Waste Not, Want Not: A Look at Japanese Brand, UES
It’s easy to say that you want to trim the fat in your wardrobe, to reduce your consumption and wear only the essentials. The hard part, however, is ensuring that the pieces you hang onto are ones you really care about and want to wear. To find those special pieces, those which encourage us to get rid of the extraneous pieces in the back of our closets, can be hard.
Japanese brand, UES, is all about making that process a little easier. Even their name is a play on the actual English word, “waste.” UES makes solid, hard-wearing pieces that will last you a long time and prevent you from wasting your money (and the world’s resources) on other unnecessary pieces that you never really needed. Like many of our favorite denim-makers, the brand is all about the journey, about making a piece totally your own through wear and tear. In fact, UES doesn’t consider their garments complete until the customer has beaten the crap out of them, it takes that personalization factor to turn the raw material into something more.
History and Philosophy
Though UES wasn’t founded until 1994, the brand’s roots date to 1967. The founder, Masaharu Matsumoto, began his career working in fast fashion. His work, manufacturing baby clothes at the dawn of the modern consumer economy, inculcated in him a need for more responsible makers and better pieces of clothing. Like many enterprising and earnest designers, this experience in the belly of the fast fashion beast motivated him to make his own brand, one that could take a more responsible track and encourage consumers to do the unthinkable—consume less.
UES doesn’t ask their customers to make enormous sacrifices to reduce waste and make the world a better place. Rather, UES takes the brunt of the work. By making pieces so good that a customer doesn’t want to wear or buy anything else, UES tricks us into cutting down on unnecessary purchases and in so doing, actually lessen our impact on the world around us.
Mr. Matsumoto stepped down in 2003 and handed the reins to his son, Chuji, who continued the work his father had started. Now, 16 years later, UES is committed to the same goals, which can be summed up in the poetic (if somewhat clunky) phrase, “Aim for making things that can be used to the end with affection.” The folks at UES don’t want you to retire your jeans, they want you to wear them until they bust up so bad all you can use the scraps for is dust rags.
But making clothes that will last—really, truly last—is more about just exacting construction details. It’s about making something simple enough and essential enough that can transcend seasonal trends and changing tastes. Though folks say that “style is forever and fashion is seasonal” the most fickle critic is often the wearer. How often do your tastes change on a dime just because you saw something on Instagram or read a new thread on Reddit? It’s no small feat to turn out a product that can weather the changing tides of personal taste, but that’s the challenge that UES has set out to conquer.
UES is introducing one their basic fits, the 400T, which they think will really stand the test of time and that they hope you’ll choose to make your new “daily uniform.” In keeping with their minimal, personalize-this-yourself ethos, the jean is very much a blank slate. Made from a 14.9oz. denim, don’t expect any gimmicks or wackiness from this subtly-uneven Zimbabwe cotton. This is all about classic denim, pure and simple.
Made in Japan, by UES’s artisan sewers, this hard-wearing piece won’t be fully complete until you put your own spin on it. But it should be easy to get plenty of wear, the mid-rise, tapered style is universally flattering and can be easily integrated into almost any outfit. They’ve made a versatile, classic product that is guaranteed to age well (just see their fade gallery here) now all that’s left is for you to take it from here. They’re not fully realized until you give them your spin, so what are you waiting for? Get fading!
Available for 23,800JPY (~$218USD) at UES.