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Denim by PV Part I: Kuroki and Nihon Menpu Mills

Founding editor Nick Coe and I recently attended the international textile tradeshow Denim by Premiere Vision in Barcelona, Spain. The show brought together a hundred different exhibitors from twenty different countries to show everything the world’s denim community.

Over the next few days, we’ll give you the full recap of all the great stuff we saw for the upcoming AW 15/16 season. Today, we’ve got a look at the two prestigious Japanese denim mills that presented their wares.

Kuroki Mills

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Kuroki has long been one of the most respected mills in all of Japan. They’ve been weaving cotton textiles since Tomatsu Kuroki established the company in 1950, by 1970 they had switched almost exclusively to creating denim and have been producing selvedge fabrics of all stripes in the city of Ibara in Okayama Prefecture ever since.

Kuroki has remained in family hands hands the entire time and we had the pleasure of speaking with Tatsushi Kuroki, Tomatsu’s son and the current company president, as he walked us through their collection.

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He started us off with some of their basics. Kuroki’s most popular fabric is also Tatsushi’s favorite, a 13oz. sanforized red-line selvedge denim.

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This is the company’s bread and butter fabric–not too light, not too heavy, the perfect four season weight, says Kuroki.

Then he pulled out their 18oz. big slub denim. You may recognize this fabric, it’s been used by high-end denim manufacturers all over the world.

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Kuroki achieves this pattern by switching up yarn sizes throughout the weave. A close examination of the weft reveals small verticals of regularly woven yarns broken up by pockets of big slub yarns. This technique transforms the warp face of the denim into a waterfall of light and dark indigo.

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They also had a variety of other inventive fabrics beyond denim including a lightweight selvedge waffle-knit for shirting.

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The same fabric in a variety of washes.

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They’d also been experimenting with a few more traditional textiles like this large herringbone kimono/gi material.

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A distressed version of the same fabric.

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Plus a number of non-traditional iridescent fabrics in indigo and camouflage.

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They also had a pair of jeans every visitor could take home, but something tells me these were pre-shrunk.

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Nihon Menpu Mills

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Nihon Menpu Mills is also one of Japan’s premiere makers of the highest quality denim, producing fabric for high-end brands like Mr. FreedomStudio D’ArtisanBaldwin Denim, and of course Sugar Cane. They first began to produce textiles in 1920 and started making denim in 1960. We had the opportunity to talk to Chiemi Takechi, their chief of sales about their latest offerings.

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Nihon Menpu produces all sorts of textiles beyond denim including chambrays, wabashes, and oxford cloth.

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And their fabric’s utility goes beyond just shirts and pants, here’s a collaboration shoe they did with Onitsuka Tiger next to the original fabric sample.

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And in denim, they’ve got a huge variety of selvedge fabrics in almost any hue you can imagine. Nihon Menpu does all of their own dyeing in house as well, so if you can dream it, they can dye it.

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The selvedge swatch lineup.

All of the above fabrics are sanforized. Nihon Menpu makes many custom unsanforized fabrics for a variety of brands, but only one stock loomstate, this 15oz. beauty below.

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And there’s of course, Nihon Menpu’s flagship denim, the 50% cotton/50% sugar fiber Sugar Cane denim. Currently offered exclusively to the brand Sugar Cane as well as their collaboration with Mr. Freedom. We hope to see much more of this amazing hairy fabric in the future.

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Warp yarns and a shuttle from one of Nihon Menpu’s many looms.

Be sure to stay tuned for our continuing coverage, including updates from Cone MillsYKK, and newcomer Artistic Fabric Mills.