Okayama Denim x Japan Blue – ODJB016 Dog Days jeans

Welcome back to the blog!

Today, we’ll be rounding off our series looking at summer jeans by examining a special pair of ultra light weight jeans – the soon to be release ODJB016 “Dog Days” 10 oz nep selvedge jeans.

These Dog Days jeans are the latest collaboration between the retailer Okayama Denim and JapanBlue Co.’s Japan Blue label.

By a margin of 2 oz, these are the lightest pair of jeans I’ve reviewed on this blog yet, and very much a hot weather pair of jeans.

Without further delay, let’s check out the substance of these jeans. As always, my thoughts and discussions are at the end.

 

The Cut

The ODJB016 features a brand new high tapered style cut!

This “#2 Tapered” cut is introduced in Japan Blue’s new line of Circle jeans, and the Dog Days will represent its introduction to the Western market.

This #2 Tapered cut, it seems to me, has been modified from Japan Blue’s origin High Tapered cut to suit beefier builds, adding more space in the top block compared with the standard HT cut.

The rise is medium-high.

There is ample room in the waist and seat – expanded from the original cut, but not loose.

The thighs have been expanded.

From the knee down, the taper is strong, finishing with narrowed (18 cm) hems.

This could perhaps be considered a relaxed high tapered cut, fitted for meatier folks.

All in all, a much appreciated update to Japan Blue’s collection of cuts. Certainly, ergonomic, and easily worn for work and play.

 

The Denim

This new 10 oz nep denim is the star of the show.

Shuttle-loomed, unsanforised and rather crispy to start, the 10 oz weight would be considered to be very light by today’s standards. In fact, it’s been more than 70 years since denim in the 8 to 10 oz range were the standard for jeans.

Whilst most denim in this weight range would be rather plain compared to modern Japanese fabrics, the Dog Days denim scratches the itch with four major features: nep, knots, loom chatter and indigo tone.

At 10 oz, when tested manually, this denim definitely feels much thinner compared to 14 oz + fabrics. There is, of course, less body between the fingers, and you could mistake it for a shirting denim – thinner, somewhat dry, crispy in a way that thicker denims cannot be. However, what is obvious is that this denim is rather densely woven, despite the low tension necessary to create the interesting textile features.

The warp face is textured in an unusual way. On the Dog Days denim, neps and knots have been dialed up to 11, this being the neppiest and knottiest denim I’ve seen. Sure, Collect Mills has released some neppy and knotty affairs at heavier weights in the past, but nothing as intense as this denim.

There is quite significant slubbing and loom chatter too, creating a fairly strong horizontal texture, though this is initially hard to appreciate due to the neps catching the eye.

After soaking, all the textural details are further accentuated as the neps & knots are raised and expanded during contact with water……sprouting, if you would. The loom chatter – weave irregularities – are easier to see, and the knots become more apparent.

The weft face is intensely textured, due to the fact that the neps and knots are also visible on the weft side, to a smaller degree, and the 2 x 1 weave structure of the denim.

From the weft side, this fabric resembles an old fashioned chambray somewhat. The feeling is bumpy but gentle on the skin – this denim does not scratch or catch any hair.

The retro plain-look selvedge is a nice touch.

The warp yarns are rope-dyed with indigo.

The indigo tone is interesting to observe on this denim. Light blue under natural light, but dark with grey tones under incandescent lighting.

I’ve included a photo with the Dog Days denim next to Oni’s Kiraku denim, which has a classic natural indigo tone, for comparison.

Overall, the Dog Days denim has an extremely variegated and organic texture. Little cotton mushrooms sprouting from these pants for sure.

 

The Details

The ODJB016 has been kitted out as a pair of collaboration jeans should!

The thick leather patch is indigo dyed.

The indigo does crock, and has begun to chip away after my weeks of hiking around Europe.

The hardware is brass, with custom embossing on both sides.

The 5 button fly features Japan Blue’s doughnut buttons.

The rivets are punch-thru, and also customised.

The coin pocket features peek-a-boo selvedge.

The pocket cloth features a new twill fabric which has been discharge printed with indigo.

The belt loops are thinner, but raised.

The sewing has been completed with tonal threads throughout.

This style of stitching is modern, with smaller and denser caliber of single and chain-stitching applied.

Bar-tack reinforcements are used in the traditional areas, including belt loop and back pocket attachments.

There are no hidden rivets.

The button holes are densely sewn.

The fly and inseam are neatly locked.

Finally, the hems are chain-stitched tonally too.

 

My Thoughts

The phrase ‘dog days’ has its roots in Greek essayist Plutarch’s ‘hēmerai kynades’, describing peak summer, as, in that part of the world, the Dog Star rises with our star during the hottest days. Certainly, then, the ODJB016 Dog Days jeans were based on the concept of an ideal pair of jeans for hot weather.

It was fortuitous that the crew at Okayama Denim allowed me to take an early look at this pair of jeans during my recent trip to Europe, as it is rather cold in Australia right now. My thoughts here are based on wearing this pair of Dog Days jeans very extensively for a month in hot weather, prowling cities, exploring Roman ruins, hiking hills and climbing up mountains.

Firstly, as a collaboration project, the ODJB016 has merit outside of collaboration clothes being a marketing exercise. Here, Okayama Denim has chosen to take a detour from their ongoing project with Japan Blue – the releases of different versions of Japan Blue’s popular 18 oz Godzilla jeans – and has thrown some wild ideas at the jeans-making group. The denim itself was freshly developed for this collaboration, centered on the theme of summer. As such, Dog Days holds its own and provides great value & interest independent of the hype associated with collab jeans.

Whilst I’ve featured or mentioned a few pairs of jeans which are geared towards warm weather wear in the last few months, those jeans fall into what I would consider to be the light weight category, 11 to 14 oz. Here, at 10 oz, the Dog Days denim is a throwback to denim jeans prior to WWII, when it was common for jeans and work-pants to be made with denim which are 10 oz or lighter. Indeed, when I first saw this fabric, early 20th century work pants sprung to my mind.

The texture of this denim, of course, is like nothing that has been made in the last century. The Dog Days denim is both the neppiest and knottiest denim I’ve ever seen. Consider that the denim is only 10 oz – not a whole lot of cotton to work with – the intensity of texture that’s been achieved is incredible, an easy rival to denim which are 16 oz and above.

Much slub and loom-chatter have been worked into the denim too, and the result here is an absolute explosion of fabric details on a comparatively thin but intensely tactile denim. By its light weight alone, the Dog Days denim also performs much better in aspects of breathability and drying compared to fabrics which are heavier than 12 to 13 oz. The bumpy texturing on the weft face also means that this denim won’t stick to your skin too much when you sweat in hot weather.

Moreover, the colour of the denim is a departure from the norm. A light shade of indigo features on the Dog Days denim, with a steely-grey cast which is most visible under incandescent lighting. This colour is an easy match with T-shirts and sneakers.

The new #2 Tapered cut is, from my perspective, an improvement on Japan Blue’s High Tapered cut. The regular HT cut fits like a slim tapered cut for me, and it is certainly not a fit I’d like to wear during a hot day. With this new cut, the top block (including the thighs) have been expanded, and as such it wears more comfortably. There is enough room for the hips to move whilst engaging in moderately intense activities such as hiking, as I’ve found out.

