We were personally interested in learning about Elvis’ relationship with denim and we were not disappointed. Remember Elvis’ denim jacket and drainpipe jeans he wore in Jailhouse Rock? Denim uniforms had roots in the penitentiary system due to its durability and the Jailhouse Rock outfit helped cement denim as the fabric of youthful rebellion. We learned from Goto that ironically, Elvis later avoided wearing denim on stage as he associated it with the poverty of his childhood and opted most often for suits or leather instead. With this in mind his intensifying penchant for luxe, outlandish designs throughout his career makes sense as he was ever-determined to upstage himself. Elvis would grace the stage in a Canadian tuxedo once more about two 20 years later- this time in a white denim Tiger suit. Elvis is arguably the first true celebrity- saturated in the media and marketed globally as a product. Goto’s thorough exploration of his relationship with American culture and his impact on fashion makes this book a fascinating must-read.
The second batch of discoveries from our jaunt through Liberty Fairs is indigo-drenched. Indigo is a native plant in Japan and the history of Indigo dye on the small eastern island runs deep, back to the 10th century. The technique boomed during the Edo period (1192-1333) due to the dye’s ability to cling well to cotton, the popular fabric of the lower classes at the time. By the early 1900’s almost 1400 acres were covered in indigo crop in Japan, now a mere 70 acres. The process of dyeing naturally is laborious, time-consuming and is carried on by skilled artisans. Traditionally Sukumo leaves, wheat bran, sake, hardwood ash and lime are combined in vats and fermented to produce the ocean hue. In Japanese culture the dye has been believed to contain protective properties from warning off insects and snakes in fields to sparing firemen burns. Out of the hundreds of booths at Liberty Fairs two stood out to us: Blue Blue Japan and Koromo.
Blue Blue Japan began in 1993 and designer Kenji Tsuji has been designing there since 2006. His designs usually contain bold, graphic interpretations of traditional Japanese motifs and patterns (waves, the sun, Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, etc.). When his pieces aren’t emblazoned with beautiful images they are simple and highlight the beauty of traditional indigo dye. Many of the shirts are made with a tie dye technique called Shibori or have a dip dyed ombre fade. The construction of the garments is based on farm work wear. You can find Blue Blue Japan products at Union Made Goods, Mr Porter, and Hickoree’s. Read more about Kenji at mrporter.com.
Designer Kenji Tsuji
Embroidered satin bomber in blue and black
Indigo ombre sweatshirt
Koromo also had our hearts racing and mouths gaping. Koromo’s designs are focused on traditional Japanese sewing and patching techniques. The collection shown at Liberty Fair was heavy on boro patchwork and sashiko stitching. In the words of the company, “Craftsmanship is a sensory realm, and just as a wild stitch can be more attractive than a neatly aligned seam the heart may throb more for rough nonconformity than for pristine fabric. The flavor found only in old items interwoven with the thread of time and the newest model loom that produces exactly what you want are both infinitely precious partners.” We couldn’t agree more.
Below this tattered patched jacket read a sign “This 100 year old fabric is Aizome (Indigo dyed cloth). The well used areas of the fabric are where it has been hand sewn over and over again. The clothes have been made out of this fabric as is. In times when things were scarce in Japan even a little fabric was considered precious. This preciousness is found in this cloth.”
Traditional Japanese stitching technique, sashiko, used on button detail.
Last but not least, live shibori-style tie-dyeing at Liberty Fairs by Goodlife Clothing.
For more photos, style inspiration, and information on denim and indigo techniques check out the Denim Therapy Tumblr and Pinterest pages.
All photographs credited to the author.
—Emily B. McIntosh
Tags: aizome, Blue Blue Japan, boro, designer, dye, indigo, Japanese denim, japanese indigo, Japanese style, Koromo, Liberty Fairs, market week, patchwork, sashiko, shibori, style, tie dye, Traditional
The Denim Therapy team’s Market Week tour continued at Liberty Fairs held at Pier 94. The space was enormous with over one hundred booths to cover. We scoured the long aisles and prioritized. Our top priority? Denim. Our featured picks from the show are all Japanese and American brands including Feltraiger, Kato and Fullcount.
