Unbeknownst to many occidental denimheads, Thailand has become a centre of raw denim culture over the past seven years or so. There are at least two large online communities – Soul IV Street and Selvedge Forum – as well as a handful of local brands like Indigo Skin but much of the Thailand’s denim community is centred around Pronto Denim.
In only a few years, the Thai retailer – masterminded by Chnanon “Dan” Sachdev and his brother Sunny – has become the world’s largest chain of high-end denim shops outside of Japan with their eighth store scheduled to open this month. Carrying many of raw denim’s most distinguished brands – Nudie Jeans, Pure Blue Japan, The Flat Head, Iron Heart and Naked And Famous amongst others, Pronto‘s clientele is often younger than that of American or European retailers and they present their high-end Japanese raw denim in a contemporary context where slim and skinny fits dominate.
The first Denim Carnival event, designed to showcase all things denim, was held last fall and was a huge success. This year’s event, based around a mining theme, was even bigger, drawing thousands of denim fans from Thailand and around the world to Parc Paragon where the event was held. Fans descended upon their favourite brands when the gates opened at noon and things didn’t let up until after 9 PM.
The Denim Carnival offered fans outside of Japan an unprecedented opportunity to meet the people behind their favourite brands with many of the most significant names in the raw denim world showing up for the event. The Flat Head’s Masayoshi Kobayashi and several others occupied the largest booth at the event, where their 3002PFRFEST jeans, based on the 3002FXR released earlier this year, sold out in all but the largest sizes in only half an hour.
Likewise, Iron Heart‘s collaboration model quickly flew off the shelves as Shin’ichi Haraki and his Japanese team attended alongside Giles and Paula Padmore, who manage the brand’s overseas business. Ken’ichi Iwaya and others from Pure Blue Japan brought a new collaboration as well which was a similarly significant hit.
All three brands were swamped throughout the day by fans who treated the owners like celebrities, standing in long lines for the opportunity to get their jeans – new and worn alike – signed by the brand owners. The Lightning Magazine crew from Japan were also in attendance, as were Fullcount and Japan Blue.
It wasn’t all about Japanese brands though. Brandon Svarc and Bahzad Trinos from Canada’s Naked And Famous were present as well and had a limbo competition later in the evening in addition to showing off a new 18 oz. Unbranded model exclusive to the event. Imperial Denim represented Australia and Thorogood Boots showed off their new 1892 line of high-end, US-made footwear. Nudie Jeans treated their fans to a ping-pong tournament and were one of several European brands in attendance including fellow Swedes Cheap Monday.
Pronto Denim themselves had plenty of tricks up their sleeves. In addition to the individual stage events carried out by the respective brands, Pronto brought several of their own games and activities. Fans tried in vain to score high enough on the strength test to win a free pair of jeans while a mechanical bull tested denimheads’ balance as they struggled to stay on top.
Pronto also carried out a denim fade contest, showing that Thai fans have some of the most consistently-amazing fades in the world. Carl’s Jr. kept denim heads feeling fresh with their burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries as well as holding a well attended burger-eating competition. The event also had some great music, including Sally And The Kraken and the Eddie Baytos Band.
This year’s Denim Carnival was a smashing success, and it’s safe to say that we can look forward to another event next fall. So far, it’s the only event outside of Japan that captures the magnitude of festivals like Inazuma or Super Weekend. Though Pronto Denim has a massive presence in Thailand, their unique take on raw denim culture – including many exclusive collaborations – and the Denim Carnival just might earn themselves an overseas following as well.