Red Cloud & Co. began life in a workshop in Shenyang, China back in 1999. In those early years, the company was called Red Banner and focused on the production of leather goods.
Apparently, the owner of Red Cloud become interested in reproduction Levi’s back in 2005, and thus the company had a change of name and change of direction in 2007 with the release of their first pair of blue jeans.
Fast forward to 2016, Red Cloud has released the Daaifau (Cantonese name for San Francisco) series, their top of the range, “export quality” jeans. The premise behind the first three cuts is the combination of Turpan (Xinjiang) cotton denim and the spirit of the early years of Chinese-American migration – using the 1874 patent for improving work overalls taken out by Cheang Quan Wo as inspiration, him being the only Chinese person recorded in the early history of denim jeans. The Mandarin language blurb actually mention the Daaifau series are supposed to be reproductions of Mr. Cheang’s overalls.
The story sounds interesting, so let’s have a look.
Firstly, the fabric.
Red Cloud uses long staple Xinjiang (Turpan) cotton for this denim, with a minimum fibre length of 35 mm. The denim feels about 14 to 15 oz.
Very hairy, handles incredibly well, and overall a very luxurious fabric. Moderately irregular, but not overly slubby and certainly not rough.
Rope dyed, judging by how the indigo is rubbing. The indigo, in particular, changes in shade and hue more dramatically compared with most, depending on lighting – this is demonstrated in the photos throughout this post, which had been taken in both direct and indirect sunlight.
So far so good, with the denim itself being a clear winner.
The fit, for me, was strange.
Upon first wear, I immediately noticed how little room there was in the top block compared with the retail measurements and shrinkage advice provided. I would definitely recommending sizing up at least one, regardless what the stated measurements are.
Otherwise, from the thighs down, it is as advertised – a slim fit with a mild taper.
Another aspect which caught my attention was the small size of the back pockets. My coin pouch and smaller mid-wallet could not completely fit in…the first time I’ve had this problem!
The details and construction were top notch. The stitching was neat & dense, and the stitch count was high. I counted 6 different thread colours in a variety of sizes – I especially appreciated the understated tea-coloured chain-stitching. The seams were all nicely closed. There was subtle ridging in the belt loops, top edge of the pockets and the back yoke. The button fly was over-the-top tear proof. Overall, a very neat, sturdy if somewhat austere feel.
The hardware were imported from Japan – very nice metal buttons and copper rivets with good thickness.
The leather patch appeared to be deer skin, and has a very nice grain that stood up well to the initial wash. The branding is understated, and aesthetically paired well with the rest of the jeans.
The Wukong (Monkey God) arcuates are nicely done and thinner than other Red Cloud models. I’m thinking this pair would look more cohesive without the arcuates though, as they are somewhat of an attention grabber among all the understated detailing, and does throw off the old-school look somewhat.
Overall, very well put together…but I did notice two major issues.
One, the top button hole stitching seems to have been accidentally cut at two points!
Also, part of the chain-stitch near the top of the seat had broken even before first wear! (You can see this 6 photos back.)
Not a huge problem, but I did waste 15 minutes repairing a new pair of pants.
The broken chain-stitch, however, I can’t repair at home.
Quality control needs improving, especially if this is supposed to be top-end, “export quality” jeans.
The next major issue is that, well, this pair of jeans really has nothing to do with Cheang Quan Wo, early Chinese migration or 1800’s overalls. This is not a reproduction of any sort.
Cheang’s signature triangular gussets were NOT included!
All the detailing and peripherals are reminiscent of Levi’s jeans that were made after the late 1940s, and certainly the sum of the whole does not come anywhere close to a pair of overalls from the second half of the 19th century.
In my opinion, larger pockets, triangular gussets, cinch-back, recessed steel buttons and maybe an alternate, more classic pocket detailing would perhaps complement the inspiration behind the Daaifau series much better.
Really happy to see such high quality fabric and well made jeans come out of China!
However, considering the relatively high price ($210 USD), the squishy top-block fit, the tiny pockets, lack of cohesion in spirit & detailing and the slight defect in the final product…I cannot recommend Red Cloud’s Daaifau jeans.
Price wise, we’re heading into mid-tier Japanese denim costs. I would expect a Chinese brand selling at this price tier to have presented a slightly more considered product, and to give more accurate measurements to assist export purchases.
If you must have Xinjiang cotton, perhaps consider Red Cloud’s regular models which are around 25% cheaper. Alternatively, with the same money you could easily buy two pairs of Sauce Zhan jeans (which are excellent value) or have one pair fully customised by Sauce Zhan to your liking.
It’s not that I want to pick on Red Cloud.
To be honest, the worst quality control issue I have experienced was with a pair of Studio D’Artisan jeans which had a seam on the back yoke folded so badly it should have been considered a defective pair. I remained unhappy with it after sending it back to Japan for repairs, so I discarded it (bad feelings yo~)…and have not bought any SDA products since.
The disappointment here is perhaps due to the fact that I really wanted to like Red Cloud’s product and this Daaifau jeans in particular, given the interesting fabric and the storied concept. Instead, this pair will not enter my active rotation, and will hang in my closet for the foreseeable future as a collectible.