TOKYO — Major denim manufacturers are the real power behind jeans brands in Japan.
The developmental talents of denim mills such as Kaihara, Kurabo and Nisshinbo for new fabrics and finishes has provided a springboard for the jeans industry here to achieve rapid growth, especially in fashion jeans.
Denim mills here now export about one-third of their production, mainly to Europe and the U.S. The export share goes higher than 50 percent when shipments that are made to China and other countries for processing and re-exportation to Japan in the form of apparel are included.
According to industry executives, the monthly production capacity for denim by major mills is in the range of 5 million linear meters. Denim makers and jeans firms here have maintained a close relationship, working together in collaborative projects for new product development.
As Yoshio Nakano, general manager of sales of Kaihara Corp., put it, “confidentiality” is the crux for such collaborative efforts. A denim manufacturer may be working with many clients and each project must be kept confidential from another.
Through many years of collaboration with jeans factories, and in some cases retailers, denim mills have been able to develop and accumulate new technologies and skills, Nakano said, which has contributed to the growing presence of Japanese specialty denims on the world market.
Each year, more than 300 new types of denim are developed and produced at Kaihara. In many cases, initiatives for new product designs come from Kaihara, but in others from buyers. But in all cases, final products are decided through two-way collaborations, the executive said.
The Hiroshima-based company produced 33 million linear meters of denim in the last year, making it Japan’s fifth-largest importer of cotton. The company, which chalked up pretax profit of $10.8 million (1.3 billion yen) on sales of $157 million (18.8 billion yen) last year, invested $15 million (1.8 billion yen) compared with $13.3 million (1.6 billion yen) in the previous year in new equipment, including $6.7 million (800 million yen) in an automatic assortment and packing system that can automatically place varieties of yarns coming from spinning frames in designated boxes. The automation replaced eight workers.“We only buy the kinds of cotton that are best suited to the kinds of denim we produce,” Nakano said. “We import cotton from many sources, but we conduct a series of dyeing and finishing tests. We don’t have special machines for trial production per se,” he said, explaining all new fabrics are produced on existing machines or looms in operation in Kaihara mills and then presented to prospective buyers for evaluation and testing. That way, the buyer is assured the merchandise will be the same as the sample.
Kaihara exports through its Hong Kong-based agent, Textile Resources Ltd.“Our motto is to make new things that are not yet in the wardrobe,” Nakano said.
Japanese denim mills have been kept busy for nearly four years with the rise of the women’s jeans market, Nakano said. But the business environment does not warrant any optimism, as Japan’s population is on a decline from a lower birth rate resulting in a sharp drop in the population of teenagers, while wages are on a rise.
Kurabo Industries is taking a route to specialty denims, with higher processing for higher value, and away from mass-production types, as is Nisshinbo Industries. Using biotechnology to accelerate deep coloration, Kurabo has come up with bio-dyed denim featuring deep color, noted Kenshi Kawano, manager of jeans. The product is marketed under the Nature Blue name.
Kurabo is also introducing variations of indigo in greenish or “Clear Sky” denim or in deep red“Dark Red Blue” denim with a smoother surface using cleaner yarns with less fluffs.
There are color tone variations of indigo available, at Nisshinbo, as well, according to Masaharu Tanaka, manager of jeans. Nisshinbo has succeeded in producing on shuttleless looms vintage-style denims that previously were only possible on shuttle looms.
Nisshinbo is widely known for its liquid ammonium treatment of cotton or Ekian processing. Liquid ammonium makes cotton crinkle-free, enabling production of denim that is soft and durable, with a natural luster and depth of color, Tanaka explained. By using upgraded ammonium treatment, the company has produced a new breed of vintage denim, which is almost free from fluffs.
Three years ago, Toyobo, in a joint project with Edwin, developed and marketed super-strong denim using Toyobo’s Zylon fiber, which has a tear strength that is twice that of ordinary denim.Imamichi said the company is supplying fabrics using its EKS fiber to jeans manufacturers. Called a “conditioning” fiber, it absorbs perspiration, generates heat and retains heat to keep the wearer in a comfortable condition, he explained.
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty