Indigo Late Summer Blues

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Things are winding down after a busy summer. Looks like the Oak Street Bookmakers indigo boots will ship soon. Looking forward to seeing the reactions… Here are the pair of Kapital Lumber pants I wore when I was dyeing the boots. I like the way the indigo stains turned out.

I also spent some time dyeing these antique French Linen night shirts. The texture, and the gradation of the color close-up is really striking. Plus some of them have the most beautiful darning on them. The fine intricate stitching is proof people tried to take good care of clothing.

I am starting to realize that indigo dyeing is sort of like a hobby that helps me meditate and reconnect with myself. It may sound a bit new-age but whether you go hiking, or bike riding or escape into nature you’re really just trying to reconnect with yourself… especially since the world we live in is generally devoid of nature.


The Kapital Century Denim 123S after a few months of wear. The pattern has really come out in the sashiko, on the front side of the jeans. They have been washed 3 or 4 times. It was also a sunny day when I took these shots so they do seem much lighter than the actual color.

I am already working on the second pair of these in the new Okagilly fit. Which is a sarouel fit… and am enjoying this new pair more because of the fit.

Also I am planning a trunk show that’ll be in November. Stopping in 3 cities: LA, SF, and Seattle.

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Kapital | Century Denim No. 123-S

Kapital Century Denim 123s

Kapital Century Denim 123s

“We don’t have a theology. We don’t have an ideology. We dance.”  -Power of Myth

Well, the wait is over… the cat is out of the bag. The new Century Denim is here and boy oh boy it is something. Starting with the fabric, I am sure most of you are aware that this is 100% original fabric for Kapital. The process includes 4 different, non-related factories. One thread spinning factory, one indigo rope dyeing factory, one weaving factory (on one loom… yes one loom), and finally a finishing factory.

Each of the threads are spun differently to create a specific texture and tension for this very special denim. This is an industry first for triple indigo denim. For the diehard indigo fanatics, this is your denim…

Kapital Century Denim 123s (Post Soak)
Monkey Cisco Post Soak (Size 34)

The threads are rope-dyed using 3 different indigo dyes. Kapital’s No. 1 (American Indigo), No. 2 (Japanese Indigo), and No. 3 (Hon-ai or natural indigo), are woven together to create this new Century Denim, hence the 123s. The first thing that may come to mind is the kendo-gi. But this is so much different, so much more elegant. The denim twill weave, mixed with sashiko thread is indigo heaven. The dye method and weaving technique are different and much more complicated.

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For protective purposes, neither the dyeing factory or weaving factory would allow photographs. I will try to describe though words, the process.

The threads are rope-dyed in their three respective indigos. Rope dyeing allows the center of each thread to have a white core or in Japanese nakashiro. Over time and with regular wearing and washing the indigo little by little falls off and the white core is slowly revealed. In comparison to cheese, or hank-dyed items, rope-dyeing reveals much more thread texture and color gradation desirable for denim.

The fabric is woven on a specialized weaving machine, all of the Century Denim fabric is woven on this one single machine. The weave is more dense than previous versions of Century Denim, and the shrinkage is more consistent. The texture is also slightly rougher after washing, and the hand of the fabric is more comfortable. If the topic of weaving peaks some interest, and if you happen to be in Japan, have a visit to the Toyota Industrial Museum.

The crocking on these is unreal. Most contact in the raw state will leave blue stains on almost everything. Your legs will be temporarily dyed blue as will your socks, underwear, shoes, shirt, and jacket. That said, it creates its own very unique aesthetic. Two soaks will alleviate most of the crocking issues. I would recommend avoid tossing these in the washing machine for a while, to avoid marbling and uneven indigo loss.

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There is no wear sample available, so how they will fade and evolve over time is the fun part. The Century Denim 123s will be available for a limited time from February 2016 (Update: Monkey Cisco Century Denim 123S will be available in limited quantities in May) in the Monkey Cisco fit. Which is a new iteration of the Cisco fit. Being the year of the monkey this year… The changes are somewhat significant, the rise is deeper, and the seat is roomier. That means the thighs are more comfortable and there is a slight taper from the knee. The leg opening and taper are still just wide enough to wear Pecos boots (my personal favorite). The full line will be released in August with the 2016 AW collection. For the time being keep an eye on the instagram hashtag #centurydenim123s and this blog for further updates.

Haramaki, Double Indigo Denim, and Slovenly Style

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The chilly weather has arrived… The outerwear has come out, and it is time to start layering again. This year I have primarily focused on dark indigo and deep reds. Combining the two to make a nice foundation for the next several months of personal styling. Kapital last year (and this year), made a very simple double indigo denim fabric (meaning warp and weft are indigo dyed). It all started with Ringo Man Pants, and this riders jacket (rigid). Starting off dark, the indigo quickly starts to get that shininess to it that is so irresistible. After a few washes the denim texture comes out.

