The Allure of Black


adj. 1. lacking hue and brightness; absorbing light without reflecting any of the rays composing it.

Black Century Full Front

Black has an extensive history in textiles. Considering it is quite difficult to achieve the darkest black possible. Recently scientists invented Vantablack which is the blackest black every created by humans, it is made of carbon nanotubes. Interesting stuff… As far as regular dyeing goes…  In general, before the introduction of logwood into textile dyeing, there were only two common ways to achieve black. One: taking a brown component like persimmon tannin and getting it as dark as possible by exposing it to extended periods of direct sunlight. Once achieving the desired hue an additional dip in iron mordant solution creates a very nice natural black. Two: dyeing it a dark blue or green (green being the more common) and then adding an iron mordant. Both of these processes create the two black colors that Tezomeya has available.

My Sumi 7S Century Denim recently underwent this process. I worked on the idea of dyeing these black a few years ago, but the texture had to be just right first. The result is wondrous. The brown peeking out from behind the black, and the indigo threads shedding their black covering looks incredible. Since we are on the topic of “black” I might as well mention how interesting this Blackfeet creation myth is…

Gold Rivet Black Century Denim

The horizontal sashiko stitching brings out a very rough texture which adds some visual weight. Maybe I have been inspired a bit by the dark side of life

Knee sashiko repair detail Century Denim

Faded creases behind the knees didn’t take the dye very well, but left a nice subtle “Chashin” look.

Back of the knee fade Black Century Denim

The gradual transformation of these jeans can be followed in Metamorphosis and Metamorphosis II

Knee repair indigo sashiko Black Century Denim Silver Rivet on Black Century Denim

Kapital made an interesting black jean for summer 2015. This version is a black warp and white weft, and given a nice distressed wash; it comes in this ashy color.

Black Straight Yarn Denim

14 oz denim with nice contrasting stitching, finished with a rough-out patch. The new Okagilly fit is based around the old Sarrouel one. I really enjoy the irregularity of the fabric, with the dark color that is synonymous with the 80’s. Maybe this is a prelude of a new experimental style for me… punk functionalist… maybe… And one last idea of black, definitely read or watch Under the Skin

Full Front Black Denim Patch

John Lofgren & Co. X The Bandanna Almanac | Kakishibu Hanpu Trousers

Kakishibu Hanpu Trousers 4 Over the last several months John and I have been working on developing a product. Since it was our first trial together we decided to keep it simple and do a pair of pants. I found this really fantastic hanpu or sail cloth mill in Okayama a few years ago. They use vintage Belgian looms and weave an incredible canvas on them. A nice sturdy canvas with just the right softness and weight for summer. I imagine this would have been the same weight that sailors would have used to make sail cloth pants during the age of sailing ships.

Kakishibu Hanpu Trousers 3

This same mill also dyed the fabric with kakishibu. This persimmon tannin does not make the fabric hard or stiff because it applied with a mixture of water and tannin. The color has a washed look to it which adds much more character to the pants.

Kakishibu Hanpu Trousers 1

The pants are finished off with simple metal buttons. The entire pants are sewn with 100% cotton thread. They come true to size and are available in 30,32,34, and 36 inch waists. The silhouette is wide with a slight taper to it, with a normal rise.

Kakishibu Hanpu Trousers 2

John Lofgren’s products are made in Japan and to the highest quality standards. The color and fabric combination have a nice mix of Japanese and Western style to them.

Please purchase a pair here

Kakishibu Hanpu Trousers 5

Metamorphosis II

Kapital Century Denim 7S 1.5 Years 1

Change marks the passage of time; from one state to another. The transition of dark to light, to dark again. I have been on the move, and as always interested in trying some new things. Lately I have been intrigued in the workings behind kakishibu and the other tannin dyes used in Japan. In the previous Metamorphosis post I showed the early stages of the transition of a few items.

These Kapital Century Denim Sarouel pants have passed their 1.5 year milestone. After the second coating of kakishibu more character in the denim has appeared. Whiskering has flourished behind the knees, and the thighs. A lot of the color change is due to heavy wear but also routine washing. They are also ready for a few minor repairs.