Yet, the taper here is similarly strong compared to the HT, so our choices in footwear are limited to shoes and low boots, not that this is a significant problem during the warmer months anyway. However, the narrow 18 cm hem does limit air circulation somewhat – this becomes more noticeable if you exercise and sweat in these jeans. An ideal summer time cut would probably have a slightly wider leg opening. Nevertheless, I find myself liking this cut much more than Japan Blue’s standard HT cut.

The sewing of the Dog Days jeans are dialed back to further showcase the denim. I like the use of tonal threads, certainly. The construct, as a whole, is modern, streamlined, and neat. Fans of the traditional or exaggerated reproduction styles of sewing are best to look into JapanBlue Co.’s Momotraro Jeans label.

The indigo dyed leather patch is a very nice touch, and unlike earlier renditions, this patch appears to be hand-dipped in indigo rather than being factory dyed. The hardware utilised are good quality too, the brass colour working well with the steel-tinted denim.

I’ve noticed that the buttons and rivets now have the Japan Blue arcs on the back-studs. It does seem that Japan Blue are incrementally upgrading the details on their headline jeans. On a similar note, the indigo discharge-dyed pocket cloth is really cool, an upgrade from the pocket cloths that have featured on the OD x JB collabs up until now, giving us some Hawaiian shirt vibes.

Considering the cut and the details, I would certainly say that the ODJB016 represents the highest tier of Japan Blue’s jeans and is a minor upgrade of sorts from their previous collaborations with Okayama Denim. It would be really exciting to see more collaboration jeans in the same mold, with different denim fabrics.

All in all, I would consider the ODJB016 Dog Days jeans to be a great summer time denim option, and as far as collaboration jeans go it is a compelling and worthwhile endeavor.

The denim here is really different, in a good & fun way, and may challenge denim purists; the Dog Days jeans does present a brand new niche for most hobbyists, as I gather most of us would not have ultra-light Japanese denims in our wardrobes just yet. Dog Days is, importantly, a novel and exciting experience, even for more advanced collectors – if you are suffering from denim fatigue, this pair might be your remedy.

At $180 USD, the ODJB016 is priced very well, with the same RRP as the other OD x JB jeans. This pair is one of the pricier Japan Blue models, but firmly in the entry level price range as far as hobbyist Japanese denim is concerned. Considering the very unique denim, the excellent new cut and the well executed concept, the Dog Days jeans is highly recommended, especially given the sub-200 pricing.

Overall, the ODJB016 Dog Days is a top candidate for summer weather, and one of the most detailed collaborations this year just yet. The pricing is beginner friendly, and yet by virtue of the light and fun fabric, it fills a niche spot for more seasoned denimheads too.

Hop over to Okayama Denim – this pair will be released in the next few days.

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Benjamin Bott – “Seagull” wallet

Welcome back to the blog.

Today we’ll take a look at the only review for this month of May!

You’ll remember the Double Wren wallet from last month, with a clever design and some of the slickest edges we’ve seen, being one of the best minimalist wallets crafted in the Americas.

Benjamin Bott is back again, and today we’ll have a look at one of Ben’s full-sized wallets – the Seagull bifold.

 

Design

Benjamin Bott is perhaps a workshop known for smaller, minimalist wallets, yet Ben does craft some larger wallet styles too.

The Seagull bifold wallet is one of Ben’s top three designs in terms of complexity and size.

It measures 8 cm x 11 cm folded, and comes in at 1.5 cm thick when loaded.

The standard Seagull features three compartments: a notes compartment on the left, a card compartment on the right, and holster slot also on the right side.

The wallet you see here, however, could be thought of as a “Seagull plus” design, modified to include two extra quick-access slots on the left hand side, making a total of five compartments.

A dozen cards may be easily carried in this Seagull wallet, despite its smaller dimensions compared with a full-sized bifold.

 

Leather

Badalassi Carlo tannery’s Pueblo leather feature again – Pueblo seems to be flavor of the month at Ben’s workshop indeed.

And, why not? This is a lovely veggie leather to be sure.

Pueblo is a top grain leather from the prolific Italian tannery: cut from the shoulder of cattle, being fully vegetable tanned, dyed through and stuffed.

The interesting grain texture is created using metal balls for superficial distressing. Variegation in texture is maximized despite minimal grain growth.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog previously, this sand-blasted appearance disappears rapidly on the Bone (natural) version of Pueblo leather with wear.

In comparison to many other Italian “saddle” style of leathers, Pueblo and Minerva from Badalassi Carlo has a softer temper and more luxurious hand-feel.

The smell is light and sweet, with very little astringency.

This undyed Pueblo is an extremely reactive leather, I would rate it right next to Shonan’s glazed saddle as far as the rate of patina development is considered. This leather transitions from a pale tan colour to caramel rather quickly, and within less than a month, toasty brown tones begin to appear.

In fact, over the two weeks during which I photographed this Seagull wallet, the colour had already deepened appreciably to give an aged look.

Ben has cleverly utilized three different thicknesses of the Pueblo leather, with the outshell being 2.4 mm (6 oz), the holster panel being 1.8 mm (4.5 oz) and the inner panels being 1.2 mm (3 oz).

 

Construct

Despite its minimalist styling, the Seagull is a rather complicated construct.

Firstly, the panels are hand-cut and perfectly stacked.

Through clever stacking, and despite the relatively thick leathers, the wallet itself averages  5mm in leather thickness.

The left side consists of 4 panels, stacked into 3 layers.

The right side consists of 3 panels, stacked in 2 or 3 layers, with the holster-piece floating on top of the base panel.

This wallet is hand-stitched, of course, at 7 SPI.

The saddle-stitching is done with lark coloured Vinymo thread.

Ben’s sewing is spot-on, the tension pulled just right and the threads looking great on both sides.

Every edge on this wallet has been shaved, beveled, sanded and burnished.

The finish and presentation of the gum-polished edges are flawless.

The rounded corners are, in particular, delightful.

So slick and smooth.

The Benjamin Bott logo is stamped on the outershell, bottom right corner.

The full logo in ink is pressed on the back of the outshell, hidden under the left side.

 

Thoughts

Despite the Seagull’s small size, I must say that it is one of the best bifold wallets I’ve come across in the last year. This opinion stems from Ben’s expert and, almost, flawless construct on this wallet and the fact that the Seagull’s design is not only useful, but rugged and clever.

The bifold is my favourite form of wallet, as I believe it to be the best balance of carriage, ease of use, & capacity at this time.

As things stand in 2019, long wallets are definitely impractical, and are more a show-case of style. Middle-wallets are heading the way towards costume as well, given the advances in smart phone payment technologies. Smaller card wallets, however, limited by space, are more difficult to use – the insertion and retrieval of cards or notes are much more fidgety.

I anticipate that in the next decade, as our reliance of cards progressively decreases, even full sized bifolds will be considered too cumbersome for everyday carry.

As such, the new standard of optimal carry could be smaller bifold designs. The Seagull is approximately 2/3 the size of a full bifold, yet it packs a similar carrying capacity, the only drawback being notes needing to be folded before storage.

In an era of progressively diminished utilization of cash and cards – indeed, here in Australia, you’d mostly get by with just an well-app’d phone – smaller form-factor wallets are becoming the norm. The Seagull, then, is very much on trend.

