Sometimes in the denim world it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees (or the denim for the jeans?) due to the proliferation of denim brands in the last decade, especially when it comes to our beloved selvedge. Every new brand claims to offer the best denim which is handcrafted, using organic components, produced in small numbers…etc. Yeah, you get the picture.
With this in mind, what factors can really set a brand apart? What makes a newer denim brand distinct? Well, it’s a combination of different elements of course, but for me, it comes down to authenticity, transparency, and something which is ‘a little different’. In essence, doing something, doing it well, being honest about how it’s being done and just maybe the odd ‘tweak’ here or there to give a garment a uniqueness. Alone, these factors are admirable and worthy, but combined? That’s when we’re cooking on gas.
Pallet Life Story is one of those upcoming brands which fits the above criteria. Hailing from Okayama, the brand’s founder Yoshi Hasuoka literally grew up around denim and sewing machines. And while Pallet Life Story clearly pays homage to the age old magic of Japanese denim production, this is a brand which is clearly looking forward.
The concept of the brand is “coloring the story” as Yoshi calls it—creating a new ‘color’ by spinning a story. Kind of like adding another thread to the story of Japanese denim, if you will. Speaking with Yoshi, you realize there is an inherently human element to the brand; it’s natural, it’s organic. Perhaps it’s the way Yoshi tells the tale, but I’m convinced it’s something more embedded within the fabric of the garments. Read on to learn more about the brand and a selection of key products.
Heddels (H) : Please start by introducing yourself—tell us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do for a living?
Yoshi Hasuoka (YH): My name is Yoshi Hasuoka from Pallet Life Story. I was born and raised in Kojima Okayama with noisy sewing machine sounds from the neighbors. Kojima is well known as the mecca of Japanese jeans production which faces the peaceful ocean.
H: Where did you grow up and spend your formative years? Have you always lived in Japan?
YH: After spending my younger years in Kojima, I went to university in the US and traveled around the world during my early 20s.
H: Have you always been interested in clothes? And did you study / train in fashion or menswear?
YH: Well…I remember that I got my first pair of jeans when I was 10. A very close neighbor who had a sewing factory made them for me, because I had been asking so many times! The pair of jeans were unsanforized, so I felt the jeans shrink a lot! This is my good memory…
Of course I loved fashion and wanted to wear something different from my friend and when I was 23 I jumped into the jeans business (sewing / manufacture) without studying fashion at school.
H: What made you establish your brand, Pallet Life Story?
YH: I’d been working with lots of cool fashion brands as a manufacturer, learning a lot from them and gaining knowledge and experience. I was very fortunate in this respect. Of course it was fun and really attractive work but at the same time I felt that I wanted to show the best products that I could design, to good retailers and consumers.
H: Could you talk us through the approach / philosophy of the brand?
YH: Pallet Life Story crafts garments with deep rooted manufacturing traditions in our home town and we are committed to weave a new concept of colors into our products.
H: What inspires Pallet Life Story? There is clearly a focus on vintage workwear and denim, but with a contemporary twist?
YH: We of course love vintage and respect it. But I feel a bit weird to directly copy tor reproduce items which are exactly the same as vintage. We live in the present and we want to create the details by imagining contemporary and futuristic lives.
H: Each piece of the collection is made in Okayama, is that right? How important is the production process for you?
YH: Yes, everything is made at our factory and my friends’ factories in Okayama. We concentrate on making beautiful products through a heart felt and human process.
H: There is a strong focus on denim with Pallet Life Story. How did you decide on your denim offering and how it might be distinct within the Japanese denim market?
YH: We love jeans and denim fabric—as we’re based in Kojima we felt it was necessary to make the best simple and timeless jeans to begin with. Although you will see lots of other products and not only a focus on jeans in future!
H: It seems like you are very inspired by travel and culture, how does this feed into your work and the offering of the brand?
YH: Well it’s difficult to explain. As a brand, I have to show the things that I’m inspired by; food, buildings, construction styles, home, art, smell…we’re always looking for interesting things whether we’re visiting tradeshows, meeting friends or working with clients.
H: How many stores currently offer Pallet Life Story and how do you approach adding new stores to your distribution?
YH: About 40 stores right now. Our brand can work in a wide range of stores, but I always care about the personality of the store and staff. If I can make a good relationship from this, we can probably work together!
H: What future plans do you have for the brand?
YH: We feel we’re growing up, little by little, and our products are reaching a better level season after season. Fortunately Japanese jeans have also got great support from really cool retailers across the world. I would like to keep building closer relationships with them and maybe have a trunk show at each store to share our experiences.
Indigo Sashiko Pullover Jacket
Undoubtedly inspired by vintage sailors jumpers and early workwear garments, there is something strikingly fresh and new with the Indigo Sashiko Pullover Jacket. Made from a 100% cotton woven sashiko fabric, thick threads are woven directly into the fabric as a nod to the ancient art of sashiko mending. Providing serious durability and robustness, the jacket features side gussets with zippers, leather pull ties at the throat and is of course, indigo dyed. The real show stopper here will be the fade potential after a few washes and wears.
Available for $315 at Clutch Cafe.
Raw Five Pocket Denim – Narrow
The Raw Five Pocket Denim from Pallet Life Story is a contemporary slimmer fit with a slightly higher rise and taper below the knee. Dyed, woven, cut and sewn in Kojima, this model is a core offering from the brand and reimagines the classic five pocket jean for the modern day. Made from a 15oz. unsanforized denim.
Available for $228 at Meadow.
Multiple Coat – Patchwork
Definitely one of the more unique and eye catching offerings of the brand, the Multiple Coat in Patchwork employs a textbook work jacket structure with a very contemporary twist. Mixing fabrics and texture, the Multiple Coat is made from corduroy, flannel and twill.
You can’t help but feel that this mashup of fabrics acts as a reference to the practice of boro and vintage patchwork textiles, all the while being firmly ‘on trend’ for today’s city streets.
Available for $475 at Hansen.
Denim Painter Jacket – One Wash
Another core offering of the Pallet Life Story, the Denim Painter Jacket is a reimagined classic workwear staple. With a total of eight pockets, it’s got ample storage space for your iPhone, wallet, car keys and all important snacks.
Coming in a one wash, the jacket is made from a heavy weight cotton which will show more character as it ages. With subtle detailing throughout like the covered chest buttons and unique paint splattered leather patch at the neck, this is a classic made for the contemporary. Perhaps the clearest example of the brand’s motto of creating a new color by spinning a story.
Available for $359 at Second Sunrise.