Jan 6, 2011

The History & Success of Japanese Denim: Momotaro Jeans

Made with Japan recently paid a visit to the headquarters of Japan Blue Group, the makers and parent company of Momotaro Jeans. Located in Kojima, a small town in Okayama considered to be the mecca of Japanese denim, the company is now recognized internationally for creating high-quality denim and occasionally going over-the-top. Offered below is an interview with Masahiro Suwaki, the Vice President of Japan Blue Group and the mastermind behind Momotaro Jeans. The interview in its entirety is available here.

So, will you tell us a little about the history and background of your company and Momotaro Jeans?

Well, we started with jeans in Japan. Our company’s foundation is in textile manufacturing. Our textiles have reached different parts of the globe now. For example, in America we sell our denim to Ralph Lauren and many other companies that seek high quality.

I saw a section called Rampuya (Ranpuya) on your website. Can you tell me what that’s all about?

Rampuya (Ranpuya) is a company we dedicated solely to high quality Aizome, Japanese indigo dying. Our other company called Collect manufactures and sells textiles. And with those two companies combined creates Japan Blue Group. But we started just as Collect.

So it appears you still sell to brands all over the world. How did you start selling to companies overseas?

U–m. As you probably know, there was a huge trend for premium jeans around the world right? So we were the first to create the premium denim material. We were creating the fabric and selling it to luxury brands overseas, for example Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and other companies started buying from us. We were actually surprised in the beginning! After that, the vintage boom in Japan helped our company take off further. (The vintage boom in Japan started with people paying hefty prices for real American vintage Levi’s, Lee’s, and Wrangler but gradually evolved into a style where brands began to recreate vintage styles in premium denim material)

Wow, that is amazing.

However, there are many business-focused companies in Japan that are geared towards copying textile designs and lowering costs. It was difficult to compete only with our artisan dyed and crafted denim so we split the company into two. Collect became dedicated for purely denim manufacturing. And Rampuya was created to allow us to continue the artisan methods and sell to only people that understand or really care.

What was your drive to start the Momotaro Jeans denim brand?

It is disappointing, but the population of people who truly understand denim are on the decline in Japan. This I feel is especially true for people who like fashion than the “average” person. When we thought about how we can get high-quality denim in their hands, we figured the best way would be to create our own brand and sell to them directly.

Does that mean the concept for Momotaro Jeans is simply high-quality denim?

That’s exactly correct. We do care about design, but that isn’t our main focus. We simply would like more people to wear and udnerstand high-quality denim.

I was in Tokyo before coming to Okayama and I met a few people in the fashion industry. I can only speak for the people I met, but they seemed to respect Momotaro Jeans so I think your concept is reaching the minds of people who like fashion.

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