Earlier this month was The Flat Head’s first visit to Melbourne, hosted by Corlection (their Australian stockist).
To my knowledge this is the first time that a significant Japanese denim/workwear maker has toured Melbourne, so this was a rather exciting development to our local denim and workwear scene.
Whilst attendance wasn’t as high as the previous TFH event in Sydney – the local denim culture seems to be lagging behind in terms of numbers compared to our interstate rivals – the evening was interesting and even educational.
The Flat Head’s founder, Masayoshi Kobayashi, is an OG as far as Japanese denim is concerned. Even though the brand itself was created in 1996, a fair bit later than many of TFH’s competitors, Kobayashi’s obsession about details and dedication in making the very best garments meant that TFH is at a whole other level compared with the others.
Taking a different approach from his peers, Kobayashi founded and grew his brand in Nagano rather than setting up shop in Tokyo-Yokohama, and continues to utilize many local resources. The aesthetics of the brand derive from a slightly later period compared to some other Japanese makers, with TFH mainly based upon a re-imagined 1950’s Americana aesthetic.
In the years since, the catalogue grew to include more than jeans, and other lines such as Real Japan Blues were created too.
Of course, as the brand grew, so did its reputation, and as such over the years Kobayashi was able to work with the very best in the industry and demand the very best from these skilled artisans. Ample resources meant that The Flat Head, more than just a simple clothing brand, was able to move down the path of developing custom materials and even custom machines and crafting techniques to make certain that their products are ever improving.
When you purchase a TFH product, then, it is highly likely that the materials and construct involved have been custom developed for, and sometimes by, Kobayashi and his company. We’ll look at some examples of that a little later.
The fellas at Corlection has worked with The Flat Head on two collaboration garments for this Australian visit. The first is the new collaboration jeans (the 3rd between the two companies so far), which uses the same denim as the first collab which I featured a couple of years ago here. Unfortunately for me the super slim fit would never work on my frame, so you won’t see this pair on the blog beyond this post.
The theme for this collaboration event is “The Flat Earth” – you can read about this particular story on Corlection’s website.
The second collaboration garment is a T-shirt done in white, black and navy.
The great thing about this set of T-shirts, apart from the custom art work, is that sizing went up to size 46!!!
A size 46 in TFH clothing translates to a Western size L, just right for me. A rare chance for slightly larger folks to own what can be said to be the best T-shirt in the world. That’s a big claim, and perhaps we’ll explore this in a separate post later this year.
Another awesome thing was Kobayashi signing all the products purchased on the day. The photo above was taken when he was signing my navy T-shirt!
Of course, he ended up signing heaps of stuff…
And posed for many photos.
Dude’s a natural at PR – he’s got set poses down pat too! Here’s him with excited but somewhat nervous fans.
Apart from the collaboration items, they showcased a few pieces of other garments, including products being developed for the seasons coming up.
Given baggage allowances for international flights, there wasn’t nearly as many pieces as you’d find at a local trunk show, but there was a nice range of leathers to be sure.
As far as leather goods go, TFH’s Stockburg workshop produces the very best in terms of workshop leather goods, and Kobayashi is chasing improvements in design and construct year after year too!
Of course, there’re price tags to match – expect to pay bespoke tier pricing for these awesome wallets, made with the very best Japanese shell cordovan and natural saddle leathers.
The new season of leather goods might look similar to some of the pieces from last year, but the sewing has been upgraded!
I might talk a little more about this if The Flat Head’s wallet is ever featured on this blog.
In the photo below, Lee (Corlection’s owner) shows of one of the long wallets. Corlection stocks one of the largest ranges of TFH leathers in the world, counting the shops in Japan too!
The footwear on display were stunning!
I handled some of the very best work shoes I’ve ever seen on the night. These are four digits in pricing, of course, but TFH footwear blows away the American competition for sure!
There wasn’t all that much socializing to be honest – I guess it’s always hard to blend an exhibition with a trunk show with a party – the highlight of the evening for me was Kobayashi’s presentation!
Not the most physically distinguished guy, but Kobayashi has charisma and knows how to dress. Not just charisma either, but his enthusiasm really comes through – even if I can understand only 1/3 of what he was saying, and I know he does this talk around Japan every week.
Kobayashi’s talk centered around the point of difference that The Flat Head offers in their clothing, focusing on T-shirts, jeans, Hawaiian shirts and leather wallets.
Kobayashi started by talking about how TFH makes the very best T-shirt, ever, anywhere. He pulled the collar of the T out to twice the usual diameter, demonstrating the strength of his triple-stitched collar. You can see a cool video of him doing this on my Instagram page (@indigoshrimp).
The thickest possible, #8 cotton threads make for a strong and resistant collar. According to Kobayashi, apart from point of contact wear & tear on the fabric, the main determinant of a T-shirts life is the durability of the collar. If used sensibly, TFH T-shirts can last decades.
Talking about jeans, of course there was only time to elaborate on a few dot points. Here, Kobayashi explored the history and quality of jeans using back-pocket construct and belt loop construct as prime examples.
Hearing him speak, I felt like his motto rang true: We are particular about our clothes!
Certainly, even compared to many of the Japanese jeans reviewed on this blog, The Flat Head is at a higher level as far as construct and detailing is concerned.
Further discussions were had regarding Sukajan jackets and Hawaiian shirts.
Several modifications and improvements have been made since I last bought their souvenir jacket in 2011. Also, I was surprised to learn that TFH developed it’s own rayon fabric – most modern rayon is made using polyester, but Kobayashi has invested in developing long fiber rayon using wood pulp which has the appearance and touch of silk! Crazy right?
In more exciting news for fans, The Flat Head is also going to be offering Made-to-Measure deerskin leather jackets and Alcantara coats!
Did you know that TFH was one of the pioneers in developing Japanese deerskin from a low end material used for rags into the garment grade leather it is today?
Also, working with a Japanese fabric specialist, TFH has re-purposed Alcantara as a garment fabric – it costs twice as much as leather per yard, and is only available in their high-end made-to-measure coats at this time.
These new MtM jackets incorporate bespoke detailing too.
Finally, at the end of the night, there were prizes to be won. I was unlucky and walked away with the consolation prize (a handkerchief), but one lucky bloke won TFH’s top-range long wallet. Custom Shinki shell cordovan and completely lined with Japanese pig skin (even the card slots are lined)!!!
All in all, a very interesting night. It was a great experience to meet & greet with Mr. Flat Head himself, and certainly it’s really cool to see garments of this caliber being showcased in Australia. Make no mistake, The Flat Head’s garments are some of the very best in the world!
A big thanks to Lee and the crew at Corlection for hosting the event. Hopefully, they’ll be able to bring over more makers from Japan in the future!