Product Introspection: Social Sculpture Denim



(Left) Early Levi's® Type I jacket (Right) Japanese noragi

The first pair

Denim is one of my passions. You might even say it's what originally sparked my interest in fashion. Even now, denim is one of the most important parts of my wardrobe, and is something I wear, in some shape or form, almost every day.

I came across my first pair of "real" denim jeans when I was a teenager, maybe 14 or 15 years old, right before the huge vintage denim movement began in Japan in the 1980's. By "real" denim, I mean denim that was stronger and sturdier than the mass-produced jeans flooding the markets at the time, denim with a certain character and warmth. I remember going down to a vintage store in Harajuku with my friend, and finding a pair of Levi's® XX jeans. They were quite expensive for me at the time, and it was the first time I ever spent my own money on clothes, but I felt that there was something very different about this pair. The color, the texture...why was it different? I wondered. As vintage jeans became more and more popular in Japan in the 80's, I continued to ponder the same things I had initially wondered on that fateful day in Harajuku. What is the root of this power that attracts me to certain jeans? I wanted to know the reason, and I began to approach the question in different ways to find out.




Vintage denim

American denim was originally used as a fabric for workwear garments like overalls and jeans. A twill-weave textile traditionally made from 100% cotton, denim was considered a comfortable, hard-wearing material suitable for a variety of garment applications. It was different from other twill textiles in that it was composed of one dyed longitudinal thread (the warp) and one white fill thread (the weft). This construction, in addition to making the fabric particularly strong in the warp direction, also contributes to the high-contrast fading and random vertical streaking characteristic of worn-in jeans.

Because denim was made for workwear garments, it was not fancy at all. Modern technology allows for denim to be made from very uniform yarn, but denim from 50, 100 years ago used only rough, uneven cotton yarn. This, of course, was not done intentionally; uneven yarn was the only yarn available at the time, and there was no real need for an extremely uniform yarn for workwear garments in the first place. The use of uneven yarn had the unintended effect of producing one-of-a-kind pants that were all slightly different from one another, a phenomenon that was not reproducible with the uniform yarn used in later denim.

Visually, the most defining characteristic of denim is its deep blue indigo color. Although jeans were born in America, the use of indigo dye was not. Japan and Southeast Asia have deep histories and traditions associated with indigo, and were indigo-dyeing their clothes long before American jeans even existed. Until chemical indigo was invented in Germany around 1880, all of the indigo-colored dye used around the world was made from natural indigo. People from different countries used the indigenous plants that were available in their respective regions, but they were all using natural ingredients to dye utility clothing. When I saw these old samples from Japan and Southeast Asia, I was inspired by the properties of natural indigo dye, and sought to create something with a similar warmth using modern day techniques and dyes.





Vietnamese indigo-dyed coat

Social Sculpture Denim

It's still difficult to put my finger on what attracts me to denim. More than any other fabric, perhaps, denim is just as much about a feeling as it is about objective metrics like fabric weight or tensile strength. Maybe it's because the fabric has meaning. I've always been into utility wear - workwear, military, etc. - because it is designed with a purpose, and is more than just clothing designed for a certain "look".

When I decided to develop my own denim, I knew that it had to have meaning. I am not trying to make 30's-40's workwear reproduction denim. If I tried to imitate those pieces I would never be able to be authentic with myself, because the intangible element that makes those jeans so special is the original intention behind them. This wouldn't be authentic to me, as a creator. For me, authentic means comfortable, durable, and masculine. Of course, vintage denim is part of my personal story, and you'll see that inspiration in our Social Sculpture denim series as well, but all of this was filtered through the lens of our generation to create a modern fit suitable for everyday wear.

I loved the way my vintage jeans faded after months of wear, and I designed our Social Sculpture denim with this in mind. Looking at the fading on my vintage jeans, however, I soon realized that this vision could only be achieved by rethinking what is possible with yarn. A recurring theme for our company is creating from the yarn up, and we have done this with our denim as well. We developed a yarn from scratch by intentionally mixing yarns with different slub lengths, so that the resulting fabric displays both visual and tactile unevenness that becomes more pronounced over time.

Social Sculpture Denim


自分のデニムを開発する時、30、40年代のモノを真似るのではなく、そのモノ自体に意味を持たせなくてはならないと思いました。当時のモノをそのままコピーしたら、それは決してオーセンティックなものにはならない。なぜなら、そのジーンズの魅力は当時の背景がもたらしたものだから。ボクにとってオーセンティックとは、心地よく、丈夫で、力強いということ。もちろん、ビンテージデニムは、ボクの個人的なストーリーの一部でもあるので、Social Sculpture Denimには、そのインスピレーションとなったものが垣間見えるかもしれません。ですが、デニムに限らずこうしたすべてには、日常に適した現代の衣服を作る、ボクら作り手のフィルターがかかっているものです。

ビンテージデニムの色落ちが気に入って、それを思い描きながらSocial Sculpture Denimをデザインしました。色落ちしたデニムを眺めていると、糸から開発しなければ理想のモノにはならないとすぐに気づきました。ボクらのチームで繰り返し掲げられるテーマは「糸からつくる」ということで、それはデニムも同じでした。時間の経過とともに見た目、手触りの不均一さが現れるように、あえて長さの異なる繊維を混ぜて一から糸を作りました。

