Five-hundred kilometres away from the centre of Tokyo is every denim enthusiast’s dream. A small family-run factory in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rich-green countryside, home to some of the most desired denim in the world.
Kuroki: pioneers of denim since the 1950s. No wonder our accessories team jumped at the chance to collaborate with them to bring a selection of unique designs to our Spring Summer 17 collection.
We take a sneak peek at our footwear designer Katsura Itami’s diary, as she documents her trip to Japan.
Sunday 10am: The journey
Eight hours and four trains later from my home town in Zushi, Japan, I arrived in Ibara where Kuroki is based. It was remote and surrounded by beautiful mountains. The weather was cloudy with a touch of sunshine. I heard they’d been a heatwave the previous week – I’m glad I missed it. I stayed at the only hotel in town and got picked up in the morning by Mr Adachi, the sales manager.
Monday 9.30am to 11am: Thread making and dye
Picked up at 9am, Mr Adachi and I made our way to the first factory. There are four different factories (one for each process) but I only made it to three. There were two floors in the first building. Upstairs, a room full of cotton imported from Africa was put through machinery to make thread. Those threads were then sent downstairs to be individually dyed in indigo.
Monday 11.10am to 1.10pm: Meeting Mr Kuroki and weaving the fabric
We met the company director, Mr Kuroki himself: an extrovert who wore a denim tie and a good business man with plenty of energy. We filmed him as he explained a little bit about the history of denim in Japan. It’s a strange thought; the Americans should have had ownership over the best denim, it’s where jeans originate from as I knew it.
Next, he took us to a room where threads are woven into fabric using shuttle looms, a rare find in today’s market because of how time consuming it is. On average it takes an hour to make three metres of cloth.
Monday 1.15pm to 2pm: Finishing and quality check
The last step that I witnessed was the checking of the quality and ironing, ready for dispatch. The process involved a very expensive machine with a laser to accurately check every single detail. It was a clear demonstration of them priding themselves on their flawless quality.
Monday 3.30am to 4pm: Jeans Street
Most of the boutiques were closed when I arrived on Jeans Street but it was still fascinating. Situated in Kojima, an hour and a half drive from the factories, the road was one mile long and apart from food shops it was full of denim. The tarmac was indigo and instead of yellow lines there were red and white lines, representative of the selvedge detail seen on Japanese denim. It was really quiet; some tourists but mainly what seemed denim connoisseurs from Tokyo.
Edited by Nakhalar Sterling