We’re embarking on a series which explores the nature of doing something different in our little corner of the market. A few weeks ago, I gave you my take on the idea of “innovation” in the world of raw denim. We’ve asked some industry experts the same few questions to get their takes on what’s going on with raw denim right now.
Our first interview comes from Mohsin Sajid, owner and creative director of Endrime. Mohsin is an expert on denim design and the fabric itself and has worked for some of the top denim brands in the world. He always has his eye out for new and different designs and fabrics, in addition to using the past as a touchstone for moving forward. He was nice enough to provide us with not only his responses but an insider’s view on a whole bunch of interesting fabrics he has encountered on a trip to Japan.
Without further ado, here’s his take on the raw world right now:
What do you feel is the most innovative part of the raw denim market right now?
HEAVYWEIGHT / WINTER DENIM
For sure, the best heavyweight denims are still coming from Japan. Below is one of the most exciting denims I’ve seen – it’s a Hibiscus Denim from Toyoshima; the approximate weight is 18-20oz.– quite remarkable.
16oz. denim is fast becoming the new 14oz. The trend is more brands are picking 16oz. denim. Below are some of the best heavy weight denims from Amhot: 1st is an 18oz. followed by the best 16oz. 3×1 I’ve seen in ages.
Something which has been slowly emerging has been denim that has been less dipped, so the raw denim has a lighter shade. To some this might be silly, but we think it’s a fresh outlook and clean.
LIGHT WEIGHT DENIM FOR ALL SEASONS
2×1 (Two by one) denim is normally used for shirting – especially between 8-10oz. Just as there has been key development in the heavyweight denim, there has been development and innovation in the lightweight sector also. Below is 2×1 10oz. denim from Amhot with the right amount nep.
More denim mills are starting to explore and create warm feeling denims with Thermolite cotton: Cool feeling denim using Coolmax cotton, stronger denim using Cordura. We are not that excited about these types of trends as most are just marketing and PR lead and go against what denim is all about; plus, we are yet to be convinced by any of them.
But something which caught our attention was supima-mix blended denim from Toyoshima. Supima denim is nothing new – but this denim is not only super ring-ring, it’s super soft soft and 100% cotton. For a lux denim store, this would be perfect. Most supima denims are mixed with open end and with lycra blends. This was something quite amazing, as it finally looks good.
Heathered /rainbow-coloured /broken twill denim has been an emerging trend, especially for winter, but it’s now going full pace. Every Far East mill is doing versions of this. Key highlights from Kuroki 11.6 Oz. 3×1 Heather Denim to Amhot’s 9.5oz Rainbow-Coloured denim.
It’s no secret – the world’s best stretch denim is not coming from Japan; Turkey has been leading the way for many years – from the likes of Isko, Bossa and Orta. But I wanted to highlight some innovations from our Japanese friends who are finally catching up fast.
First is a Stretch Cotton/Tencel 11 Oz. from Amhot : Perfect for winter, super soft hand.
Second is another stretch denim from Amhot: this denim is 12 Oz. and looks and feels like a men’s denim, but it has stretch: quite amazing. This is a clear example why Japanese mills are the best.
But the best stretch denim we have seen this season is a clear winner from Kaihara. Not only does this denim not look like stretch, it washes down beautifully.
There are many non denim fabrics sneaking into denim blocks within the last 10 years. Chinos have a focus on denim brands, so every season denim mills play on vintage-inspired fabrics. Here are our clear favorites:
The Selvedge Ottoman from Amhot,
Super Micro Slub Chino from Amhot 8.5oz. Duper dry handle: looks like this fabric was deadstock. Best twill we have ever seen, hands down.
LHT (Left-Hand Twill) Super Heavy Hibiscous Chino 18oz from Toyoshima.
Some interesting pique-looking denim. Kaihara’s made a super one which is just right, as this is gonna be massive and starting to trend now. This Japan-inspired-looking denim is finally being accepted in the west; especially with brands like Kapital finally appealing and being accepted, it’s only a matter of time.
But the best non-denim will always be duck canvas, the original non-denim fabric! Cone Denim has the best duck canvas, but in the Far East, it’s Kaihara who runs the show.
HERRINGBONE / BROKEN TWILL
Strictly not denim, but finding the best chino fabric and herringbone is also on the top of the list of some of the best denim brands. Something which shocked me was one of the best micro herringbone twills we have seen from Toyoshima denim mill: not only is the fabric the right amount of neppy; the lightweight 10oz. is crisp and soft.