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Tora-san from the series “Otoko wa tsurai yo” wears one of my favorite styles. The tummy-wrap or haramaki has a slovenly image in Japan, but more recently some fashion houses have picked up on this vibe. The mamori or talisman hanging around his neck is the finishing touch. To make it a more modern Wayousechu vibe; replace the check blazer for a riders jacket, and change the lid to a knit cap or open-crown cowboy hat. The tummy wraps are available just about anywhere in Japan, but I opted to get a 100% wool one, that has a dirty-old-man vibe.

I found this piece of saki-ori fabric earlier this year and it has been my working color pallet. It almost looks like the cloud layers of Jupiter… Most of everything I buy will be color-based and fit-based from one piece of fabric, photo or theme. I usually incorporate form and items from a variety of sources. These Egyptian split toe socks are the perfect red. It is no secret I love Japanese movies… but more than ever I have been re-re-watching Ozu Yasujiro movies, the colors and shots in Floating Weeds are some of my favorites. You can also get some idea where Wes Anderson got inspiration from…

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This Kapital Juban Shirt is the ultimate layering piece. With a mid-deep collar, light distressing and details it has been in frequent rotation. It is a great east-meets-west piece and not only comfortable, but also looks great with almost anything. As the name suggests the premise is that of a layer shirt, although an actual juban layer doesn’t have buttons.

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Here is my own personal haramaki styling. One a heavy indigo, with a contrasting golden brown haramaki. Tezomeya indigo henley-neck t, and Mittan silk/cotton jacket. The second one here is the that hybrid Japanese-American style with a riders jacket and Kapital Nouvelle pants, that have a thick rib-knit waist band that kinda has that tummy wrap vibe. With a sarrouel fit they are slouchy, comfy, and just the right amount of modern…

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Oak Street Bootmakers | Indigo Rough-out Trench Boot

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For about the last year or so George at Oak Street Bookmakers and I have been kicking around the idea of indigo-dyed leather. I had my concerns and decided to consult a few local indigo professionals and decided on doing them entirely in fermented indigo. This is the real deal… You can order them here.

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I did all the dyeing myself at my friend’s house in Fujino, just outside of Tokyo. We tried dyeing the sewn uppers first, and also individual pieces.

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Of course with leather, there isn’t much more you can do than dip them and rinse them and dip and rinse many times. Rinsing the leather was a key step in getting the color just right. You can read more on the process at Bryan’s blog.

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The texture on the rough-out really brings out a nice color. The color isn’t a greenish indigo but a more denim blue hue. One that looks particularly good with the natural sole. I am curious to see how they will evolve over time…

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Tezomeya | Inspiration LA 2014 V Neck T’s

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Up on the Etsy store we have a few special items available. These Tezomeya t’s are entirely sewn and dyed in Kyoto, Japan. Each color has a story, and a deep history in Japan. These traditional colours paired with Masaaki’s incredible shibori (tie-dyed) designs are unusual and beautiful.

I picked 10 t’s, in 3 different sizes. There are several variations but for now these are the only ones available. All of the shibori t’s have an indigo over-dye.

Here is some color history… enjoy!

Fujinezu-iro is created by using insect galls and wood vinegar mordant. An insect gall is a growth on a plant created and controlled by an insect. In Edo period (1603AD-1868) Japan, it was not only used as a dyestuff but also as was fashionable in the day, for dyeing your teeth black. The wood vinegar mutes the color to this refined, “shibui” purple. This color was popular among commoners as a substitute to the other, more expensive purple dyes during Edo period.

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Kihada-iro is derived from the Amur Cork Tree in traditional dyes and its use in Japan dates back to the Nara period. But for cotton the cork tree doesn’t fast very well. The color is made by boiling dried pomegranate skin, paired with alum mordant. The color isn’t a bright cheerful yellow, or quite a cold mustard yellow. It is a yellow you would see falling from a tree or written in a poem.

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Toki-iro is the ancient red from the madder root. We boil the madder root and use an alum mordant to make a deep red for silk, and a pastel red for cotton. The word “toki” comes from the Japanese word for the crested ibis, which has this enchanting red color quill.

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Inspiration 2014 Preview | Brown Tabby Works

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There have been more that enough things going on at this hectic time of the year, among them is getting ready for a debut at Inspiration LA this February. I will be introducing folks to two of my friends this year. The first is Narita-san from Brown Tabby in Osaka.