(Left) SOCIAL SCULPTURE UNWASHED, fabric detail (Right) SOCIAL SCULPTURE UNWASHED (V.F.), fabric detail

Custom buttons and rivets; two-toned stitching

We use a process called rope-dyeing for our denim, where the yarns are twisted and dipped repeatedly in a bath of indigo. The result is a yarn that has a deep blue outer shell and a pure white core, untouched by the dye. It is much easier to throw a bundle of yarn into a vat of indigo and pull it out when everything turns blue, but the resulting yarn will be too soaked through with dye and will not fade well. Rope-dyeing is time consuming and not conducive for mass production, but when the denim is worn it will exhibit beautiful fading.

Social Sculpture denim is also woven solely on selvedge looms, which weave the fabric slower but with greater power than the widely used projectile looms that mass-produce lower quality denim. Aside from the fact that all vintage denim was woven on selvedge mills, denim woven on these looms is tight and dense with an extremely sturdy handfeel. There is also a noticeable amount of unevenness on the surface of the denim, caused by irregularities in the weaving process. Creating denim on these machines is expensive and time consuming, but absolutely necessary to achieve the strongest, best looking denim. It is very special to be able to design denim completely from the yarn up, because every detail is deliberately made exactly to our specifications. The most obvious visual hallmark of denim woven on a selvedge loom is the selvedge outseam, and we have custom-designed this pattern as well.

Like I said, I did not want to simply make reproduction denim. As important as it was for me to learn from vintage denim, it was just as important for the jeans I made to fit a modern lifestyle and wardrobe. This is why our unwashed denim is coated to prevent shrinking, even though not coating it would have been closer to vintage American denim. All of our silhouettes are updated from their vintage forebears and are designed to be worn with modern clothes, with enough variations for most body types and dressing styles.


Social Sculpture Denimは旧式の力織機で織られています。この織り機は大量生産に適した高速織機に比べ、ゆっくりと強く糸を打ち込みながら生地を織っていきます。ビンテージデニムがこうした機械で織られていたという事実は別にして、旧式の力織機で織られるデニムは、高密で強く風合いのよい生地です。織っていく過程が不安定なので、デニムの表面に凹凸感が生まれます。時間もコストもかかるけれど、強く美しいデニムを作るためには必要不可欠なものです。一つ一つの工程で細かな指示をし、デニム生地を作るということは、とても特別なこと。旧式の力織機で織られたデニムのもっともわかりやすい特徴は「耳」ですが、もちろんそれもカスタムでデザインしました。


Natural indigo-dyed deerskin patch

Custom selvedge outseam

It is important to always have a concept. Having a concept and designing a product, versus merely trying to mimic a look will yield vastly different outputs. Everything about our denim is designed exclusively for us: the color, the yarn, the custom rivets, the two-toned stitches, the natural indigo dyed deer skin patch...everything is deliberate, and embodies our "meaning."

When I design, I project myself onto the product and use myself as a reference for my clients. The denim that we produce right now is absolutely the only denim I ever want to wear. It's a manifestation of me staying authentic to my original vision, and also staying true to the needs of my customers. Denim follows your life, it shows your life, it shows your character, and as you wear it more, the more you come to like it. The denim that you come in and pick up from one of our stores...that is just the starting point.

重要なのはコンセプトを持つこと。コンセプトを持ってプロダクトをデザインすることと、見た目を単純にコピーすることとは、まったく異なる結果をもたらします。Social Sculpture Denimのすべてのディテールは、そのためだけにデザインされています。カラー、糸、リベット、ボタン、2色のステッチ糸、本藍染の鹿革パッチ。すべてにはっきりとした目的があり、"意味"を形にしたものです。


(Left) Hiroki Nakamura, 01 SLIM UNWASHED (Center, Right) Eric Clapton, 01 UNWASHED

"I first became aware of Hiroki's work in the year 2000, and was an immediate fan of his footwear, the Twombly is still my favourite shoe....
When he began to make denim, I couldn't believe the quality and the weight, and I am old enough to remember the Levi's® 501's from the fifties and sixties, so I was in a good position to compare, and his were as good if not better....
But I wasn't sure about the original cut, so when he introduced the 01, I was so pleased!....
I have many pairs, and my intention was to wash and wash them, until I got a varied selection of colours and patinas....
It took years to get them right, and I still think natural ageing, through wearing and washing produces the best overall effect....
I have collected vintage denims all of my life, and in my humble opinion these are the best."
- Eric C.

彼が初めてデニムを作った時、そのクオリティと重量感がすごく良くて、ボクは50年代、60年代のLevi's® 501を覚えてるくらいの年寄りだからね、ちゃんと比較できる立場にいるわけだけど、彼のデニムはその頃のデニムと同じくらいに良かったんだ。
- Eric C.

Social Sculpture Denim is available for purchase on our official web store

Purchase Now