Iron Heart has been at the fore of the Japanese denim scene for well over a decade now. Arguably the kings of heavyweight denim, Iron Heart has created some of the most iconic contemporary jeans which have helped to shape the raw denim scene as we know it today. As well as its denim goods, Iron Heart is renowned for its full range of expertly crafted apparel, ranging from knits, sweatshirts, to t-shirts, and their infamous heavyweight flannels.
The brand has developed a cult following of loyal denim heads from across the globe through its accessible range of quality product that adapts classic American workwear styles for a modern audience. Forever rugged and here to stay, we’re taking a moment to appreciate Iron Heart, taking a look at the brand’s history, philosophy, and iconic products.
Iron Heart’s History & Philosophy
Iron Heart founder Shinichi Haraki worked in the Japanese garment industry for nearly twenty-five years before founding Works, Inc. (Iron Heart’s parent company). His career in denim started at age 23 with Edwin as a pattern maker, progressing to designer and then producer/director in just three years.
Haraki-san left Edwin to start a consulting company at 26, advising others on how to best establish production facilities/factories for the manufacture of denim. After some time, he decided it was time to use his expertise by pursuing his own denim label. Inspired by the Japanese-American motorcycle community and heavyweight denim, Haraki-san founded Iron Heart in 2003.
Two years after the conception of Iron Heart, Haraki appointed Englishman Giles to manage international sales, marketing, and distribution. Padmore had written to multiple Japanese denim labels with a proposal to distribute them globally and Haraki was the only one to reply. Hailing from the small English seaside town of Gosport, Padmore did not come from an industry background like that of his newfound Japanese business partner; he spent three decades traveling the world as an ‘IT Guy’, working for large corporations and small start-ups in Europe and Asia.
The partnership of an ex-IT professional from Gosport and a denim honcho from Japan is far from an ordinary pairing, but it has worked absolute wonders for Iron Heart. Padmore has introduced now-iconic Iron Heart products like the IH-666 or ‘Devil’s Fit’ Jean, and his oversight of Iron Heart’s international distribution has seen the brand’s sales increase in excess of fifteenfold.
Iron Heart has developed a cult following which comes to life in the Iron Heart Forum, a platform managed by Padmore himself. The Iron Heart forum allows the brand to interact on a personal level with its Western customers as well as provide expert advice on fits, fabrics, and product details. The forum has allowed Iron Heart International to build a real sense of community amongst its customers, many of which resonate with the brand’s motorcycle influences.
Iron Heart was originally made for bikers, and today that focus still guides the direction of Iron Hearts clothing in terms of design and construction. Iron Heart garments are mainly built from heavyweight, artisanal fabrics and designed to be durable and applicable to the biker lifestyle.
The brand pays no attention to fashion trends and instead sticks to timeless pieces that are engineered to last and age gracefully. Iron Heart’s heavyweight denim is known for its fading potential, you only have to check our fades archive to witness how a pair of Iron Heart jeans ages. The heavyweight denim gives rise to deep creasing that creates high contrast fades and patina.
Iron Heart Today
Today, Iron Heart is one of the most recognized Japanese denim brands in the world. With over 40 stockists worldwide and a highly accessible web store/supportive forum, Iron Heart is able to reach a multitude of customers, but it still maintains a devoted cult following that grows each year.
The Works Inc. is based in Japan, with offices in Shibuya, central Tokyo, and Hachioji, Haraki-san’s home town on the outskirts of Tokyo. Giles Padmore and his wife, Paula, run the international business from their hometown of Gosport, UK, which is now managed by their son, Alex, and a small, dedicated team.
Iron Heart doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar stores outside of Japan, but the Iron Heart showroom and studio in Gosport is open to customers who wish to visit and take a closer look at the product. Those who do make the trip to Gosport can enjoy free hemming and 10% off their purchase.
Iron Heart sources its denim from a small, family-run mill in Japan, with fabric weights reaching up to a thigh-bustin’ 25oz. per square yard. Despite the brand’s legendary fade-potential, Iron Heart also produces treated anti-fade denim for those who want to keep their jeans dark and crisp. Aside from denim, Iron Heart is arguably best known for its Ultra Heavy Flannel (UHF) Shirts. Each roll of UHF fabric is woven and dyed at a single location in Niigata, Japan