Evidenced by my own version of the Seagull, the inner design is quite versatile, and may be customised to suite your needs. My 5-pocket Seagull is definitely geared to compete with a full sized bifold in terms of carrying capacity, though the default 3-pocket design slims down this bifold even further if you don’t need to carry more than half-dozen cards.

Depending on how the Seagull’s internal panels are spec’d, it will suit the demands of almost any style of carry. Factor in the ability to choose leathers and threads, the possibilities for customisation are endless.

With regards to practically, I really enjoy the holster-style quick-access compartment. It’s fun to look at but also easy to use, allowing for contact-less scanning of the card being held, which has proved useful for both my credit card and my travel pass.

Ben’s hand-craft on the wallet is expert-level, most certainly. I must say that Ben’s paneling is top notch, and his edge-work is one of the nicest I’ve seen, ever.

In fact, Ben’s edges are competitive at any price point.

More than simply being a thorough job of burnishing, several time-intensive and detailed steps are involved in creating the rounded, sleek, almost liquid edges you see on this Seagull wallet. The result of Ben’s many layers of work lends itself to the minimalist styling – the Seagull is clean but not boring, detailed but not busy.

Ben’s saddle-stitching is well executed too, and I especially appreciate how the threads cross over each panel with doubled reinforcement, without cutting into the leather. This detail, which normally would go unnoticed to the non-hobbyist, shows just how much attention has been paid to this wallet in its crafting.

Certainly, in the price range which Ben’s wallets are being sold, I would not expect such meticulous attention to detail. Keep in mind, too, that Ben uses the best leathers from Italy and the USA, and sews with Japanese Vinymo – top quality materials for sure. Therefore, I strongly believe that the standard Seagull at $95 USD is perhaps somewhat under-priced, and represents tremendous value.

Finally, in terms of aesthetics, I would consider the Seagull bifold to be rugged Americana in style, with my wallet being spec’d as a reflection of the Japanese style of Americana. The Seagull’s aesthetic is a blend of rustic masculinity and sleek craftsmanship – a juxtaposition which is a perfect companion to Japanese jeans and work-wear. The use of natural vegetable tanned leathers allow synergistic aging with heritage-style fabrics too, whether it be sashiko or denim.

The Seagull is, indeed, a versatile and comfortable carry, providing a good example in demonstrating that rugged-style wallets can showcase craftsmanship that is comparable with up-market European-style carry goods.

All in all, the Seagull bifold is one of my favourite wallets to have been reviewed on this blog. I do look forward to more opportunities to check out Ben’s crafts in the future.

Make sure to check out the Benjamin Bott website, and see how you might customize a Seagull wallet too.

Lieutenant & Co. – second coming

After a successful year of bringing heritage clothing to the central district of Melbourne, Lieutenant & Co. has relaunched with a new store, and a novel concept which is more in line with proprietor Davy’s vision of heritage-style menswear in Australia.

How exciting!

Retro-futurism is the name of the new game, and you can see it all from today, the official launch of Lieutenant & Co.’s latest iteration at 208 Little Collins Street.

It’s right next to the vinyl record store, opposite the trendy Japanese eateries.

I had the opportunity to tour the store just prior to opening day…

Certainly, one of the most interesting spaces I’ve experienced, and I can say quite confidently that there is nothing like it as far as our hobby goes.

Davy taken architectural and design inspirations from many sources, including themes and narratives from the World’s Fair and retro sci-fi films.

Davy is very keen for folks to experience the new Lieutenant & Co. in person, and we both agree that everyone who passes through will take away different perceptions and understandings of the elements at play.

Mirrors and glass panels feature heavily, and made an impression on me.

Even the change rooms have been thoughtfully fitted.

I won’t spoil too much here, as I do believe that this new store is best experienced in person – there are many cool details and design elements.

Familiar brands such as Wearmaster continue to be featured.

Blacksign, Rocky Mountain Featherbed, Anatomica, etc are novel additions, and would prove interesting for Australian enthusiasts who wish to see the garments in person.

Certainly, Davy’s done a great job with this new store.

A destination shop for sure, and a must see if you are ever in Melbourne.

Denimio x Studio D’Artisan – DM004 Sumi jeans

Welcome to the second part of my Denimio x Studio D’Artisan collaboration dissection!

For those who wish to read a little more about shuttle loom history and a story of Japanese denim, you’ll want to check out my recent review of the DM003 Kakishibu jeans, where I cover the history of Toyoda looms, the significance of the G3 denim utilized on these collaboration models, as well as some less commonly known details about the brand of Studio D’Artisan.

Today, however, our focus is on the Denimio x Studio D’Artisan DM004 Sumi jeans, the second & final model of Denimio’s collaboration project with Studio D’Artisan for the jeans maker’s 40th anniversary. Let’s have a look.

 

The G3 Concept

Whilst I’ve written extensively about the G3 denim in the previous review, I’ll recap it here for your ease of reading, and so, I quote myself:

Ever since the creation of power looms in the 18th century, fueling the industrial revolution in Europe, loom technology has undergone rapid progression. After millennia of producing fabrics by hand on primitive hand looms, the progression from the first steam powered loom to computer-controlled projectile looms took less than two centuries.

Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the various modern Toyota companies, invented Japan’s first power loom at the end of the 19th century, around the same time that Draper produced their first automatic loom. Realizing that Japan had fallen behind Western powers in terms of textile technology by almost a century, and understanding that modern civilizations are being built on mechanization, Toyoda devoted much of his life to developing and improving Japanese looms.

Toyoda’s first power loom in 1896 was to spawn a series of powered shuttle looms in the next half-century. In 1903, he invented the world’s first shuttle-change automatic loom, named the Type T. The next major step was the Type G, created in 1924, being a non-stop shuttle-change improvement on the Type T, featuring automatic shuttle-change mechanics, improving loom efficiency. The Type G was well known in its time for the quality of woven textiles, despite the ‘high’ speed (by 1920’s standards) with which it could weave fabrics.

Sakichi Toyoda passed away in 1930, leaving behind a very important legacy, and Toyoda Automatic Loom Works – a branch of Toyoda created after the success of the Type G – continued to improve upon the original.

The machine which created the denim fabric showcased here is the Type G3 automatic shuttle loom, a later version of the Type G which was produced for a brief period of time in the 1950’s. G3’s short career came much after the advent of modern rapier & projectile looms in the 1940’s, so that by the time G3 was invented, denim manufacturing had already begun shifting towards modern weaving. During these later years of the 1950’s, the golden age of American denim, shuttle looms were well & truly on their way out.

This is not to mention the fact that the Japanese had not attempted to create denim on their looms until the 1970’s, and, as mentioned in my previous review of Big John jeans, it was only in 1983 that the first shuttle-loomed, artisan quality Japanese denim jeans came into being. It is interesting to think that the G3, much like its ancestors, had been created to produce Japanese work fabrics such as sail cloth, and were not utilized to manufacture denim until recent times

Across the Pacific, in the home of denim, Draper produced its very last shuttle looms, the X-3, in the 1940’s. As American mills closed down one after the other over the 20th century, even Cone Mills’ White Oak plant had to put away their Draper looms into storage.

Toyoda’s G3 loom, over the past 60 years, began slowly fading into history. In the current day, none of the earlier Type G looms are commercially operational, and I am told that only one mill in Japan continues to operate Type G3 looms. Denim woven on the G3 have been popularized in the past few years among denim enthusiasts, with brands such as Warehouse, Trophy Clothing and, of course, Studio D’Artisan, among others, using G3 denim for their jeans.

