I sat down with Ryo and Hiro of Ooe Yofukuten during my visit for a brief interview and to answer some questions about their products.
BA: Where, and when did Ooe Yofukuten start?
Ryo and Hiro: We are living in Aichi prefecture now but before we used to live in Mie Prefecture, which was more countryside than where we are now.
Hiro: It was so countryside you could see wild boar and monkeys walking around.
Ryo: At that time we had a lot of free time and Hiro said she really wanted something to do as a hobby. So we bought a domestic sewing machine. At first we made a shirt on a sewing machine we picked up.
Hiro: The shirt wasn’t really good at all, and after that I wanted to quit sewing.
Ryo: We never studied how to make clothes or anything; we just used what we learned in elementary school homemaking class. We were really bad, and we quit doing that. Soon after that time I was thinking of buying a pair of jeans. The jeans were really expensive, and there were so many kinds it was hard to choose which to buy. Then I remembered we had a sewing machine at our house and I realized why not just make the type of jeans I want.
Hiro: Ryo said “let’s make a pair of jeans” and I was like “huh?!”.
Ryo: So this is how we started to make jeans.
BA: So where did the interest for denim start?
Ryo: When I was in junior high school, which was about 15 years ago, there was a vintage American clothes boom among young people in Japan. Because of this boom, I have been hooked on vintage American clothes since. So that is how I got interested in denim.
Hiro: When I tried to sew the jeans it was very interesting and fun.
BA: You liked jeans and you started collecting, and now you are making jeans how did that evolve?
Ryo: At first I was making jeans for myself, family, and friends. I was updating my blog about those jeans, and readers asked me to make them a pair. So that was the first time I made jeans for a person not in my family. I only received the materials fee so I didn’t make any profit. That person loved the jeans I made, and that made me very happy. So it became really fun to make jeans. And that was the start of producing an actual product. I started thinking about bringing our jeans to a big flea market in Nagoya to see people’s reaction. So we tried it out and brought 12 pairs of jeans and sold about 6 pairs over a period of 2 days. You know at flea markets people are selling old jeans for 5 bucks or 10 bucks to get rid of the stuff they don’t want. But, we were selling brand new jeans for 100 or so bucks and six people bought them and that made me really happy, and that drove us to start this business.
BA: What is your biggest success?
Hiro: Our biggest success is we are enjoying making jeans and sharing that with our customers.
BA: What is your biggest mistake/failure?
Ryo: We make mistakes everyday-
Hiro: -our first big mistake was when went to buy denim, and there I couldn’t believe how many varieties of denim there are. We looked very carefully, and we picked one we really liked. We mistakenly thought it was indigo, but actually it was black
Hiro: We didn’t realize that thought until six months after we bought it.
Ryo: So like I said earlier I never studied about making clothes professionally, so when we make one item we learn by trial and error. So we make errors everyday.
Ryo and Hiro: We are careful people, so we usually do a lot of research, so we don’t have any major mistakes but it is very time-consuming.
BA: Do you have a new or current project you want to talk about?
Hiro: We have so many projects.
Ryo: We cannot pick which one to do first. We have some projects we would plan to do but orders come in and the projects get pushed to the back burner. We can’t tell you when our next new project because we don’t even know when they’ll happen.
BA: Could you tell me about the “World Tour Jeans” project?
Ryo: Ah that was a customer’s idea. He asked us to cooperate and we did. We painted star on the jeans and it was really a lot of fun to do that. I felt really close to all the people who participated because we could share something together even though we live in different countries.
Hiro: That was a big opportunity for us to get our jeans promoted.
Ryo: So we really appreciate the people who participated in this project.
BA: Any future vision or plans?
Ryo and Hiro: I want to try everything. We are making jeans now, but we want to try with wool. Really anything and everything I want to try. We are a tailor, not only denim or jeans, so we are open to anything. But it takes time like we said.
Thank you Hiro and Ryo so much for your time and hospitality while we visited you.
*Translated from Japanese