You probably own at least one pair of jeans pants in your wardrobe. It is in fact the most popular fabric in the world. Nevertheless, the first thing that comes to mind of most people when they hear the word “denim” are brands like Levi’s or Wrangler. But today we will look closely at masters of Japanese denim – Osaka 5
Jeans indeed were popularised by American denim, however, Japanese craftsmen mastered the technique of weaving denim traditionally. So when the whole world shifted to open-end spinning, Japan conquered the market of high-quality jeans.
I would just superficially trace what led to that, but if you are interested in the influence of American fashion on Japan I can recommend the book “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style”.
Although Japan was defeated in World War 2 by America, the generation of baby boomers admired the American style. From pop culture to clothing, americana thrived in Japan. Preppy boy style popularised in Japan by Kensuke Ishizu started the trend of stores selling vintage American garments.
And what is the most American piece of clothing? Jeans, naturally. Initially, people were obsessed with Levi’s denim, but as it started to lose on quality they tried to replicate true selvedge denim. As a result in the ’80s, Japanese replicas had better quality than originals. It was possible thanks to the use of traditional weaving and dyeing methods.
On the other hand, these methods were time-consuming so the price for Japanese jeans was higher than usual. It didn’t, however, cease the success of most notable denim brands from Japan, especially in Osaka.
Japanese denim – Osaka 5 brands
We can trace the history of legendary Studio D’artisan back in 1979. The Brand was founded by Shigeharu Tagaki and focused on using traditional production methods, combined with modern flair in design.
It was new and high quality, so people who could afford it boasted Studio D-artisan denim. The most popular models of theirs are SD-101 and DO-1
Brand’s philosophy was an homage to original vintage Levi’s jeans. Therefore out of all brands in Japan, their denim was the most similar to traditional Levi’s from previous decades. This combined with large accessibility and quick fading effect gained Denime many enthusiasts. While the older generation bought Denime for sentiment to old-fashioned selvedge jeans, newcomers could quickly see fashionable fading.
In contrast to Denime, Evisu experimented with new designs, offering jeans for adventurous mavericks. Established in 1991 by Hidehiko Yamane, Evisu provided high-quality jeans that stood out in the crowd. It was initially named Evis, but due to its resemblance to Levi’s they were forced to change the name.
By adding “u” at the end, Yamane explained he was inspired by the Japanese god of prosperity – Ebisu. Till now this is the most known brand of Osaka 5, thanks to marketing strategies and hiphop scene. Characteristic arcuate is often hand-painted and resembles seagull. These baggy jeans were populirazed by hiphop groups and became a 1990s fashion trend.
Warehouse was founded by Kenichi and Kenji Shiotani brothers in 1995. They had previously worked at Evisu, but departed to focus on more traditional denim. Their flagship 1001XX model was inspired by jeans from the 1940-50’s. In addition to that they paid close attention to details, by using slow weaving shuttle looms.
Mikiharu Tsujita established Fullcount in 1994. He was a former worker of Hidehiko Yamane at Evisu. To set Fullcount apart from others Tsujita sourced cotton from Zimbabwe. Hand-picked, long threads of cotton provided more comfort and rigidity to jeans, allowing him to experiment on heavier denim. Fullcount focused on casual wear and idea of creating the most comfortable jeans on the market.
Japanese denim – Osaka 5 summary
As you can see, every brand had its own aesthetic:
- Studio D-artisan experimented with designs;
- Evisu provided streetwear style denim;
- Denime focused on mastering replicas of vintage Levi’s;
- Warehouse was inspired by jeans from the 1940-50’s;
- while Fullcount produced jeans from Zimbabwe cotton for everyday use.
Osaka 5 paved the way for emerging designers from Japan to push the envelope in the fashion world. Till now Japanese denim is regarded as the best in the world. Write in comments, what is your favourite denim brand? For me, it will be Momotaro and Levi’s (but vintage :D)
Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style; Book by W. David Marx