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Devin Leisher of Japanese Denim Documentary Weaving Shibusa – Interview

There’s a lot going on in the heritage menswear market. People have been cataloguing the developing culture through trade shows across the globe, book releases, beautiful Instagram accounts, and sites such as Heddels. But there’s one media format that hasn’t really been explored yet: documentary filmmaking. That’s about to change.

We had the opportunity to meet up with the crew behind Weaving Shibusa, a film shot last February across Japan about Japanese denim , which will be released later this year. We interviewed Devin Leisher, denim fanatic and the film’s director, to hear more about the project.

Heddels: When did the idea of shooting a documentary on Japanese denim come about?

Devin Leisher: The initial idea for this film came about five years ago. At this point I was on Superfuture‘s Superdenim forum every chance I could get, just investigating denim and fades and craftsmanship, seeing what other people were into and keeping up with daily discussions.

New threads simply sparked more questions to which a lot of people didn’t have answers or access. Eventually I got so frustrated with the lack of accessible knowledge that I said, “Why doesn’t someone make a film about this? Why not me?”

RD: What interested you in making a film about Japanese denim specifically?

DL: For me, a million reasons, but the two I’ll highlight are: one, the unknown. At the time Weaving Shibusa was first conceived, there was very little accessible–or correct for that matter–information on the topic and brands. A lot was speculation that became truth based on a version of “internet telephone”. There is still not a whole lot of info, but certainly more than there used to be.

Two, the traditional Japanese mentality clearly seeps into the workmanship of the garments. The Japanese brands don’t just make things to make them, or use this or that stitch without a reason. Everything is done purposefully and at the best quality it can be. At that point, some Japanese repros are better made than the “reissues” from the original companies, or whatever the term would be.

Shooting Mr. Hanzawa from Marvin's Vintage

Setting-up before interviewing Mr. Hanzawa from Marvin’s Vintage

RD: Tell us about the trip: what cities did you visit, and how did you determine which brands to profile?

DL: This trip took us all over Japan, which was a blessing and a curse, ha. We visited Kobayashi-San at The Flat Head in Nagano, where we also went to Googie’s Diner with the Flat Head crew for the best “American” meal we’d ever had.

Several stops all over Tokyo to interview and film Atsu from Stevenson, Atsu from Lightning Magazine, Full Count & Co.‘s Tokyo shop, Flat Head’s Tokyo shop, vintage meccas BerBerJin and Marvin’s Vintage–interviewing their owners Kazuhiko Hanzawa and Yutaka Fujihara, respectively–and denim aficionado Stephane Muller.

Osaka, to meet with Tsujita-San of Fullcount, who we then travelled with over to Okayama, Kojima, Kurashiki, and finally Ibarra, where we went to Shinya Mills. It was so beautiful to see and hear all those machines weaving the denim of Full Count & Co., The Real McCoys, Denime, Japan Blue, and many others.

In Kojima we filmed with Japan Blue and Rampuya, and their President, Manabe-San. We also met up with SuFu and ByBeatle, famous Andrea Baburske and Inoue at TCB, who not only construct their own jeans, but also many other brands’ apparel. We wrapped up the trip with Haraki-San of Iron Heart.

Interview Haraki Iron Heart Hachioji

Interviewing “The Boss”, Mr. Haraki from Iron Heart at the Hachioji shop

RD: How can we watch the film? When will it be released and where?

DL: All I will say for now is the film will be released in 2015. It will be available online. We are looking into several different methods of distribution, and there will be a lot of options to make sure whatever your viewing preference is, you will be able to access it.

Mr. Fujihara from Berberjin with '20s Levi's banner

Mr. Fujihara from Berberjin pulled an original Levi’s banner from the ’20s

RD: Any plans for a sequel?

DL: Hmm, that’s an interesting question, ha, especially since the film isn’t even done! I can definitely say two things: First, we had such an amazing time and there are still so many brands out there, who, upon hearing of our work in Japan requested that we come film them. Unfortunately scheduling could not allow it, so we know we want to go back.

Secondly, there is so much great footage that I am definitely going to have to cut a lot to fit it into a standard ninety minute film. What happens with what lands on the cutting room floor? Well, we’ll have to see…

RD: Thank you for your time.

For more information on Weaving Shibusa, including release dates and where to view the film, check out @weavingshibusa on Instagram.

All photos by Yuri Matsuoka.

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