Another great herringbone, was a cotton wool, also from Toyoshima. This indigo-dyed micro-herringbone, with a brushed/mélange weft, is stunning and exciting.
COLOURED DENIM & COLOURED WEFT STORY
More and more, denim brands are moving into coloured denims, replacing the indigo warp yarn. This has been happening a lot amongst the more adventurous denim brands. Below is a green warp selvedge from Kaihara. Any colour goes now–but its fun seeing it, especially in selvedge.
Denim brands are also exploring new ways to play with the weft part of denim. Tinting the weft is nothing new, but coming out of Japan and China, many of the best denim mills have been playing with their wefts. Most in the denim community might have noticed it, but brands like Red Cloud have been using it quite heavily. Here’s one that I found that I think is quite amazing, with a multicolored weft and super heavy 14oz. from Karson.
There are some amazing and interesting innovations happening in shirting. Teamkit has a super 4 Oz. chambray which is simply mouth-watering and super soft.
Kaihara have a similar version themselves.
There are also many new innovations in weaves:
Toyoshima with their 7oz. Kasuri-Chambray.
Teamkit with their 10 Oz. vintage gingham stripe,
But what’s really exciting in gingham is this 4oz. check–no doubt inspired by the denim from the late 1800s that people like Michael Allen Harris find down abandoned mine shafts.
How would you characterize the general attitude of raw denim consumers at the moment?
There seems to be a small movement away from Japanese, Italian, and Turkish denim, with people starting to look at denim made from other parts of world: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and China. Don’t get me wrong, Japanese denim is still at the forefront but it’s starting to kick off in these other regions. I’ve come across some remarkable denims from these places (I’ve yet to include them in Endrime, but I’m looking on with excitement). Most of the denims I’m talking about are still made on vintage shuttle looms–hand looms even–made by remarkable people, which you can trace back to the cotton field and the worker who made the denim.
There is still is a stigma associated with these countries, especially Pakistan. What most denim connoisseurs also don’t realise is that it was the Arabs who named cotton, and it was the people of the Indus River Valley (Pakistan) who first spun it and wove into cloth. There’s a rich, deep legacy there, which can’t be ignored. Plus Pakistan and China have remarkable long-stable cotton which is amazing. Perfect for making ring-spun denim.
In general, more denim consumers are starting to get put off by high-priced denim and think they are getting ripped off.
What are your thoughts on the many brands entering the market right now?
Personally, I think it’s great that there are many start up denim brands, but most of them look the same. And it’s frankly quite boring: Most of these new denim brands seem to copy a Levi’s pant and its construction methods. Design should be for a purpose: moving things forward; copying a tried and tested formula and just stitching your own patch is not a sustainable way to make a company, especially if you want to survive.
Plus, most of them just want to make a quick buck, or tick a box that they have done it, with hardly any fresh ideas and design skills. It’s a great shame that now nearly everyone can buy Cone Denim or Kaihara, Collect, and Kurabo and think they have made it, and somehow get in to some amazing stores across world. I think this is a worrying situation which is clouding the market.
Also, there’s far too much cheap selvedge entering the market. Most of the Kickstarter denim brands are not going the wholesale route, so they’re getting cheaper denim to the market place, confusing the consumer, making him think that other denim brands are ripping them off. Yes, it’s a great plus for the consumer, direct retail–but if you want your brand to sell across the world, in many markets and amazing stores you have to hire agents and distributors and show at trade shows. The wholesale route is being tested. The brands which sell their jeans at low prices are going to end up destroying the very thing they love. As they saturate and flood the market, this will not lead to any innovation or creatively in the long term.
There are a few exciting new denim companies which I respect: Blue Blanket being one, and a British denim brand: Story Mfg. I can easily say these two polar opposite brands are doing things completely differently. We need to champion brands like these and less these “fast Kickstarter brands” which are saturating the market.
Anything you would like to add?
Endrime is about the present its 4th collection at 3 trade shows for SS15. It’s huge for us. We have hired the right agent and can’t wait to show our collection: at Capsule in Paris, Liberty Fairs in New York, and Jacket Required in London.
Thanks so much to Mohsin for his insight and expertise. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installments of our continuing series on what it means to innovate in the world of raw denim.