The theme is hoboro a portmanteau of “hobo” and “boro”. So you will see plenty of denim and indigo fabrics, plus plenty of eccentric stitching. There are a few secret surprises that you can look forward to at the show. Take a look at the hat clutch bags, hobo hat and overalls, and boro-bow-ties.

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Fall 2013 – Yagu, Rain, Sukiyaki

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Summer is finally going into hibernation, and a cooler autumn air has lifted my spirits. It also means it is time to play with more layers.

I have recently developed a deep affection for Tibetan bead necklaces. The green-tophus one was made by a very awesome lady in Tibet. More on her another time…

This Tezomeya broad-shirt has curious elastic stitching around the collar, cuffs and arm seams. The stretch and crinkling of the fabric is extraordinary, only time will tell how the color will evolve. The elasticity means greater freedom of movement, and the shirt holds an interesting shape. I wanted to bring this with me this summer but it felt out of season.

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Kapital did this fantastic rain-camo western shirt. The slim western shirt fit combined with the camo is something I really enjoy wearing. It also means mixing it with other military garments will be a snap. I like how it mixes with the natural brown of kakishibu. Fall 2013  1

These wooden skull beads compliment the greens and brown of the camo so well. I really like the opal snaps. There is some obscure subtlety to this shirt. Kapital Fall 2013  2

The Kapital suki-yaki western shirt is one of my favorite things ever made. I love interesting new designs, especially ones that combine two very different ideas. One idea here is the samue and the other is the American western shirt. There are several ways to wear this shirt, I prefer the cross-over with a deep neck line. In a more Japanese style, it meshes well with Century Denim. Fall 2013  5

I love style that mixes well and doesn’t really have an era attached to it. This shirt is a perfect example of great design with the right fabric. The pattern must have been a nightmare to figure out but all the details, shapes, and placement of snaps is genius. You wouldn’t feel out of place wearing this in Kyoto or San Francisco. But maybe I have been living in Japan too long and listening to Neil Young too much…
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Yagu is bascially bedclothes in Japanese. As to not waste even a single thread, families in the colder parts of Japan stuffed their sleeping kimonos with thread as insulation. Here the guys at Kountry replicated a similar effect. The various colored threads paired with the white sashiko and zig-zap stitching is original and the texture is so deep.
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Red Cloud Overall MFG Co. | Denim R400-H

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This 17oz. monster denim is Made in China -throw your preconceptions away right now…

The name is Red Cloud Overall MFG Co. and when I saw these jeans in San Francisco I knew they were special. The denim is really something interesting (font and back), something about the smell of the hemp and the soft hand of the cotton is attractive. Plus since very few stores carry this brand, I was more intrigued.

Red Cloud got their start in 2009 in a small workshop in Shenyang. All their denim is made using long staple Turpan cotton from Xinjiang Provence (which also happens to be the start of the Silk Road). Raymond the owner, seems to be a passionate guy about workwear and quality.

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A hemp and cotton blend 25/75, which is twisted (indigo thread is twisted with an un-dyed yarn), this twist is visible on the backside of the denim. The denim is hairy, and very slubby; just the way I like it. I like the goat skin leather patch on the back, the design looks fantastic. The stitching is on par with the major Japanese manufacturers: double chain-stitched yoke, chain-stitched waistband, and hems. Though the stitching may be simple, they do use antique machines to stitch their jeans together. I was happy to see no back pocket arcs, that satisfied my hunger for simplicity.

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These jeans and Red Clouds products are only available at a handful of stores. AB fits in San Francisco carries this hemp model in-store, and Unionville in Stockholm, Sweden stock a few of their other products.  Tuckshop also stocks their goods. Keep an eye on this company, they are remarkable.

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Denim Bruin | Persimmon Tannin and Natural Dye Workshop at ABfits

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Persimmon WKshop

On the last day of Denim Bruin I had a small event at ABfits. I thought it would be interesting to show something new and interesting to the denim obsessed. Kapital released the Century Denim last year and because of the unique story and processes involved, I thought it would make an interesting subject. In my bag I brought my brush and kakishibu with me to the North Beach shop and demonstrated the simple coating process Kapital does to the Century Denim that adds some traditional protection to the fabric. It is also a simple DIY project that any one can do at home, that also inspires some creative persimmon juices to flow.

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I handed over the brush to friends and attendees to try their hand at coating their own items with the persimmon juice. The main attraction though was seeing how the unique texture of Century Denim changed with the addition of the kakishibu.

