Kojima City, the capital of premium blue denim

HUB

Hand made in Japan

Kojima City, the capital of premium blue denim

Kojima City, the capital of premium blue denim

Who would have figured that the ubiquitous denim trouser, designed for and worn by 19th century factory workers, miners, farmers and cattlemen throughout the North American West, would one day become an exclusive garment made by hand in Japan and rising to uber-cult status. Welcome to the once sleepy coastal town of Kojima City in the Okayama Prefecture, which is considered today a mecca for premium Japanese denim – or denim, tout court. Here we find the eponymous «Kojima Jeans Street». The road is indigo, the colour of Kojima’s iconic denim. The red and white lines of the street curbs remind of the denim selvedge. The street is strung with lines of jeans as if someone has hung out their laundry to dry. The city is lined with over 30 shops selling denim including flagship stores, namely Momotaro Jeans, the brand named after the legendary Okayama warrior who had defended the land. But the story of Momotaro Jeans is also one of hard-working denim artisans in Okayama pursuing their dream to «deliver real jeans to the world». The brand was established in 2005, inspired by vintage denim, and has since became known for its handmade production process. It is with these artisanal skills and their hands-on approach, as well as with using the best raw materials and natural indigo dye that they create premium selvedge denim. Their slogan, «Made by hand without compromise». Their creed, «Those who succeed in life take care of themselves and elect only the best quality tools, which serve as encouragement toward self-betterment and attract good luck and success». Momotaro works with cooperating factories in the Okayama region to produce everything from fabric to finished products, selling its most popular style The Shutsujin inspired by the old story about the flag that Momotaro carried when he went to fight off the demons all around the world. The Momotaro story however is only the most recent chapter in a book that begins in the 1950s. Back then Kojima City was known for manufacturing school uniforms. As demand for denim grew in post-WWII Japan, it saw an opportunity. The denim making process involves many stages, such as weaving, cutting, sewing, dyeing, washing and cleaning. Eventually, the different specialists started to congregate in Kojima and the area became renowned for its jeans production. By 1965 it became the base for many mills and factories producing denim jeans. Then, fascination with raw selvedge began to increase, and in the 70’s denim enthusiasts wished to revive vintage production. They wanted to break away from the pre-washed, broken jeans and sought raw selvedge denim to return to the old days. Producers in Kojima then started to readapt vintage weaving methods as well as the centuries old indigo dye to create the cutting edge Japanese denim we are now familiar with. Prior to 1950’s, in fact, denim was made on shuttle looms that utilise a shuttle to pass the yarns back and forth between both sides of the loom to produce tightly woven strips of heavy fabric. The edges of these fabric strips seal themselves with a tightly woven finish, resulting in a self-edge (selvedge) denim. Although modern technology is able to replicate variations in dye and weaving, selvedge denim remains only attainable with a shuttle loom. Kuroki Mills, founded in 1950 by Tamotsu Kuroki, is one of the few start-to-finish denim fabric makers in Japan and one of the main facilities in the Okayama Prefecture to have its own in-house dyeing, weaving, and finishing plants. President Tatsushi Kuroki tells Hub, «With anticipation of the Earth’s future always in mind, Kuroki Denim continues to manufacture high quality denim, in Ibara, a city abundant in pure water». Kuroki has always been committed to the implementation of more environmentally responsible initiatives for the production process, such as recycling and purifying the dye water and using more solar power. «In this era of mass production and mass disposal, we believe that long-term use is the ultimate environmental protection», adds Tatsushi Kuroki. Denim created with quality materials, precision, and care costs more. It will last longer while cheap, low-quality products cannot stand the test of time and results in multiple re-purchases. So when next in Japan, we recommend you take a visit to this sleepy coastal town. Not only is there premium quality denim, you can also feast on fresh seafood, and take a stroll in the gorgeous mountains across the Seto Inland Sea.

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