Kapital Century Denim 7S 1.5 Years 4

Silver Rivet
Silver Rivet
Gold Rivet
Gold Rivet

Jack Knife Barn Jacket Black

Remember that Jack/Knife Barn Jacket we coated in kakishibu? Well, we had one more that we wanted to dye black. The combination of persimmon tannin and wood vinegar created a brownish-black. The unevenness of they dye is not the result of a chemical wash, or bleaching. It is actually the natural result of the dyes. I love this imperfectness, not because it looks worn or faded, but because it is the natural result. I am hoping with a little time and wear, the brown will seep through the black.

Jack Knife Barn Jacket Black 1 Jack Knife Barn Jacket Black 3


This Tezomeya Tee has faded so beautifully. Regular careful washing and drying inside out has helped preserve most of the iron wood vinegar black. The persimmon brown base color has slowly seeped through and given the knit fabric a deep complicated texture. This constant transformation of the color is what I enjoy most about these naturally dyed products.

Metamorphosis II Tezomeya Tee 1 Metamorphosis II Tezomeya Tee 2

Kapital | Century Denim Jacket

Century Denim Jacket 1

In the new Spring 2014 Kapital book Sailor Ninja, the Century Denim jacket has been revealed. It was an inevitability that it would be made, but fans could only guess which form and pattern it would take.

It is almost identical to the Lee 101J. The lines in the sashiko and the stitching lines on the chest flow well. The Century Denim jacket comes in Long and Regular. The long is a more modern slim fit, while the regular is a shorter boxier fit.

Century Denim Jacket 4

I had the opportunity to experiment with one early, and I tried a new kakishibu application technique. Persimmon tannin paste is a difficult substance to work with, but it creates a very interesting leathery finish. I wanted to try to recreate that oil/wax coated style jacket so common in the English countryside, but with a traditional Japanese method.

12/24/2013 was the release date for the jacket in both fits and both colors, there were special persimmon tannin events at the Kobe, Ebisu, and Nagoya locations.

Century Denim Jacket 2

As you can see the coating dried and is a bit shiny, but this will subside once I have a chance to apply the last few finishing touches.Century Denim Jacket 3

The guys at Kapital Kountry have been experimenting with a spray kakishibu and I quite like how smooth the sprayed effect is.Century Denim Jacket and Soho Store 1 Century Denim Jacket and Soho Store 2

Eric Kvatek sent me a few images to add from the new book. Both pictured below is the 7S and 5S respectively set in the French countryside. Kvatek_03_1347 Kvatek_03_5092 Kvatek_03_5110 Kvatek_03_5135

Jack/Knife Outfitters | Kurashiki Canvas – Kakishibu


I was introduced to this Okayama canvas company by some friends a couple years ago. I sent a lot of 10 meters to Jack/Knife in San Francisco earlier this year. They do a lot of tailored denim and workwear inspired garments. I asked them to build me two of these Barn Coats. They usually coat them in Otter Wax but I had a different approach in mind. A more traditional Japanese process to weather-proofing outerwear. Kakishibu
One Coat

When you first immerse cotton in persimmon tannin you get a light ocher color. But after time passes and sunlight rays hit the fabric…1.5 months

The sunlight and oxygen reacts with the tannins and darkens. This picture above is after roughly 2 weeks of sunlight. Once you finish one side you have to do the other.

Jacket Knife Outfitters - Kurashiki Canvas Kakishibu

After 2.5 months you will get this color brown. You will notice the colour is not consistent, and this is my favorite point about kakishibu this imperfectness is humble and brings out the beautiful texture of the fabric. It is like the color of an old penny. The fabric is quite stiff after the coating process, but this will go away once you soak and wash it.Jacket Knife Outfitters - Kurashiki Canvas Kakishibu 1 Jacket Knife Outfitters - Kurashiki Canvas Kakishibu 2

Denim Bruin | Persimmon Tannin and Natural Dye Workshop at ABfits

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.

Persimmon WKshop

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 Organizer (Thanks for organizing the weekend, I had a blast)

Tezomeya Summer


This summer I am planning to show a few samples across the US to promote, showcase, and sell Tezomeya’s products. If you see anything you like please let me know by email. During my visit I want to share the stories of the colors and explain the significance of the products first-hand. Please have a look at the introductory post I did on them last year.

Kakishibu soaking some early summer rays on the roof tiles. They stay like this for up to three weeks, and then flipped over.


