecting begin?
I wouldn’t call myself a denim collector, I’m more of a denim enthusiast, even then I’m only interested in vintage Levi’s® brand 501® jeans. To be specific, I only collect vintage 501® jeans, those which were made up until 1978. I got into collecting vintage 501® jeans back in 1993 when I met the son of a vintage denim dealer from Bangkok, in University.

As for art, I’m a very young art collector- I started only 5 years ago.

Acquiring denim and art, how is it similar yet different?
It’s similar in that you must have knowledge and passion and above all, money. You’ve got to find and work with a trusted dealer. I’ve been lucky enough to have met a few vintage denim dealers from Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Japan, Amsterdam and America, in my years of collecting denim.

When I started collecting vintage 501® jeans in 1993, there weren’t a lot of resources, as far as I knew. There wasn’t somewhere I could look up and read up on “How to Collect Denim”. I had to learn through experience and through working with the dealers, collectors, and friends.

Art however, there a lots of books written on art and art collecting. There are curators, art critics, galleries and magazines on art and only recently are there books, writings, magazines and a burst of social media on vintage jeans.

Why denim?
It’s such an ubiquitous item. But if you look closely, you can find these hidden diamonds in the rough.

How many pairs of denims do you have in your collection and do you have a favourite pair?
For my every day use, I have quite a few Japanese raw denims, and I mean every day, the ones which I wear almost every day.

Since 1993 till today, I’ve been buying and selling vintage 501® jeans, always trading up for better vintage 501® jeans.

What I have my in collection now, the Levi’s® brand Vintage 501® jeans- a pair of 1937 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E (buckleback), a pair of 1947 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E, a few pairs of the 1955 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E, a few pairs of the 1966 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E and a few pairs of the 1978 Levi’s® brand 501® small e. I’m still looking for the right pair, for the right price, of 1944 World War 2 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E, something that won’t cost me my arm and leg.

Do you remember the exact moment when you fell in love with denim?
Not the exact moment, but probably sometime in 1990 when my brother bought me my first pair of 501® jeans.

Denim collectors and fans wax lyrical about the Levi’s® brand 501®. Why is that?
Because it is the iconic jeans that is worn by everyone who is anyone.

In your personal opinion, why is the Levi’s® brand 501® jeans loved by politicians, icons and the everyday man alike?
The Levi’s® brand 501® jeans is not a trend, but is a lifestyle.

What draws you to a pair of jeans – in this instance – Levi’s® brand?
Its rich and deep historical background.

Do you have any fond memories with a pair of Levi’s® brand?
Back in 2005, I was bidding online for a pair of 1955 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E from an auction house in Pasadena, California. There were 4 other bidders driving the price up, and I had to stop at USD900.00 and the winning bid was USD1,200.00. 5 years later, I stumbled across the same pair of 1955 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E and nabbed it for USD1,000.00 from a dealer in Bangkok who was clearing out his inventory. Turns out the dealer was the winning bidder of the jeans at the auction and I saved USD200.00.

From a collector’s perspective, how has the local denim scene changed over the last 10 years?
Everyone in Malaysia has always been wearing jeans, especially Levi’s® brand jeans. I’ve never been into the local denim scene but recently I have seen a growth of local independent jeans-maker, such as Ceremony Fine Wear, where they produce good jeans.

I think people are more aware of the jeans that they wear, used to be that they wore jeans, but now it is what jeans they wear.

JUICE has met many passionate denim collectors who share this common obsession with collecting vintage 501®s and we’ve experienced firsthand their process of meticulously rummaging through kedai bundles for that perfect pair. Are you like that? How do you explain this sort of passion to non denim fans?
There’s a certain thrill to sifting and rummaging through kedai bundles for that perfect pair. There’s no promise that you would find that perfect pair, but that anticipation that builds up as you search through the shop and that sheer delight and the glorious feeling of finding that perfect pair is well worth that meticulous rummaging.

Most of the dealers I know from the States find their vintage 501® jeans from thrift shops, the Salvation Army and garage sales, just like here except we call them Kedai Bundle.

However, the days of rummaging kedai bundles are behind me, I rely mostly on my trusted dealers from Bangkok, Singapore and California.

What is the market price in Malaysia for a vintage pair of 501s®?
When you deal in vintage 501® jeans like me, a pair of 1966 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E in mint condition, with a common good size of around 32 or 34, the price can be between RM2000.00 to RM3000.00.

But the price of a pair of vintage 501® jeans depends on the year it was produced, the size and the condition of the jeans.

The most expensive transaction I’ve ever dealt with, in Malaysia, was RM6000.00 for a pair of 1947 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E (still in mint condition).

Does the Levi’s® brand 501® have any personal significance to you?
Levi’s® brand 501® jeans has taken me across seas, to Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Amsterdam, Japan, and who knows where else I will go in search of those perfect pair of vintage 501® jeans.

Do you have a favourite pair of Levi’s®?
My 1937 Levi’s® brand 501® Big E (buckleback).

How would you wear your pair of Levi’s® brand 501®?
Just like how the Levi’s® brand 501® jeans are design to be worn.

Most interviews often focus on how a pair of jeans looks on a person but we’d like to know how you feel in a pair as iconic as the 501®? What kind of emotion does it stir in you?
I wear Levi’s® brand 501® jeans not out of fashion, but out of passion.

Lastly, if you were commissioned to create an art piece with a pair of Levi’s® brand 501®, how would you envision your masterpiece to look like?
Tracey Emin’s Hate and Power Can Be a Terrible Thing, 2004.

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