This season, our Levi’s® Made & Crafted® collection features a “Made in Japan” capsule with pieces constructed from premium Japanese fabrics using time-honored techniques. It includes jeans made with Japanese denim, which is renowned for its superior craftsmanship. As a signifier of uniqueness, the leather patch on the back waistband of these jeans displays a red metallic sun, inspired by the Japanese flag.
While denim is at the core of casual style, over decades it has also evolved into a premium fabric. Today, denim is treated for one-of-a-kind finishes, lifelong durability and quality that only gets better with time. Within this fabrication evolution, Japanese craftsmanship has been key.
The story of Japanese denim goes hand-in-hand with American style. The 1950s saw the popularity of all things Americana and rock and roll in Japan. The Japanese took American style and applied their traditions of intricate craftsmanship and constant refinement of techniques over time.
These techniques include multiple rounds of indigo hand-dyeing to achieve varied hues built into the fabric, and grinding the fabric by hand to create subtle fading and delicate fraying. With this attention to detail and passing down of procedures through generations, we have Japanese denim as we know it now – rich in color with varied characteristics that last and slubbed texture with a substantial, weighty feel.
The history of Japanese denim goes even deeper. Denim manufacturing was introduced to Japan via WWII-era rationing of machinery. Americans sent over their old shuttle looms used to weave cloth. These machines are now considered incredibly rare worldwide, with near-antique status – and they’re still being used in Japan.
Japanese craftspeople largely operated these looms by hand rather than automation and kept adjusting the tension in the machine to achieve a distinct, varied texture on the surface of the fabric. Having refined their use of the loom, the Japanese created a special process that nobody else has quite been able to duplicate.
That’s what we love about using Japanese denim within Levi’s® Made & Crafted® – it takes the construction to an unmatched level of precision and specificity that’s only attainable by artisans trained in Japanese craftsmanship. It’s turned denim into an art, rather than a trade.
Working with Kaihara Mill, a renowned Japanese manufacturer with a number of those prized vintage shuttle looms, we create small-batch styles in limited quantities – in part because the vintage machines used can only produce a certain amount of fabric in a given time. Their selvedge denim is sought after worldwide and we’re proud to feature it in our designs.
Ready to step up your denim? Shop our entire Levi’s® Made & Crafted® collection.