These are cotton scarves dyed in a medium indigo shade, and the other is a light khaki green. The scarves are sourced in Thailand and this texture is indicative from the peculiar wavy texture of the weave. They are dyed in Kyoto.

Tezomeya Summer 2

These three are smaller versions of the Thai cotton scarf above. Same colors (natural light) but with one extra yellow color made from dried pomegranate skins.


This is my personal favorite. These are washi or Japanese paper woven scarves. They are very light and hold color differently than color. They are first submersed in water and woven wet, the technique dates back to Edo period. Through modern processes the weave is made extra fine.


Tie-dyed t-shirts. All of the colors at Tezomeya are historical and cultural. Masaaki has spent a lot of time studying the techniques and stories behind each of the colors. These are fun and simple tie-dyed tees that I think are a good example of the fun of Tezomeya’s products.

Natural lighting, really brings out the indigo and red tones.


These are very special loopwheel-knit basque shirts. The horizontal stripes are not naturally dyed however each shirt is garment dyed by Tezomeya. The indigo one and this khaki one really look fantastic.


The shibui selection of t-shirts at Tezomeya is remarkable. These falling loop-knitters date back 100 years. Two threads are woven and it takes aproximately a day and a half to knit a run of fabric.

(from left to right) Two tones of India indigo, my favorite natural khaki color, and this intriguing black color. The black color is the same color that was used by Japanese warriors in sword-fighting training.

Tezomeya Summer 1

This pine green color is named after a peculiar stag-horn seaweed “miru” 海松. The kanji reads “ocean pine”, the color is very reminiscent of the beautiful pine tress that line the Japanese coast. The light-pink is called “haisakura” 灰桜. The characters read “cherry blossom ash”.


Two different shades of India-indigo.

Koromo | What is Koromo?… Factory and Concept

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

TechniqueHand stitching

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.


John Lofgren & Co. | Ashida Shirt & Albuquerque Jeans Progress

Bandana arm

John Lofgren recently produced this extraordinary shirt of shibui origins. The fabric is Bingo Kasuri woven in Fukuyama, Hiroshima; a product that has a long history. A time consuming process, even today it takes one month to produce an original fabric. Introducing: the Ashida Shirt


The of grey-dusty area under the train lines in Nakatsu was the perfect place to feature this refined piece. A sumi base color, is accented with kakishibu stripes(shima), and flecks of indigo and natural white. Albuquerque jeans, slowly fading add a slight contrast. I really enjoy the Japanese folk craft aspect of the cloth paired with the simple workwear shirt design. Tagua palm tree buttons give some cream-coffee softness to the striping. This is one of the few times I have seen kasuri used so well on a shirt. The early morning light in February really brought out the subtle colors. You can read more on Fukuyama Bingo Kasuri here.

Bandana over shoulder

Such a simple shirt but the quality really lies in the details. Run-off chain stitching, and felled seams, perfection.

over shoulder looking


The fabric in some lighting, looks like it is moving while standing still.

sumi and kakishibu

*Special thanks to J. West for the shutter work.

Kapital | Century Denim 5S (Progress)

Front wear

After almost continuous wear, switching between these and my Albuquerque jeans for over 6 months now I am quite impressed with the wear and fading on this denim.

Rear wear

Like I predicted the kakishibu does not fade as dramatically as indigo does. However, I feel this fade is unique and has its own subtle and shibui beauty to it. I think what has been going on with these jeans is that the whiskering is actually the break down of the initial coating of kakishibu that was applied before I started wearing them.

Whiskering detailed

I really enjoy wearing these jeans as they still have this charm that changes with the lighting. The sashiko woven into the denim gives the wiskering and lines of the wear this uneven chaotic feeling to them. I have really grown comfortable with treating these jeans with absolute neglect. I have worn them hard.

Knee whispering Those who are used to only seeing indigo fades might not see the full depth of texture present here. I feel a deep sense of aesthetic beauty here and as the weeks progress the beauty of this denim comes out through the texture. The real milestone here is the quality in which Kapital has presented. This denim is outstandingly durable and strong, and remarkably light.

Kapital | Century Denim Kakishibu Demonstration

Kapital Kountry demonstrating how the second-life aspect to Century Jeans is achieved.