After the demonstration I talked about the natural dyes that Tezomeya uses for their products. I briefly explained the history of the dyes, the methods used, and the adaption of those ancient processes onto cotton. Those not familiar with natural dyes or the colors of Japan seemed to be quite impressed with the dyeing process. I also touched on the differences in loop wheel knitting machines and the unique qualities of the falling loop wheel knitting machine.

Thanks for everyone who attended and special thanks to Ken, and Kyle for surrendering their 5S and 7S for this event.

Photos Taken by Mark Randal: Denim Bruin and Denimbro.com Organizer (Thanks for organizing the weekend, I had a blast)

Metamorphosis

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met·a·mor·pho·sis
n. 
A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function.

Function modification, character transition, development; a tangible story written in thread. The clothes you wear often carry the marks of your life. Stains and tears are brief moments. Slow worn fades and patchwork are lengthy periods of time unique to the individual. If you care for your things they change with you. To keep your wardrobe changing without creating waste, repair, modify, recycle, and repurpose. A well-designed  high-quality garment can last a lifetime.

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This was an old Kapital Tobi denim shirt. Narita-san at Brown Tabby did some reconstruction and repair to it for me. The saki-ori elbow pads are made from strips of vintage bandanas. We are of the mind that if you are just staring at it you are wasting it. This shirt was a great design to begin with, from the kohaze clasps at the cuffs, to the reinforced stitching on the shoulders. The repairs to the wear brought out more of the character of this shirt. The gradual change from new to old is a beautiful thing: modification and metamorphosis.

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The Kapital Century Denim 7S started out sumi -grey last September. After two coatings of kakishibu the grey disappeared but after many much wear and tear the grey has started to peek out from under its brown coat. Natural dyes tend to fade rather quickly, which is why they appeal to me so much. Nothing permanent, as to keep that attentive eye sharp.

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This Tezomeya t-shirt was a kakishibu color . But after a dip in wood vinegar it came out this smoke brown-black. The black will show its brown heart little by little. The color of 憲法色 (kenbouiro) is extraordinary and time consuming. The smokey smell of wood vinegar remains even after several washes.

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This in an ancient piece of Japanese linen used for mosquito netting. It was smoked, and then dyed in indigo with this subtle “Edo Wave” pattern. The two colors merge so beautifully the camera does not do justice. The texture of the linen has that charming characteristic of rural Japan.

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Koromo | What is Koromo?… Factory and Concept

Coromool Factory Door

Coromool Factory Door

or Koromo  is an extraordinary clothing and accessories company based in Kyoto. I am sure there are so many other companies that aspire to be this excellent. This company stands out from the crowd because their concepts are based on the simple idea of learning from the past. In Japanese they use the four character idiom “温故知新”.

Vintage Ranru

On the day I visited the factory they were working on this vest. They have a wide variety of products and material, but I was lucky enough to see how they use this old fabric. The old stitches remain and worn-out holes are repaired; the old beauty remains and the mendings add an unintended refinement. See: Shibui

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They not only collect and reuse amazing ranru, and boro fabrics, but also use traditional techniques in their design. For example: they use resist dyeing techniques with Ise-gami, a traditional craftsman-made stencil paper, instead of silk-screening. The designs are not only unique but the customer can walk away with a folk-craft. Walking into their factory, or even one of their stores is like getting a lesson in Japanese textile folk-crafts. The customer gets a chance to experience with all their senses, the lessons of the past. And spread that knowledge by wearing their products.

I really like that Koromo gives a second life to these textile treasures, by preserving the techniques and knowledge by integrating them into the product. It creates an interaction between the craftsperson and the designer, with the customer. At first glance one can get an appreciation for the skill, and workmanship that goes into these goods.

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Kapital Kountry | Indigo Over-Dye Gypsy Sleeve Henley Sweatshirt

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A perfect example of the clever ideas from the fellas at Kapital Kountry. Just take a look at these stunning sleeves made from scraps of scarves. I can’t resist the big indian head at the base of the right hand sleeve. 

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It feels like some crafty individual took a garment they found and modified it with what they had available.

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The scarf sleeves are sewn together in strips; charming and unusual. 

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The incredible about of color variation is eye-catching and looks youthful carefree.

Kapital Kounty | Apple Orchard Damage Indigo Corduroy Painter Pants

I decided I didn’t want to shoot the whole piece. I like the details a lot. The tiny sashiko stitching brings out a texture that looks remarkable, upclose. The dark and light contrast and the beautiful distressing creates a warm playful feeling in the details. Men and women can both pull these off, but I think of a red-cheeked childish charm that you really have to be a warm-hearted person to pull off. This kind of feeling puts a smile on my face, and I would love to see people dressing in a more silly, and less serious sort of way. 

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