So, what is so special about denim created on Type G3 looms then?

Consider that many Asian countries continue to build shuttle looms of course, and that if you pay enough dollars you’ll be able to obtain hand-loomed denim (which is a higher tier of product), not to mention modern looms can be programmed to recreate any type of fabric you might want, even reproduction denims…

Well, now that White Oak plant has closed down, and its Draper X-3 looms have stopped their chatter, denim woven on G3 looms are some of the very oldest shuttle loomed fabrics which can be obtained, giving us a clue as to what denim woven in the 1950’s might have been like.

What the G3 offers us is perhaps fictionalized romance – a denim which never was, but could have been, many decades ago.

 

The Sumi Concept

Sumi, in the Japanese language, can be translated as either charcoal or ink. Yet, if you see the Chinese character of 墨 on the leather patch, the meaning of ‘ink’ is clear.

The history of ink is a long and complex one, intrinsically tied with how our ancestors chose to express themselves, either through words or painting. Various types of natural inks have been used for doodling since our ancestors lived in caves, and yet it was not until the ancient Egyptians and Chinese, more than 4000 years ago, started collecting soot from fires when artificial ink was invented. Some of the earliest ink remnants, apart from prehistoric cave paintings, came in the form of ancient Chinese hieroglyphs written on oracle bones / turtle shells.

By the time of the Warring States, Chinese scholars were doing their literary scribbling with ink, giving rise to an artistic and literary culture that is still part of the fabric of most Asian societies, including Japan. The gentleman scholar had four friends, it was said: ink stone, ink stick, brush and paper.

Artifacts containing ink, usually in the form of Chinese characters or paintings, were steadily imported into Japan from the second century AD, although the Japanese – who did not have a system for writing at the time – could not decipher the Chinese glyph. It was not until the fifth century AD, with the massive import of Chinese writing and Buddhism into Japan, that the use of ink in its variously related art forms became established in Japan.

1500 years after the introduction of ink and writing, Japan has developed, of course, its own culture in regards to these technologies. The theme of this collaboration – Sumi – generally means black ink. Given the very wide historical & cultural experiences of black ink across the old world, we can say it is not a tradition exclusive to Japan or any one culture, though, doubtless, the art of calligraphy & monochrome ink painting is very much an East Asian tradition, to which Japanese artists and scholars have contributed.

There is no significant tradition of using actual writing ink to dye clothing, certainly not denim in the old West, and thus the use of ink dye on the weft in this G3 denim is a pretty unique modern innovation.

 

The Cut

Similar to the DM003, the cut of the DM004 Sumi jeans is the exclusive High Rise Relax Tapered fit – a variation of the recently popular high tapered cut.

In the photos here, the jeans are factory once-washed and at day 4 of wear.

I am wearing a sample size 36, with a height of 185 cm and mass of 94 kg.

The rise is medium-high.

The top block is comfortable, with a relatively roomy seat.

Whilst the thighs are generous, the taper from the knee down is fairly strong, ending with the hem at 19 cm across.

The inseam comes in at 86 cm after the factory wash.

 

The Fabric

This G3 denim is a genuine shuttle loomed affair.

It is 14 oz unsanforised, constructed in right-hand twill, featuring true loom-chatter.

The combination of vertical slubbing on the warp face and strong horizontal textures emerging from the weft face creates a distinct & intense type of variegation that can be easily differentiated from the usual artificial ‘big slub’ denims.

This denim is slightly bumpy and rough to the touch, with a good amount of body.

Of interest, the Sumi weft version of the G3 denim is slightly less rigid compared with the Kakishibu weft version of the same weave.

There is no excess fluffiness or hairiness, and the denim is not neppy, or otherwise exaggerated.

The dense, tight grain is a product of loom-chatter and slow weaving.

The overall colour tone is that of red-cast indigo, which can shift to green-grey depending on how the light catches the Sumi weft.

There is an enhanced darkness to its blue colour due to the grey-coloured weft. The red and purple tinges are not quite as intense compared with the Kakishibu version.

The less intense weft colouration results in more definition on the warp face, highlighting the visual characteristics of the G3 weave with more clarity compared with the darker Kakishibu denim.

The weft face shows a fairly intense grain also, dominated by horizontal slubbing.

Here, we see the selvedge line is ink coloured. There is a brown tone to the ink’s grey.

A mixture of African and Australian cottons make up the yarns, though the details of this are not known to me.

 

The Details

The DM004 features a wheat-coloured leather patch, embossed with art work of Denimio’s beetle next to ink sticks, in the sumi-e style of illustration.

The Chinese character for ink feature at the top right corner of the patch.

Studio D’Artisan’s current generation arc features on the back-pockets.

The back pockets are half-lined with ink dyed twill cloth.

The pockets are sized well, and will carry work-style wallets without issue.

The same ink twill cloth feature for the front-pockets, which are long enough to be practical.

The coin pocket feature woven tags for Studio D’Artisan and Denimo, and has been created with a true sashiko fabric which is also dyed with ink.

The coin pocket is wide & deep, large enough to facilitate actual use.

The Made in Japan woven tag features on the inside of the waist-band, just behind the leather patch.

The hardware on this pair is the same as the DM003, and I’m a fan.

Recessed metal buttons feature on the five-button fly.

Copper rivets are punch-thru and custom embossed.

The tips of the burrs have been conveniently flattened.

The hidden rivets are customised, and neatly tucked beneath the back pockets.

The sewing on this pair of jeans is similar to the DM003 also – old school, reproduction style.

Lemon and tea coloured threads dominate, although black, blue & white threads also feature internally.

I count at least 6 thread sizes and 3 different types of chain-stitching, imparting a distinct vintage-style aesthetic in the sewing.

Beefy chain-stitching can be found in the top block.

Single needle and lock-stitch sewing are used on seams and edges.

The fly is neatly made, locked on the edges.

The inseam closure is well sewn.

The buttons holes are sewn, then cut – a sturdier construct.

The belt loops are raised in the center, and bar-tacked twice over each attachment.

Potential areas of mechanical stress are neatly reinforced.

The chain-stitch on the hem is even and regular.

Like the DM003, this pair of jeans is very well made.

 

My Thoughts

After my review of the DM003 Kakishibu jeans, having decided that I am a fan of persimmon dyed denim, I’ve come into the examination of this Sumi collaboration model with expectations in mind.

These Denimio x Studio D’Artisan DM004 Sumi jeans can be seen as a more understated counterpart to the DM003. If the persimmon jeans were wild and fun, these ink jeans would then be a more mature design.

This Sumi version isn’t more of the same compared with the Kakishibu jeans, however. I have noticed that the change in weft dye has made quite a bit of difference, which I shall lay out in dot form:

  • The Kakishibu is a darker toned denim
  • The Kakishibu is stiffer despite the same weave
  • The Sumi allows better appreciation of warp character and textures
  • The Sumi has an indigo tone which is more similar to traditional denim

Thus, even if the G3 weave is similar across both models, the different weft dyes showcase this old-school denim in rather different ways. As I mentioned in the previous review, G3 denim is very special – a true old world fabric – and good study into our hobby can be made by comparing this G3 denim with more modern types of Japanese selvedge denim.

