If you’re reading this, you either know enough about Japanese raw selvedge denim and are looking to buy, or you’ve read or heard that Japanese denim is some of the best, if not the best in the world and you want to know more.
Why is Japanese denim the best in the world? It all comes down to a few key things which you can read about here.
The Japanese culture applies learning, craftsmanship, and continuous improvement to reach perfection. When it comes to denim this ensures products reach a degree of quality that many other makers have no interest in achieving. Why not? It usually means being selective in materials, which is costly. It also means longer production times, which is costly. It also means employing craftsmen and women who are experts, which….costs money.
The result is a product which has an enormous amount of skill engineered into it and is likely to last far longer than mass produced garments. For many though, they won’t appreciate the back story or details, or simply don’t care and that’s totally fine. And you don’t have to be obsessed with denim to appreciate a good pair of selvedge jeans.
So let’s get into the ever growing list (in no particular order) of Japanese brands producing selvedge denim jeans.
(Scroll to the bottom if you want to know where to buy Japanese selvedge denim jeans in Australia)
Founded in 2006 in the denim capital of Japan, Kojima Okayama, Momotaro is one of the most recognised denim makers with commitment to jeans as a lifestyle with a range spanning wide, regular, and tight. Some get the signature Momotaro double stripe on the rear pocket letting everyone know you’re wearing a quality item.
Typically Japanese the founder of Oni Denim shuns publicity and exposure instead letting the high quality slubby jeans for sale do the talking. Using the most laborious and time consuming techniques and fabrics of choice, they are jeans for real denim aficionados.
Japan Blue Jeans
Japan Blue have been making denim products for a while now with a commitment to using Japan’s historic indigo blue colour throughout its products.
Prices range from low to high, allowing newbies to Japanese denim to own a pair of high quality jeans without breaking the bank.
Blue Blue Japan
Blue Blue Japan use pure indigo dying processes to create their denim jeans resulting in distinct colours and fades. Quality is engineered throughout and is recognised internationally as one of the top producers of denim and other fabrics using indigo.
Evisu jeans achieved cult recognition outside of Japan thanks to clever collaborations, quality products, and the striking signature seagull logo. Although they have branched out in to other areas of fashion their commitment to quality denim remains.
Founded in 1991, Evisu is one of the original Osaka 5.
Ex Edwin designer Shinichi Haraki went about setting up his own label in 2002 Iron Heart under The Works Inc banner. With motorcycling as a passion and influence, jeans are typically heavyweight in nature with a focus on durability.
In 1998 Tohru Nogami created Samurai Jeans. Much like others, he set about to focus on quality, indigo dye, and crafting well earned brand recognition. Selvedge ID is an important aspect of selvedge jeans and Samurai Jeans use Silver Lamé as a nod to the shining edge of a samurai sword.
Harking right back to US involvement in the Vietnam war, Sugar Cane went from supplier to US military to maker for the Japanese domestic market. With close ties to US culture, they have maintained this ever since allowing it to influence the style.
One of the originals in the Osaka 5, Studio D’Artisan carries with it a strong identity and a respected sense of coolness. The history of the brand dates back to 1979 and along the way they have experimented yet stayed true to time honoured processes which made vintage American jeans so sought after, but with effortless Japanese style.
Tanuki is one of the newer denim labels having been established in 2016 in Okayama. The brand focuses on more modern cuts yet still embraces traditional aspects of fabric dying and construction. There are some awesome details to be found also in their denim jeans.
Full Count was established in 1992 and made good use of Zimbabwean cotton to produce jeans that had a distinct quality that many denim makers try to replicate. As part of the Osaka 5 they paved the way for Japanese denim to be recognised worldwide.
The Flat Head
Established in 1993, it wasn’t until 2001 that Flat Head began producing jeans with their original “3005”. Instead of following trends in jeans they steadfastly stick to what they believe is right for the brand.
TCB was started by Hajime Inoue and is all about re-living the “good old days” through the enjoyment of quality products with a motto of “Good life with a Good pair of jeans”. The quality and passion can be seen in the product.
Big John started a s sewing factory in the heart of denim making in Japan, Kojima, Okayama. Their first jeans were made in 1965 and the commitment to quality has never wavered.
Burgus is all about simplicity and basics which means it’s functional for everyday wear. That doesn’t mean that quality suffers, on the contrary there’s a surprising amount of detail in their jeans and they can produce some fantastic fades.
The Strike Gold
Another brand born out of Kojima in Okayama, The Strike Gold produce outstanding denim products that have character embedded within each pair due to subtle construction changes TSG like to make along the way.
Warehouse & Co.
One of the Osaka 5, Warehouse & Co has a huge degree of respect in the denim community having departed Evisu to pursue their own ways. Faithful recreations of classic vintage denim from the likes of Levi’s are the order of the day.
Eternal aren’t afraid to deviate from tradition with plenty of modern cuts, yet still retain the quality in dying and construction. Over time jeans will showcase strong vertical fades.
Yoshiyuki Hayashi’s Denime was created in 1988 and one of the Osaka 5 who forged a path with quality vintage denim cuts. They’ve stayed true to their ethos preferring to stick to what they know which is classic American.
FOB Factory are committed to the results that traditional processes achieve yet are exploring new ways of arriving there such as exploring organic cotton, dying processes, and pushing the boundaries of traditional sewing machines.
Graph Zero have been around for a while now (since 2004). Their philosophy is end-to-end, from selecting the right cotton and dying, to design and production and all the way through to the customer. They aren’t afraid to experiment either.
The rebels of the denim scene in Okayama, the brand founded by Kanazawa san was born to of frustration with not being able to find jeans that he thought were cool. Mixing with and inspired by the underground scene Kamikaze Attack brings a bit of an edge to the denim world.
Started in 1996, Kojima Genes engineer as much quality into the products and processes without the cost of doing so passed onto the customer. Their denim range currently resides on the heavier side from 15 – 21 Oz.
Check out Negative Denim via Okayama Denim
You’d think Collect Group would be satisfied having Japan Blue and Momotaro in their portfolio but they’ve also recently launched Negative Denim. Features like dying their yarns 32 times results in impressive fades and a scaled up coin pocket that fits a smartphone show they are willing to try new things.
Under the Klaxon banner which produces The Strike Gold, Tenryo Denim take a slightly different route to service a more creative customer that doesn’t get hung up on what is considered “correct”.
With decades of experience Resolute founder Yoshiyuki Hayashi creates jeans that are true to original denim jeans produced in America but staying true to the quality ethos that emanates from Okayama.
Before the Western popularity of Evisu there was Edwin. Makers of quality denim for decades they may be the victim of their own mainstream success but don’t let that fool you. These are still quality jeans at reasonable prices from one of the oldest Japanese denim brands.
Ichiro Nakatsu created Orslow in 2005 after a deep passion for denim led him to discover the heritage and craftsmanship that goes into creating quality denim. His take is on respecting the original designs yet with tweaks here and there to make his products feel contemporary.
Where to buy Japanese selvedge denim jeans in Australia
Australia isn’t the easiest country to find quality imported goods due to a relatively small market and distance adding to cost resulting in higher markups.
There are a few dedicated stores which stock Japanese selvedge denim.
If you can’t find what you’re after these Japanese websites stock most brands.
Have we missed any brands? What’s your favourite?