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Epaulet’s EPLA Denim Collection: East Coast Meets West

It’s not often that you can say the names Kuroki, Kurabo, Kaihara, Cone, and Nihon Menpu (all well-respected denim mills) and be talking about one denim brand. But New York’s Epaulet has included a variety of denim from all of these mills in their EPLA collection. In the words of Michael Kuhle, co-founder and designer, “It’s more interesting this way. Our customers are VERY well informed on denim, and most of them have a lot of their jeans bases covered. Introducing a ‘raw’ collection in something common would have little appeal for them outside of the fit.”

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Epaulet has operated out of two stores in New York City since 2008. They’ve released both men’s and women’s collections including a large collection of button-ups, chinos, shoes, and accessories. The EPLA collection is intended to be a complementary collection that is more casual than its New York counterpart. It features a selection of denim pants, shirts, and jackets, along with button-up oxfords, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Most of it’s menswear staples but there are a few directional pieces thrown in for good measure and it’s all made in their Downtown LA factory.

We’ve chosen a few denim stand-outs from the collection to highlight below. All of the denim is once-washed to avoid shrinkage. Raw purists may balk at such seeming sacrilege but Kuhle says, “Don’t fear the rinse! We’ve found that the practice of wearing your jeans for months without washing is enough to get an excellent fade out of them.”

All of the different selvedge fabrics for the jeans come in their Wilshire fit, a five-pocket mid-rise slim-fit that is comparable to the Rivet Chinos in their New York collection. And Kuhle’s pretty confident about it, “I’d say that the Wilshire jean is one of the absolute best fits on the market, but that’s subjective. One man’s great fit is another man’s denim legging or MC Hammer pant.” Each pair has a 36.5 inch inseam and features hidden rivets on the back pockets, custom hardware, and a Chromexcel leather patch from the revered Horween tannery in Chicago.

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One of their more interesting fabrics is a 13 ounce Kaihara Ring-Ring denim. Most ring-spun denim is made with ring-spun warp yarns and open-end spun weft yarn. Kaihara has made this fabric by using ring-spun denim for both the warp and the weft (hence the name), resulting in a softer hand with uneven texture. The weaving process has also caused the indigo from the warp to bleed into the weft, giving it a deeper blue tint. You can see the comparison between the Ring-Ring and their Kuroki denim above.

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This dark grey 14-ounce denim comes from Kurabo and features tonal stitching which blends in with the denim. It has a distinctive color that stops short of being entirely black.

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Unlike the the 14-ounce Overdye Kaihara denim achieves its inky dark color by going through a special process after being assembled. It sees a series of six special dye treatments and washes, with the warp and weft absorbing the dye, which gives it the overall navy color and a soft hand.

The Lightweight is, as its name suggests, a lighter option, with 12-ounce Kuroki denim.  The warp is a standard indigo, but the weft is grey-tinted, giving it a muted hue.

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Overdye (left) and Lightweight (right)

In addition to jeans, the EPLA collection features a number of denim jackets. Made from the same denim as the Overdye jeans above, the Doyle jacket reflects the tradition of the classic French work jacket. True to its roots, it is informed by a minimalist aesthetic, with a few fancy touches. It features two-way patch pockets that can be entered from the above or the side. It also has hidden copper rivets and taped seams to provide added durability to the sturdy 14-ounce denim.

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Doyle (left) and Kamigata (Right)

And although it sold out within hours of becoming available, another stand-out piece in the collection is the Kamigata jacket. Here we have an example of America “doing” Japan, rather than the other way around.  The jacket is a take on the “noragi,” a traditional Japanese farmer’s jacket. It features a shawl placket and square bottom, with a few updated details like a button to close the jacket and button cuffs.  It’s made from 9-ounce natural indigo denim from Nihon Menpu.

Along with the classic button-down oxfords, the collection includes denim shirts in two different designs. Both shirts are slim fit and made from the same 9-ounce denim as the Kamigata above. While the weight would be light for jeans, it’s relatively heavy for a denim shirt, which should provide some interesting creases and fade patterns.

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Engineer (left) and Western (right)

The Engineer Shirt is their version of a classic work shirt, but they really go the extra mile on the details. The chest pocket has a convertible flap (meaning you can button it up or down) plus a point collar with a button-over tab, flat-felled seams on the shoulders, a chainstitched placket, tonal stitching, and tortoise resin buttons.

The Western Shirt features the elements of a classic western-style shirt, with a point collar, dyed resin snap buttons, flat felled shoulder seams, a chainstitched placket, and a double-stitched western-style yoke. The stitching is a contrasting gold thread.

Another standout of Epaulet in general is their price point–jeans and shirts are no more than $150 USD and jackets top out at $195. Kuhle explains, “We sell directly to customers and we’ll source off-price fabrics wherever possible, so many of our products are 30% to 40% less expensive than the alternatives out there. Some things in our collection are inexpensive and some are very expensive. But nothing is ever overpriced.” Talking about prices was something that brands never used to do, but in the digital age of information, some brands are finally coming clean about production cost and retail prices in refreshing transparency.

Check out the full EPLA collection on their website.

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