Otherwise, the sewing, hardware and detailing on the DM003 and DM004 models are largely similar, the only other differences being the colours of the patch, sashiko pocket and pocket cloth.

I do feel like, for bonus points, the leather patches on both jeans could have been dyed with the respective feature dyes. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with the detailing on these jeans. Every component, from the sashiko fabric to the antiqued metal buttons, adds to the unique vibe of these collaboration jeans and proves to be good quality.

You might find too, the darker sashiko coin pocket on the DM004 to be less loud compared with its counterpart on the DM003. This factor, in addition to the more traditional tone of the overall indigo colour, leads me to consider the Sumi model to be more toned down compared with the Kakishibu jeans.

Of course, with the bright coloured leather patch and the vintage-style contrast thread colours, even these Sumi jeans can hardly be called stealthy. Then again, Studio D’Artisan jeans aren’t meant to be stealthy at all!

The DM004 continues the theme of East meets West. The combination of Eastern dye stuff, detailing & weaving with the quintessential American garment & fabric makes perfect sense for me. This is a true celebration of our Japanese denim hobby.

Apart from this fusion of themes and ideas, playfulness is a core component of Studio D’Artisan’s brand identity too, and I do think that Denimio has achieved a good balance here in their collaboration with Clipper & Indy – fun, but not crazy.  (Keep in mind special edition D’Artisan jeans can get very wild!)

Denimio’s exclusive lifter’s style fit on these collaboration jeans fit me very well, much better than Studio D’Artisan’s standard cuts. These once-washed Sumi jeans were pretty comfortable from day one, and settled in very quickly – a pleasure to wear, certainly, with a very nice silhouette.

Denimio has developed this cut to work best on chunkier or more athletic builds; it is better suited to most Western body shapes compared with D’Artisan’s regular cuts, which cater to their domestic customers. If you are a fan of this type of lifter’s fit, keep in mind that this particular cut is exclusive to Denimio.

In contemplating some of my favourite jeans over the years, I must say that I’ve always preferred ‘fusion’ style garments over strict Americana. I like the fact that Japanese folks are doing things well and adding their own spices to the mix, so subtle acknowledgements of Japanese crafts is an aspect of our denim hobby which appeals to me.

Obviously, sometimes the flavor is much too strong – think Samurai Jeans’ special edition stuff – but a good balance has been achieved on this Sumi model. It’s Japanese for sure, but not obnoxiously so. Rather than yelling at you about ninjas and katana blades, the beauty and colours of Japan are showcased gently on these jeans.

I must say too, that the Sumi ink dye works a treat on the weft, and rather than stealing the spotlight for itself, the ink has given the G3 loomed denim a good deal of oomph. It highlights the unique combination of vertical and horizontal variegation on this denim by adding an extra dimension to the tonal shifts in colour, something which the indigo dye cannot achieve by itself.

I can highly recommend this DM004 Sumi model to most raw denim fans, especially people who have an interest in Japanese denim history, coloured wefts or fabric textures. Strict reproduction hobbyists or pure Americana followers need not apply. The DM004 is a very interesting pair of jeans, and I’d wager you will not be bored whilst wearing it!

At $289 USD, the Denimio x Studio D’Artisan DM004 is well priced for a pair of special edition D’Artisan jeans, and is one of my favourite releases from their 40th anniversary range.

Definitely check out the pre-order page at Denimio [linked here] – I hear they are dropping very soon.

Benjamin Bott – “Double Wren” wallet

Since coming back into the denim & leather hobby in 2016, I discovered that there had been a small explosion in the hand-made leather scene. Whereas in 2000’s, custom leather work in the rugged style were few and far in between, nowadays there are a hundred and one leather workers who are making such wallets, mostly in minimalist forms.

In fact, there are so many card wallets on Instagram, they are pretty much blurring all into one for me at this point. Yet, there was one maker whose wallets consistently stood out among the hundreds – the Wren wallet from Benjamin Bott had caught my eye since I first discovered Ben’s work, and its fine tuning over time had only increased my curiosity.

Truth be told, I usually don’t carry card wallets, and many of the overly simple, and often poorly made, card wallets that you’d see on the Internet have diminished my interest in this category of wallets.

So, how does this custom Double Wren wallet from Ben measure up then?

Can it persuade a bifold-guy to change his ways?

Let’s find out.

 

Design

Ben has been working full time at the Benjamin Bott workshop since 2014, and the Wren is an evolution of his signature designs, a true standard as far as vertical card-holders go.

The original Wren is a two-pocketed set-up, whereas the Double Wren you see here is a cleverly mirrored design.

Through careful cutting and paneling, the Double Wren is made with two pieces of leather and 14 cm of stitching.

The Double Wren has been made to hold up to 8 cards in its central pocket and two quick access slots.

The central pocket is spacious enough to contain notes and receipts too.

 

Leather

Badalassi Carlo tannery’s Pueblo leather feature again!

Pueblo is a top grain leather from the Italian tannery: cut from the shoulder of cattle, being fully vegetable tanned, dyed through and stuffed.

Additionally, I’m told the metal balls are added to the mix to create the sand-paper effect that you see on the Pueblo.

After some wear, the leather very much resembles its Minerva sibling in many ways.

The smell is much more astringent compared to Buttero leather, its closest rival.

The Bone and Olive colours of Pueblo are used on this wallet, at 2 mm (5 oz) thickness.

Bone is the lightest, undyed, and most natural colour of Pueblo.

Olive is a yellow-toned and vivid shade of green.

The Bone variant showcases the extreme reactivity of Pueblo – almost on par with Shonan tannery’s natural saddle leather – which I attribute to its oily nature.

The sand-paper effect of the Pueblo disappeared from the Bone variant in less than a week, but continues to persist on the Olive variant (and other darker colours in my collection.)

 

Construct

The Double Wren is cleverly made, being a mirrored design, constructed from two pieces of leather.

The cutting and paneling of this wallet is extremely precise.

Measured errors are less than 1 mm across the whole wallet.

The wallet is sewn with a stitch density of 7 SPI.

The thread used is salmon coloured Vinymo, a solid-core polyester thread from Japan.

The Vinymo thread has been pulled with perfect tension, and sits very nicely on the Pueblo leather with remarkable regularity.

The Benjamin Bott logo is stamped on one side.

Curves or grooves are cut into all the corners to create a smooth aesthetic.

Ben’s full logo is stamped on the inside.

The edges on the Double Wren are some of the very nicest I’ve seen.

All the edges are burnished with gum so as to be slick to the touch.

Shaving, beveling and clamping have been carried out to ensure clean edges.

The ‘feature edge’ of the Double Wren sits at the bottom, where four layers of leather are stacked.

Here, Ben has taking sanding and burnishing to an extreme.

Ben himself has refer to it as a “candy edge” – the sandwich effect, combined with the absolute sleekness of polish, creates a visual focal point.

The construct, overall, is top tier.

 

Thoughts

There is no doubt that, despite the simplicity of its form factor, the Double Wren is a very well made wallet. Ben’s work on this wallet is much more considered compared to most I’ve come across, regardless of size.

The minimalist look of the Double Wren hides many subtle details which contribute to the creation of Ben’s signature style – Benjamin Bott card wallets are neater, smoother and more sophisticated in construct compared to nearly all other card wallets I’ve seen on the Internet. In fact, over the past couple of years, many makers have styled their card wallets after Ben’s designs, though few hold up to close scrutiny.