Feltraiger is a Brooklyn-based brand focused on making products you can pass down from generation to generation. Their customer base ranges from hardcore motorcyclists to anyone inspired by American subcultures of the 20th century. Feltraiger’s new Core collection features their bestselling basics. We’re fans of the Destitute Vest in indigo available for Fall 2015.
Th co-founder’s motorcycle parked in front of the new collection.
Destitute vest in indigo.
Kato jeans are made of Japanese denim, designed in Kyoto, and manufactured in Los Angeles. Kato was started by Hiroshi Kato in 1996 and has become one of our favorites. We favor the immaculate construction and details such as the diagonal belt loop and selvedge coin pocket. Highlights from the Spring 2016 line are the 13 oz. Raw Slim jean and a 7 oz Shawl Collar Blazer. Their leather patch has also been updated for the first time since the brand’s inception.
Perfect distressing detail on the hem of the shawl-style blazer lapel.
Fullcount denim is made in Okayama mills in Japan and was one of the first brands to start using Zimbabwe cotton back in 1992. Fullcount is here to stay, check out a peak of their Spring 2016 offerings below.
Rust-looking wash on Fullcount jeans.
Boro-like stitching detail on a chambray shirt.
All photos credited to the author.
—Emily B. McIntosh
Tags: American Denim, DENIM, Feltraiger, Fullcount, Japan, Japanese denim, Kato, made in japan, market week, mens denim, menswear, raw denim
With Men’s Fashion Week came a flurry of activity here in New York. Amy Leverton left London behind and came stateside to promote her book Denim Dudes. Amy has worked in the industry for ten years and is currently the Director of Denim and Youth Culture at WGSN. For Denim Dudes Amy traveled the world photographing and interviewing eccentric denimheads. She chronicled the most interesting styles and global trends in denim cult culture. The book is stocked in most book stores and is also available on Amazon. The New York book launch was hosted by Loren Cronk at Loren in Greenpoint and we couldn’t endure the thought of missing it. The storefront doubles as a workshop where Loren still designs and constructs many jeans by hand. The small shop was packed tight with denimheads on a humid night in Brooklyn and we couldn’t have dreamt of a better venue.
Very amazing vintage jackets for sale.
Sewing patterns, bicycles, and colored lights hanging from the ceiling.
–Emily B. McIntosh
Tags: American Denim, Amy Leverton, book launch, boutique, Denim Dudes, event, hand-made, Loren Cronk, market week, New York Fashion Week, selvedge, workshop
Our last pitstop at Project NYC was at the Raleigh Denim Workshop booth where we talked with co-founder and designer Victor Lytvinenko. Some of the new Summer 2016 pieces include navy hibiscus printed shorts and bright colored jeans in cream, rusty scarlet, sky blue and plum. The Alexander fit will be available in a light pin dot fabric recovered from the Cone Mills archive. Aside from fun, warm weather pieces Raleigh will still deliver the quality raw denim and selvedge we have come to expect from the southern brand next spring.
Victor was most enthused about the Jones 319 Raw and the Jones Organic Raw. The Jones 319 is a thin fit jean made of a non-selvedge raw denim for only $176, making it a great first purchase for those wanting to try their first pair of raw denim without having to pawn an heirloom. The Jones Organic Raw is made using the first and only organic denim grown and made in the U.SA. Raleigh teamed up with Cotton of the Carolinas and Cone Mills to create a denim that is organic and 100% made in the U.S.A., literally from the ground up.
The big picture isn’t the only thing on Victor’s mind, his attention to detail in his company’s designs is also impressive. We’re particularly keen on the triple stitch Raleigh uses on many of its selvedge fits. Two of the threads are gold and the third is indigo, camouflaging the heavy stitching and keeping a minimal look to the jeans. Once the denim fades over time the detail of the third dark navy stitch is revealed. Check out the photos we took at Project below.
Raleigh jeans continue to be capable of some really beautiful fades. An untouched pair is to the right and the whiskered pair on the left is the result of two years of wear.
New colors available Spring 2016.
The Alexander available soon in pin dot.
The Jones 319 Raw
Left: detail of subtle navy triple stitch. Right: the navy triple stitch revealed over time.
Strong honeycomb fades on a worn pair of Raleigh jeans.
—Emily B. McIntosh