Denim is the most ubiquitous item of clothing and regardless of age, style, and trend everyone owns at least a single pair of jeans. Out of all kinds of denims manufactured all around the globe, Japanese denims are considered to be special and the most sought after. For many denim lovers and experts, Japanese denim is considered to be superior to its American, Turkish, or its Italian counterparts.
The made in Japan denims held a strong reputation in history, and still do today. The exquisite craftsmanship, skill, and premium construction make these jeans an extremely unique piece of garment. Most denims currently are made using synthetic dyes, unlike premium denims which are manufactured using natural dyes, and hence mass produced and are sold for cheap. Though the denim originated in America, it was only after the Second World War that Japan began producing denim. In order to meet the rising demand for this classic piece of clothing, Americans shifted to projectile looms and sold their old shuttle looms to Japan. This kick started the production of denim in Japan using their rich heritage of textiles and expertise in using vintage machines.
The most distinctive feature of the Japanese denim is the "selvage edge". This kind of denim fabrics have edges with a woven finish unlike the regular jeans bearing cut and over-locked edges. Rather than weaving on modern looms, Japanese denim manufacturers believe in weaving using old shuttle looms or vintage Toyoda looms. The cost of production of Selvage denim is higher since the weaving process requires more skill and adeptness. This process gives the denim the imperfections and variations in contrary to the precision and efficiency provided by automatic weaving machines. Denim fans prefer to own a pair of jeans with such denser and tighter variations. The texture of these denims is not smooth but rough and hairy.
The true essence of the Japanese denim lies in the dyeing process of these amazing pairs of jeans. The island nation of Japan is known for its dyeing techniques used in creating beautiful kimonos. Similarly the dyeing process used for denims is created using a variety of different methods. Finding a similar colour in another brand can hence be extremely difficult. For instance some produce jeans by dyeing the weft fabrics to give a fading look for a grey or brown overcast, while some give their jeans an extra-dark dyeing treatment so that over a period of time the fabric fades into a rich turquoise blue. Such diverse dyeing methods also make Japanese denim brands class apart.
Another important aspect of the Made in Japan denims is the weight of the garment. The regular denims weigh up to 20 ounces. The Japanese denims in comparison weigh between 11 to 14 ounces. Many denim lovers prefer heavy weighted denims since they are warm, give thicker creases, and have more defined fading. However, light weight denims are less prone to thread breakage unlike thicker denims that weigh on the stitching and lead to breakages.
The Japanese denim brands provide extra emphasis to the post weaving processes there by bringing more character to the garments. One of the most popular processes used is sanforization, which provide denims the anti-shrinkage property and a smoother fading texture. Another such process is singeing, where in the little hair like fibres on the surface of the fabrics are burnt away. Calendaring, a process where heat and pressure are applied to denim fabrics in order to create a smooth and uniform surface is also a part of finishing processes of many denim brands. Some jeans are also given a smooth finesse by mercerizing the denim fabrics and allowing the fibres to swell.
The combination of all the above factors contributes to the uniqueness of the Japanese denim fabrics. All these characteristics make each pair of denim exclusive and every composition remains unique for a long time. The jeans Made in Japan have created a niche markets in America and Europe. The method of producing them traditionally, make them even more desirable and at the same time expensive. The first Japanese denim brand to became famous outside the country was "Evisu", who bought the vintage Levi's looms to make similar denims in the 90s.
But in the recent times, so popular are these garments that many international brands like Nudie, Gucci, Diesel, Paul Smith's Red, and Louis Vuitton use premium quality Japanese denims to reach cult denim admirers all across the world. Shoppers and consumers are equally fond of denims that are naturally dyed in indigo with a yarn dipped 30 times to get a deep and rich colour which withers with time. Kojima also nicknamed as the Mecca of denim, is a city located in the West Coast of Japan, producing most of the Made in Japan jeans. The fine craftsmanship and dyeing make a pair of Made in Japan jeans worthy of investment and a garment to treasure.