Ben’s edge work, especially, consisting of multiple tools and steps, is the nicest I’ve seen on a wallet without edge creasing so far: The stitching is absolutely regular and ruler straight, sitting atop of the leather with almost perfect tension. The beveling, shaving, sanding and burnishing of the edge is true shokunin-level work. The multiple layers of leather clamped down tight so there is no looseness or splitting. The corners and grooves carefully made, unobtrusive yet adding to the overall presentation.

As a full time leather craftsman, Ben’s decision to choose quality over quantity is admirable. Too often, there is a deterioration of wallet construct as a maker transitions into full time work, not to mention increasing shortcuts being taken and a predominance of machine-stitched work. In his fifth year of professional leather work, I’m surprised that Ben’s wallets have not only continued to be fully hand made, but the details & designs have continued to evolve.

The Double Wren itself is not just a clever and practical design, it works well in showcasing leathers and threads too. There are so many potential themes possible with the Double Wren, Ben’s recent selvedge denim theme being just one possibility.

The Double Wren is very photogenic when featuring Pueblo leathers, an upgrade of sorts compared with the usual American veg tan leathers which Ben had tended to utilize in the past. Pueblo is a fairly interesting leather, a mildly distressed form of Badalassi Carlo’s Minerva leather, being at the top end of Italian leathers. In terms of temper and grain characteristics, I must say it is a great choice for card wallets when thicker pieces are used. Though, the grain growth is not quite enthusiast level on this leather.

Ben’s use of 5 oz leather, slightly thicker than most wallets, makes this Double Wren more rugged than other card wallets, and increases this wallet’s compatibility with denim and work wear. The curves corners here also add to the retro vibes, and improves the synergy of the Double Wren with heritage style clothing.

As you might know, my preference in terms of wallet form factors are bifolds and mid-wallets. Yet, I must say, I found the Double Wren a pleasure to use, being able to carry all the cards I need – albeit a bit more fiddly compared with a full sized wallet – whilst maintaining a very small footprint. The Double Wren will fit into almost any pocket as far as menswear is concerned, even in shirt pockets. It will easily slot into jeans pockets, however you like.

It is small, but also interesting – a perfect fidgeting device for my long meetings at work – I especially like to touch the candy edge.

I would consider the Double Wren to be, potentially, a statement piece, depending on how it is spec’d. Whilst visually not as impactful as a statement bifold or decked out mid-wallet, the Double Wren is rather sophisticated and versatile, and no less an enthusiast wallet.

All in all, the Double Wren from Benjamin Bott is one of the nicest wallets I’ve ever handled, regardless of size. It is an easy recommendation for fans of minimalist wallets, of course, but Ben’s styling and construct very much slots the Double Wren into the denim & work wear realms too.

Further, if you are someone who likes to collect leathers, the Double Wren is a perfect vehicle to facilitate your neurosis.

At $75 USD for the Pueblo Double Wren, or $65 USD for a basic Double Wren, Ben’s wallets are an easy purchase, and should last you through multiple pairs of raw denim. You will likely find that Ben’s work is one of the nicest you’ve handled in the rugged styles.

Have a look at the Benjamin Bott website to see the currently available wallets, or contact Ben through the website to get your own customised Double Wren.

Denimio x Studio D’Artisan – DM003 Kakishibu jeans

A happy birthday to Studio D’Artisan, which turns 40 years old this year. As expected of a Japanese jeans maker, a special anniversary always involves creating collaboration jeans with their stockists.

Today, thanks to the good folks at Denimio, we’ll take a look at one of the upcoming Denimio x Studio D’Artisan collaboration jeans, the DM003 Kakishibu.

This review is a longer one, as we have quite a number of topics to cover – so strap in, let’s roll!

 

The G3 Concept

One of the core aims of this Denimio x SDA collaboration is to showcase Japanese crafts both ancient & modern. On the DM003 jeans, the highlights are the G3 woven 14 oz selvedge denim and the kakishibu (persimmon dyed) weft.

To understand the essence of denim woven on the G3 loom, we have to take our hobby right back to the fabrics, checking some facts and dispelling some marketing myths.

The beginnings of Western interest in Japanese denim was partly built on a falsehood which proclaimed that Osaka-based Evis had purchased a fleet of Draper X-3 looms from Levi’s in the 1980’s, and that modern Japanese denim are actually true Americana woven on these old Draper machines. This statement is not true, and is ridiculous in many ways.

Let’s clear things up a little…

Ever since the creation of power looms in the 18th century, fueling the industrial revolution in Europe, loom technology has undergone rapid progression. After millennia of producing fabrics by hand on primitive hand looms, the progression from the first steam powered loom to computer-controlled projectile looms took less than two centuries.

Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the various modern Toyota companies, invented Japan’s first power loom at the end of the 19th century, around the same time that Draper produced their first automatic loom. Realizing that Japan had fallen behind Western powers in terms of textile technology by almost a century, and understanding that modern civilizations are being built on mechanization, Toyoda devoted much of his life to developing and improving Japanese looms.

Toyoda’s first power loom in 1896 was to spawn a series of powered shuttle looms in the next half-century. In 1903, he invented the world’s first shuttle-change automatic loom, named the Type T. The next major step was the Type G, created in 1924, being a non-stop shuttle-change improvement on the Type T, featuring automatic shuttle-change mechanics, improving loom efficiency. The Type G was well known in its time for the quality of woven textiles, despite the ‘high’ speed (by 1920’s standards) with which it could weave fabrics.

Sakichi Toyoda passed away in 1930, leaving behind a very important legacy, and Toyoda Automatic Loom Works – a branch of Toyoda created after the success of the Type G – continued to improve upon the original.

The machine which created the denim fabric showcased here is the Type G3 automatic shuttle loom, a later version of the Type G which was produced for a brief period of time in the 1950’s. G3’s short career came much after the advent of modern rapier & projectile looms in the 1940’s, so that by the time G3 was invented, denim manufacturing had already begun shifting towards modern weaving. During these later years of the 1950’s, the golden age of American denim, shuttle looms were well & truly on their way out.

This is not to mention the fact that the Japanese had not attempted to create denim on their looms until the 1970’s, and, as mentioned in my previous review of Big John jeans, it was only in 1983 that the first shuttle-loomed, artisan quality Japanese denim jeans came into being. It is interesting to think that the G3, much like its ancestors, had been created to produce Japanese work fabrics such as sail cloth, and were not utilized to manufacture denim until recent times

Across the Pacific, in the home of denim, Draper produced its very last shuttle looms, the X-3, in the 1940’s. As American mills closed down one after the other over the 20th century, even Cone Mills’ White Oak plant had to put away their Draper looms into storage.

Toyoda’s G3 loom, over the past 60 years, began slowly fading into history. In the current day, none of the earlier Type G looms are commercially operational, and I am told that only one mill in Japan continues to operate Type G3 looms. Denim woven on the G3 have been popularized in the past few years among denim enthusiasts, with brands such as Warehouse, Trophy Clothing and, of course, Studio D’Artisan, among others, using G3 denim for their jeans.

So, what is so special about denim created on Type G3 looms then?

