I have been gathering worn out, and faded items over the past few years. Narita-san and I have teamed up to bring these items back to life with a more shibui feel to them. Through detailed repairs we bring out the faded beauty of each item, their individual stories become apparent by keeping the stains and scars. We also add some more function to them by stitching pockets and altering the length of some items. All items and future items are/will be available on my new Etsy site. Kishoten…, means: introduction, development, turn… and the conclusion is up to each customer. From the Japanese 起承転結.
The first item we have completed is this noragi. I wanted to keep the original repairs and fabric on this piece, so we shortened the length and added pockets to the font side. The addition of a blanket pin acts as a closure, to keep the rustic theme.
The second item is this Red Cross Army vest. The worsted wool in Army green has a mother-made feel to it. Probably because these were hand-knit by housewives and volunteers during the two world wars. This one had several holes in it. So we used some old sock yarn and hand-darned each hold. This adds a little colorful contrast to the otherwise mute khaki green.
The third is my personal favorite. I found a Harley Davidson dude’s Lee Storm Rider. There was a lot of wear and damage to the entire piece that made it very unique. We cut out the back panel and put in a repurposed Chimayo fabric from a Kapital vest. The holes we are all patched with indigo thread. The collar features a nice contrast green corduroy patch, and the blanket lining inside was patched with fabric from a Warner Brothers Costume Department tunic.
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.
I am not the biggest fan of flannel, and most people wear them to death. So I was surprised when I found one I absolutely fell in love with. Kapital of course, put a fun twist on the most recently over-used style item around.
The overall medium-indigo tone of the shirt is tastefully paired with a natural gray. 100% cotton, heavyweight flannel ensures warmth during the colder months ahead. This subdued color combination suits Japanese traditional clothing, natural colors indigo and sumi really make this shirt special. This shirt really feels like it was crafted in a mountain cottage, the hearty cotton threads dyed by hand, and woven on an ancient wooden loom.
Classic military work-shirt pockets. Extra horizontal hole for a pencil, pen, or whatever you can imagine.
Selvedge fabric, which shows the high quality materials used in Kapital clothing.
My eye caught this piece from Kapital last year. The great classic design of vintage clothing paired with folk-crafty prints. An east meets west collaboration of style. I almost want to say it looks like some scavenged Japanese kimono fabric, paired with old American work-wear.
The pattern for this denim looks like it came from an old fisherman’s work kimono. The texture is unlike standard denim,and has a really interesting effect which makes it feel like the pattern was sewn into the denim rather than loomed.
The jacket pattern is based off of the old Levis 502XX Big E jacket. One pocket, pleats, and generous use of rivets.
The pattern is made of anchors and rope, I like how the whole pattern works with the design of the jacket.
Small accents on straps and knots. I love this sort of scraped-together accent, like using old bed linens or fabric scraps to make something new.
The world biker travel bag. Like a collection of tattoos; memories patched together.
Map patches, biker inspired details.
Army Quilt Vest, 1930’s hunting vest, drab olive base. This is the sort of thing that separates Kapital from all the other brands out there: the ability to take vintage design and combine it with wonderful fabrics.
Hobo Kaya Mosquito Net Hunting Jacket. Classic shaped buttons, traditional pocket layout, but the light-weight knit kaya wool tweed makes a totally different look. Reminds me of something my former Russian literature teacher used to wear; looks like a jacket that would be and heirloom.
Although from 2010 A/W I still like this piece. A 1st Jacket done in a warp indigo and weft in a blanket-lining pattern.
A very cool mechanics jacket done in blanket lining fleece, and indigo sweat-knit pockets. Corduroy collar makes everything fun and original.
Autumn marks the book season in Japan. I am going to try my hand at some book direction and suggest some of my personal favorites.
This book is about the first solo circumnavigation of the globe by ship. A story of trial and error, fending off pirates near Cape Horn, exotic destinations, and self achievement. This book I can’t recommend enough.
Kiro’s book about bandannas. Picked this up when it was first released a few years ago, and it is still one of my favorite sources of inspiration.
Edward Hopper: painting that have a great calming retro feeling to them, that always warm my heart.
A great short fictional novel, about a lone whaler stranded on a small island near Svalbard. Wonderfully surreal and creative.
A great book on self achievement and loneliness. A spiritual and psychological test of oneself in the desolate glacial archipelago of southern Chille and Argentina.
Philosophy of making things with your own hands, the depreciation of craftsmanship and the art of working with your hands.
A true story about a Lithuanian man’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp and his survival.
The Aubrey-Maturin series, is an epic, 20 volume series of British Navy actions during the Napoleonic wars. One of the best historical fiction stories I have ever read. Once you get your head wrapped around the franca lingua, and period English a most enjoyable experience.
October, my favorite month of the year, and an exceptional Free & Easy denim issue. Cover: Rugged Museum dogi (ex: judo-gi kendo-gi etc.) work pants.
Bryan Whitehead, wearing his indigo sashiko jacket, which a designer-friend of his put together in around… 600 hours! A more detailed picture of the same jacket which I took can be found here. Excellent style Bryan! This style I’m naming “The Mountain Craftsman”.
Mr. Eric Kvatek, sporting his own unique look. I love the necktie-rugged look. Eric’s style is definitely a reflection of his experiences and his personality. Well done buddy! Calling his look “The Hard-boiled Photographer”.
These quaint pair of jeans are from a relatively unknown manufacturer, Kagura: based in Kagoshima. Phoenix stitching on the back pockets Sakurajima label, and the all-around Japanese style of these jeans puts a smile on my face. Only 100 were made in this new release first-run, expect these to be rare.
The mischievous boys at Kapital’s special operations unit “Kountry” are at it again. Here, with a waxy finish, double-knee double-indigo-duck-jean. Based on the TH cut, finished with a special indigo label. These are as rugged as they come.
These caught my eye while leafing through. I like inspired pieces a lot, and this one really made me raise an eyebrow. In Japan it isn’t uncommon to see people (alcohol store delivery clerks) wearing a thick canvas indigo-dyed apron usually marked with the company/shop name. These are called maekake. Koromo took their jeans and maekake and got all the details right. They are a small Kyoto based company. These would be perfect for the bartender who’s looking to make a statement.
This scarf looks carefully pieced together from cotton and gauze sewn up with sashiko style stitching. A nice light-medium weight scarf perfect for late-summer nights and early autumn. Everything about this piece makes it look like something found, not bought. Carefull attention was paid to not make it perfect, and to leave some defects to give a feeling of old farm-made textiles.
The slight red details add a nice contrast to the overall indigo and white.