We all have our own reasons to prefer certain brands. These reasons develop as one’s taste matures with age and a better overall understanding of denim. Soon our attention starts getting drawn to details we didn’t really care when we got started like pocket placement, fly construction, and other minutiae.
Most people start with obvious characteristics such as the fitting, or the color(s) of the selvedge line; and progressively shift towards more technical aspects such as stitches per inch, or what machine the jeans went through. After talking to numerous people in the denim industry in Japan, Stephane Muller, Creative Director at Muller & Bros, broadened our vision when answering what he was looking for in a pair of jeans:
I like brands that are done by people with character, because you can feel it in their products. Sometimes you understand why a product is so great when you see the guy behind them. He’s got a particular face, a character.
Of course he wouldn’t say that about himself, but by looking at him you know he applied his vision to his brand. He and his associate Makoto Kawai–founder of Okayama based lifestyle brand Nap, Inc.–are two characters highly respected in the heritage wear niche pretty much anywhere in the world. We swung by their showroom last August to check their Spring Summer 2016 collection and hear more about the brand.
A solid background in vintage
In heritage wear, there’s heritage, which is almost synonymous to vintage. I have yet to meet a good heritage wear brand whose people don’t express a strong passion and/or knowledge about the history of clothes. If you’re into denim, then you necessarily will (or already have) read about the history of the 501. Same thing with leather jackets and A-2 and G-1 models for example.
Both Stephane and Makoto started with vintage buying. Makoto used to travel across the united states when the vintage thing started while Stephane was a pioneer of vintage clothing in Europe. During the early stages of his career he built strong connections with key people in Japan. He eventually ended up working with some of them, like Mr. Tagaki, founder of Studio D’Artisan, one of the Osaka Five. Together they founded concept store Fleurs St Roch by Mister T in Paris.
What is Muller & Bros?
Fast forward to today, after a few adventures in the industry, Stephane ended up in Tokyo. He met Makoto Kawai and together they started Muller & Bros. Stephane assumes the role of creative director while Makoto oversees all aspects of production in his factory in the mountains of Okayama (which, we insist, you must visit next time you’re in Japan). After appearing in several key tradeshows, the brand has opened many accounts and gained more and more popularity.
Stephane’s childhood, in terms of fashion, was pretty much all about American military surplus and vintage clothing, so you will find a lot of that in his collections. When asking about his inspirations, he told us it’s all about old photos and movies and flashbacks of his adventures through vintage buying. He told us he makes sure that each collection’s assortment contains about ten percent of pieces that feel more French, while the rest is inspired by 30s, 40s and 50s Americana.
About this S/S 2016 Collection
You’ll see core styles, like a 5 pocket denim, but also new pieces like two pairs of glasses made in collaboration with Groover from Kanazawa. Stephane recommended us the vintage inspired pump attendant shirt, his favorite, the ’40s open collar shirts and the bi-color polo shirts. As he put it, “You don’t need to be a vintage fanatic to wear my collection. It’s not a uniform.”
Make sure to keep an eye on Nap Inc. by checking their homepage or following them on Instagram @nap_village. Meanwhile, check Muller & Bros’ new collection here and follow Stephane on Instagram @stephanebulldog.
If you want to buy some of Stephane’s wares, he’s stocked in Europe, the USA, Australia and Korea, but check the stockist list for more precise information.