Consider that many Asian countries continue to build shuttle looms of course, and that if you pay enough dollars you’ll be able to obtain hand-loomed denim (which is a higher tier of product), not to mention modern looms can be programmed to recreate any type of fabric you might want, even reproduction denims…

Well, now that White Oak plant has closed down, and its Draper X-3 looms have stopped their chatter, denim woven on G3 looms are some of the very oldest shuttle loomed fabrics which can be obtained, giving us a clue as to what denim woven in the 1950’s might have been like.

What the G3 offers us is perhaps fictionalized romance – a denim which never was, but could have been, many decades ago.

 

The Kakishibu Concept

Cotton is not native to Japan, and was introduced from India, one of the native regions of cotton growth in the world, via China more than a thousand years ago. However, it was not until the Sengoku period when cotton agriculture became widespread. Prior to cotton, Japanese common folks wore rougher cloth made from a variety of fibres, which included hemp, and these cloth were dyed in natural pigments to provide colour and increase utility.

In this year’s collaborations, Denimio & Studio D’Artisan pay their respects to the close link between Japanese culture and natural colours, and in the DM003 the classic combination of persimmon & indigo is showcased.

The tannin rich fermented extract of unripe persimmons was an ancient natural dye which not only provided colour, but also imparted the cloth with improved qualities such as repelling insects and rugged wear. Persimmon dye was not only used on cloth, but also was routinely utilized for a wide variety of crafts including paper-making and tool preservation. This use of persimmon dye is termed kakishibu (‘astringent persimmon’), the art being almost a millennium old.

Interestingly, in its artistic use, kakishibu is often used with natural indigo to produce amazing prints on cotton textiles. So it is, then, that the indigo warp and kakishibu weft on this G3 denim is a very fitting homage to Japanese textile traditions!

 

Studio D’Artisan

The Studio D’Artisan brand dates its inception back to 1979, though founder Shigeharu Tagaki created the first pair of Studio D’Artisan jeans – the natural indigo, cinch backed DO-1 jeans – in 1986. The establishment of the ‘two pigs’ brand slightly precedes the creation of Evis, Fullcount, Warehouse & Denime.

Without counting companies which were birthed from large sewing factories operating prior to WWII – brands such as Big John, etc – Studio D’Artisan could be considered to be one of the very earliest incarnations of modern Japanese jeans.

I found it fairly interesting that Tagaki, a Japanese fashion designer who worked in Paris, was to create one of the very first reproduction Japanese denim brands. People write about Tagaki as a foremost expert and collector of denim jeans in Japan at the time, having come across French denim brands during the course of his European career. Indeed, his DO-1 jeans combined elements of both American jeans and French work trousers, an aesthetic very much in line with the French interpretation of American casual & work styles at the time. It is said that both SDA and Denime, brands which influenced the founders of Evis and Fullcount, were very much replicating and re-interpreting the French perspective of Americana in those early days.

At some point in the 1990’s, Tagaki left Studio D’Artisan and the brand was bought out by a larger company. Tagaki’s name no longer features in SDA publications, and current CEO Yoshinori Fujikawa is very much the face of the brand in 2019.

Today, SDA is one of the larger operations as far as niche, Japanese reproduction jeans makers are concerned, and they continue to keep the denim game interesting by exploring new dyes, new cottons, and new weaves. With Denime having changed hands several times and Evisu going off on several tangents, Studio D’Artisan remains one of the few OG operations left that have remained true to its original spirit – no simple feat after 40 years!

 

The Cut

With all the context out of the way, let’s actually take a look at the DM003 jeans!

The official designation of this cut is the High Rise Relax Tapered – a variation of the recently popular high tapered cut.

In the photos below, the jeans are factory once-washed and at day 3; I am wearing a sample size 36, with a height of 185 cm and mass of 94 kg.

The rise is medium-high.

The seat is roomy but not baggy.

The thighs are generous, and can accommodate muscular legs.

The taper begins from the knee, and is moderately aggressive, ending in a 19 cm hem.

The inseam, post factory wash, is 86 cm – this will work nicely for most folks.

Overall, the fit is fairly comfortable, and similar to the lifter’s cut that many Western hobbyist would know.

 

The Fabric

So we’ve discussed the heritage of the G3 loom earlier in this piece, but what about the actual denim itself?

This denim is a 14 oz, unsanforised, genuine shuttle loom production.

In terms of the texture, this G3 denim is moderately rough and rather bumpy to the touch, with a surprising amount of body to the fabric.

It feels and wears heavier than its tagged 14 oz measurement might suggest, and has good density.

This is a fairly sensible G3 denim, with the slub texture created mostly through gentle yarn variations and genuine loom chatter.

The grain is finer and the slubbing more subtle compared with other G3 denims, such as Trophy’s Dirt denim.

Visually, not only are there intense vertical textures, but also this denim actually possesses rather intense horizontal variegation.

This, combined with the tight warp grain, creates a mid-century aesthetic, albeit slightly exaggerated.

This denim is not very neppy or hairy.

The horizontal streaking are best appreciated on the weft face.

Even on the weft, the chatter and density of this denim is notable, but the twill lines can be followed without interruption.

The selvedge ID is kakishibu (brown).

It is stated that both African & Australian cotton are used here, though I’m not sure from where within African the cotton originates  or the staple lengths within the yarns.

Australian cotton is pretty interesting – usually short to long staple Upland – a very different feel from the cotton in East Asia.

The fabric feels rough to the fingertips though the denim handles well, and is even slightly oily.

In terms of colour, the indigo on the warp has a red cast, with dye penetration being relatively superficial due to rope dyeing.

The depth of colour is dramatic, as the kakishibu on the weft is rather dark.

From a distance, depending on sunlight, shades of red, purple and brown can feature on this denim. 

The colour tone on this denim is very deep.

 

The Details

The DM003 features an orange leather patch, embossed with art work of Denimio’s beetle next to a persimmon fruit, in a calligraphy style of illustration.

The Chinese character for persimmon feature at the top right corner.

Studio D’Artisan’s current generation arc features on the back-pockets.

The back pockets are half-lined with kakishibu dyed twill cloth.

The pockets are sized well, allowing for the carriage of work-style wallets.

The same kakishibu twill cloth feature for the front-pockets too, which are cut deep enough to accommodate modern phones.

This cloth is comfortable – dense, but not very thick.

The coin pocket is packed with details, and created with a true sashiko fabric also dyed with kakishibu.

Woven tags for Studio D’Artisan and Denimio feature here.

The coin pocket is wide & deep, and definitely functional.

Another very detailed woven tag features on the inside of the waist-band, just behind the leather patch.

The hardware on this pair is very nice indeed.

I’m a fan of the recessed metal buttons on the five-button fly, coated with kakishibu.

The copper rivets are punch-thru and custom embossed.

I love how the tip of the burrs have been flattened.

Even the hidden rivets are customised.

The sewing on this pair of jeans is superb – old school, reproduction style.

Lemon and tea coloured threads dominate, although black, blue & white threads also feature internally.

I count at least 6 thread sizes/densities and 3 different types of chain-stitching, giving the sewing a distinct vintage-style aesthetic.

Beefy chain-stitches are plenty to be found.

Single needle and flat-lock sewing are used to good effect too.

Take the locked fly, for example.

The inseam closure is neatly done too.

The buttons holes are sewn then cut.

The belt loops are raised in the center, and bar-tacked twice over each attachment!

Potential areas of stress are sturdily but neatly reinforced.

