Marielle La Rue of Indigo Prophet talks Japanese Denim, Falling in Love, and Making Jeans Right

Interview by Jefferson Ellison, done in Partnership w/ AVLtoday.

There is nothing that we here at JAWBREAKING love more than a good pair of jeans. They make everything better. Sleep in them, iron them, dress them up or down, they are literally the perfect wardrobe staple. And yet even the most perfect item can stand to be tweaked by the right innovation. Brandon and Marielle of The Indigo Prophet are attempting to bring fresh energy to an age-old business model and they are doing it through tenacity, love, and really good products. Business done with intention tends to make up for all the ways capitalism has failed us and The Indigo Prophet is no exception.,. Tell me about Japanese Itochu? What makes it THE denim to wear?

The Indigo Prophet was started thanks to an old pair of Wrangler jeans. I would wear them everywhere and always get asked where I got them. I was looking for a way to apply my sewing skills to more than just alterations and so decided try and recreate those jeans but with a few changes to make them more my own. It took two years to get there and lots of outside help but when it came time to choose a denim, Itochu was the only fabric close to the colour of those original jeans with the right twill and weight that I was looking for. It has since become so much more. It washes beautifully, holds its colour, softens over time and relaxes in all the right places. Just lovely.

Tell us about Brandon and Marielle. Where are you from? How did you meet? How did you get into this industry together?

Brandon and I met back in 2016 in Marfa, TX. He owned a successful restaurant at the time and I was there visiting friends from back home (I’m from Toronto). I spent the next two years travelling back and forth until we decided to get married. Once that happened we just started to dream about what we wanted to do as a couple. I’d been working on learning to make jeans for awhile Brandon had the business background to balance that out. Together we came up with The Indigo Prophet and it’s been growing ever since.

Why did you pick Marshall as the store's location?

Neither of us had ever owned or operated a retail location or manufacturing company. We didn’t want to get in over our heads from the get go. We wanted to open in a place that would afford us the time we need to let the company morph and grow into itself. Nothing ever turns out precisely the way you imagined it. We chose Marshall because we felt it could give us that space and grow along with us at the same time. It’s downtown is going through a really lovely little resurgence and the people that are helping to make that happen seem to be of like mind. We also wanted to maintain that small town charm we loved so much in Marfa.

Do you hope to expand? Where and why?

This has been a really strange year to open a business and thanks to that it feels like lessons we might have learned over five years we have learned over 5 months. Things we thought we absolutely had to have we see we don’t need at all now and things we would have never thought we needed are now absolutely necessary. Trying to balance such a large retail location and it’s needs while also making as much as we can in- house is often too much - we’d love to hire some help at some point to focus more attention on creating new ideas and executing those concepts. We’d also love to do more pop ups to reach a wider audience - once it’s safe to do so. In the meantime we are trying to do that online. How long did it take you to come up with the pattern for the SISTER jean? Tell me about the process...

We created the Sister style in tandem with a yet to be released women’s wide leg and our men’s styles over many months. You have to do your research first. Decide on and sketching out things like rise, zipper length, pocket placement, pocket details, yoke depth, denim, thread, buttons and leg width. We started talking to our pattern designed Anna Toth of Asheville Apparel Arts by mid-simmer of 2019. Creating a pattern from a drawing isn’t something you can do over night. It takes quite a few hours and quite a few fittings to get that first pattern to fit right. We finalized Sister in the fall, after which we sent it in to be digitized and graded (sized). Pattens then have to be copied onto tag board. We didn’t start cutting until the end of February and had our final fitting in mid- March. It’s a long process but it was our first.

Who IS the Indigo Prophet? Is it me? Is it you?

The Indigo Prophet isn’t anyone specifically, it’s more the denim itself and how it chooses to speak through our work. When we started this journey, Brandon and I both were looking for a symbol we could look to for guidance as we entered the unknown. We chose to focus on the denim, to believe in the denim. To do the denims work haha. That reads like pretty woo woo stuff on the page but it’s honest. The denim is the divine and our hands are the prophet. It’s our religion.

How has the history of NC textiles inspired your work?

When we decided to move from West Texas we were really looking for a place specifically to open up our shop. The history of textiles in this state played a big part in that decision making. We knew the area would be rich with other makers and supporting business that we would need and could look to for guidance and help along our own journey. Being somewhat superstitious too, you can’t ignore what Cone Mills’ White Oak mill did for the denim business. With that floating in the air we wanted to be in that atmosphere.

What are some denim trends you hope to never see again.

Low rise. Ever.

What are some clothes we can expect from Indigo Prophet next? Will there be a collection? A fashion show?

We have our mens line The Reverend dropping in August of this year and are also about to start offering Sister up in a dark Italian indigo denim. Which I am super excited to release. Since the pandemic hit we’ve been focusing more on what we can make ourselves instead of what we can buy to stock the racks - which has started to take form

around hand dyeing too. We’ve been experimenting with tie dye and Shibori, and brainstorming on how to integrate denim with those two.

Asheville and its surrounding areas are chockful of creators. Are there any local artists whose work inspires you or you hope to collaborate with?

I have learned SO MUCH just from being in the presence of Anna Toth. Her work as a pattern teacher and her denim intensives are must attend. Her own work out of Bow and Arrow Apparel is complex and detailed while remaining classic and simple in construction and form. She inspires me in work and in life and we were so grateful when she agreed to be our pattern maker. We also work across the road from Bayit Naassene creator Hunter Savoy Jaffe. Their leatherwear is drool-worthy (I want every harness) and they have this incredible way of using simple change (like colour for example) to create a whole new experience for their clients. Plus I really respect a person committed to using their business platform as a means to exposing human rights issues and doing what they can to help.

What is something you wish you told yourself when first embarking on the Indigo Prophet journey?

Slow down, say no and try to enjoy the ride. Just try. We’re still working on all of those.