Such is the variety of sewing machines utilized, it is easy to spot many different types of sewing and threads converging on various parts of the jeans.

The chain-stitch on the hem are some of the nicest I’ve seen.

Overall, the construct here is top tier.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve been following Studio D’Artisan’s jeans releases for more than a decade now. This brand is prolific, with numerous new denims and jeans designs being released year after year, most of which do not pass through Western retailers. SDA’s special edition jeans are many in number too, ranging from the insane (small batch natural indigo hank dyed, for example) to the comical (massive embroidery of pigs), most of which are, also, not so much for Western consumption.

In celebrating their 40th birthday, it was expected that 2019 will bring a good number of fun and crazy D’Artisan jeans; in this context, I feel like this DM003 collaboration with Denimio, whilst unique & flavorful, is sensible enough to be a worthwhile addition to most denim wardrobes.

Outside of their base models, Studio D’Artisan jeans have always been colourful and busy, and certainly this DM003 jeans is an amalgamation of a few different themes. On one hand, there is the showcasing of traditional Japanese art through the kakishibu dye, further enhanced by the sashiko coin-pocket and calligraphy patch-art. On the other hand, the denim has been woven on the G3 loom, and the sewing is definitely reproduction style, the texture and aesthetics produced here being mid-century Americana on steroids. The cut of the jeans is, of course, completely modern.

On this DM003 then, we have the East meeting the West, and old ideas blending with modern ones. Whilst there are no comical embroidery of Clipper & Indy (the SDA pigs), the contrast and overload on this pair of jeans is a conceptual one. This champloo of ideas, I feel, is very appropriate in the celebration of both Studio D’Artisan and Denimio –  both Japanese, of course, but having sprinkles of American and French influences too.

Big ideas aside, I do think the individual components of the DM003 can be rated highly on their own merits.

The denim itself is fantastic. This 14 oz G3 kakishibu denim is fictionalized romance at its very finest: combining a yearning for mid-century Americana and homage to Japanese traditional arts, then totally amped up to modern hobbyist standards through sheer denim autism. This fabric was not designed as a reproduction, like most G3 denims have been, but rather, it is an imagination of something that could have been.

The kakishibu weft imparts a very deep tone to the denim which cannot be matched by other brown-coloured wefts. My theory is that the polymerisation of the kakishibu pigment on the cotton surface reflects light in an entirely different way compared with normal dyes, and hence the very different visual effect when combined with the indigo warp. This tone of indigo would be absent from most people’s collection, thus by colour alone the DM003 is worth collecting.

By the way, persimmons are my favourite fruit to eat. 🙂

The texture and feel of this G3 weave is really special, and here, the uneveness and flaws within the denim are actually real loom-chatter, produced by distortions in the fabric as the heavy shuttle loom bounces and weaves. The mill has achieved a great balance between evenness and slubbiness in this denim – the weave here reminds me of the one-off k87211 denim, which was a completely loom-state denim woven the old-fashioned way on a Draper X-3 loom at White Oak back in 2010 (the only instance that such a denim was offered to anyone other than Levi’s Vintage Clothing.)

Examining this pair reminds me how much we take Japanese denim for granted – cloth of this caliber is simply available no where else, now that White Oak has passed into history. This G3 denim is one of the few on which the vintage aesthetics, in terms of the appearance of the grain, stem from the loom itself rather than being computer programmed.

This is true denim terroir, so to speak.

The sewing on this pair is very nicely done. One aspect of jeans-making which Studio D’Artisan has maintained at a top level over many years has been the considered use of thread sizes and stitch types to produce a tasteful vintage-style aesthetic. Whilst it is true that a pair of pants sewn with polyester thread and a modern sewing machine can be just as durable as the extra fuss that SDA has injected into their jeans, there is no doubt that the retro vibes created is of value to denim-heads. The reproduction style of construct can wear down in smooth synergy with the shuttle-loomed denim itself, facilitating a graceful way of ageing which can’t be achieved on most modern jeans.

In this hobby, often times it is the finer points of the garment, such as different thicknesses of chain-stitching, which separate the top Japanese jeans makers from the lesser brands. The construct on the DM003 is hard to beat, and I don’t believe much better can be found outside of jeans from work-wear tailors.

The overall presentation of this collaboration is slightly louder than Studio D’Artisan’s regular models, but toned down compared with their usual special edition jeans. I really like the calligraphy style leather patch, even if Clipper & Indy miss out on an appearance this time. A couple of people have commented that the coin-pocket detailing is a little bit busy, and I must admit that I’d have preferred the sashiko on the pocket to be dyed a darker shade of brown so that it does not contrast so sharply with the deep tone denim. But, then again, Studio D’Artisan’s jeans are also about being playful , and a ‘quiet’ pair of jeans just wouldn’t be appropriate in celebrating SDA’s 40th birthday.

The fit of this new High Tapered cut is one of the more successful Japanese attempts at creating a lifter’s fit for the Western market. I reflect on this current cut with memories of a few poorly fitting SDA jeans in years past – their regular cuts just don’t work for me, being subjectively too tight in the top block.

On the DM003, there is enough room in the top block & thighs to achieve comfort without sagging, and the overall silhouette is quite pleasing – keeping in mind that, in the photos here, the jeans are brand new and not draping properly just yet. Personally, I would prefer a size 36 to end with a hem above 20 cm wide for tapered cuts, but at 19 cm on the DM003 the legs are far from uncomfortable.

All things considered, I feel Denimio did a great job in the design of this new cut. This high tapered cut might be candidate for SDA’s regular line-up, if you ask me.

Finally, I’d like to reflect on the nature of collaboration jeans. Given the proliferation of Western shops stocking Japanese jeans in the past few years, there has been no shortage of collaboration jeans – month after month, there are new collabs, resulting in what I sense to be a certain fatigue in the enthusiast community. Many fellow hobbyists have commented to me that collaboration jeans have lost meaning for them… I can’t blame folks for being tired either, as most collabs are, in truth, rather boring. Small tweaks here and there does not a special edition make.

Keeping the glut of uninteresting collaborations in mind, I do believe that Denimio and Studio D’Artisan have created something worthwhile in the DM003. From the buttons to the patch, the cut to the denim, most aspects of this pair have been custom developed for this project. The themes of this collaboration, too, blend together in a way which not only makes sense, but is actually rather romantic for a seasoned denim hobbyist.

Particularly, I love the idea of showcasing Japanese colours and crafts through Americana – a true meeting of cultures – and the DM003 does this concept justice. I also admire how this collaboration project pays homage to the traditions of textiles and dyes without being held up in the past – every bit as meaningful in examining the golden era of denim as a pair of reproduction jeans, if you were to look closely enough.

Given that the themes here are rather strong, and the design quite playful, the DM003 will appeal to modern Japanese denim-heads, but strict reproduction enthusiasts and American heritage snobs need not apply. The DM003 is forward looking and proudly Japanese, and proclaims loudly Japan’s status as king of the denim hill.

As far as special edition Studio D’Artisan jeans go, at $289 USD, the DM003 Kakishibu is priced very nicely, costing only marginally more than their standard models. I would definitely recommend visiting the pre-order page at Denimio if you are after some kakishibu denim or an unique pair of SDA jeans.

If you are looking for something a little more subdued, please look forward to my DM004 review later this month!