The Saturday’s almost done with. Instead of working the whole day I actually got out a bit and attended a certain social event. There’s nothing like mingling the whole Saturday. Interesting people, interesting event. Good fun. Back to business. I actually started working early on the site’s updates and now for those interested, there’s a whole lot of information about Momotaro Jeans’ history, concept and making on our site. But just to be fair and in order to have closure on “the concept” series, I will throw one more blog post, this time about Momotaro himself and the making of.
Momotaro’s story is one of the five major stories in the Japanese folklore. Loved by people of all ages it has been passed down from generation to generation. Generally it is thought that the roots of the story spark the fires of imagination linking it to U-ra’s Legend, which is also a myth around the Kibi area in Okayama – the area which has always been shrouded in mysteries.
In the present version of the story, Momotaro is delivered from a great peach that drifted down the river to be the son of an elderly couple. In the older version before the early Meiji period (1868 – 1912), Momotaro’s story used to be a story of rejuvenation. It tells the tale of an elderly couple who ate a giant peach they found and were rejuvenated regaining their youth. Their youthful vigor resulted in a baby boy, whom they named Momotaro.
The story of dreams
The rejuvenation version the story of Momotaro was created to express the dreams and the vitality of the small island. This was a folk tale not only for children. Momotaro Jeans is also a story of dreamers who have been standing fast with their dream of spreading genuine jeans from Okayama to the world.
Zimbabwean cotton is recognized as one of the highest quality cotton types in the world. It has also been evaluated as the best cotton type for high quality dress shirts.
Harvested from crops by hand, the raw cotton stays undamaged and free from impurities until the actual manufacturing process. For that reason, Zimbabwean cotton has many characteristics provided by its well-proportioned fiber structure, such as the high luster and whitening, in addition to good pliability and dyeing abilities. For a great pair of jeans, nothing less than a long staple and less jointed original cotton fiber can be used.
Quality cotton is not only used to achieve smooth fits, but it also provides better durability than cheap and hard cotton. Also, using quality cotton creates a naturally well proportioned slub yarn which can influence the vertical fade, or Tateochi, which adds to the charm of the jeans.
Momotaro Jeans took notice of this and chose 100% original Zimbabwe cotton to make their jeans, pioneering its use. This high class cotton has been the foundation for the worldwide recognition of the quality Japanese denim is known for.
Hand dyed natural indigo
The process of natural indigo dyeing prospered at the end of the Edo period. At that time, real indigo or Awa-Syou-Ai was called Syou-Ai due to its high quality and rarity. Later on, synthetic indigo dyeing was invented so that larger amounts of jeans could be dyed simultaneously lowering the costs. Due to the lack of successors, the more time consuming process of using natural indigo products has been gradually decreasing.
Nevertheless, Momotaro Jeans still continues using the traditional technique in their quest of achieving the original Japanese blue indigo. The natural indigo dyeing material is extracted from pre-hardened indigo plants, called Sukumo, which are then liquefied by adding lime water. The indigo is then dyed by the artisans, controlling the condition of the dye by adding sugar or Sake to help the fermentation process.
In the United States jeans were machine dyed using synthetic indigo. This method dyes merely the yarn’s surface, leaving the core of the yarn white. As a result, the indigo will fade from the fabric’s surface creating the vertical fade of vintage jeans. In the hand dyeing method, the fabric is repetitively dipped into the indigo vat; the coloring is squeezed out and the material dried until the whole process is repeated. This repetition is why the yarn becomes thoroughly dyed to the core. Consequently, the color fades less and delivers a deeper indigo blue.
Since its discovery, synthetic indigo has become the more commonly used dyeing material rather than natural indigo. In the process, a group of un-dyed yarn are twisted together and dyed as a single unit called a rope. The characteristic of rope dyed yarn is that only the surface of the yarn is dyed, the core of the yarn still remains un-dyed and it delivers the Tateochi style vertical fade similar to American vintage denim.
However, there are only few facilities in Japan which are able to produce the indigo rope dye which is an indispensable element of making denim. The indigo dyeing material which is said to be alive has an unstable character and has provided only a limited number of colors for the dyeing process. This makes the process require advanced equipment and plenty of experience in order to deliver a satisfactory color depth with a consistent color shade. Consequently, this has lead to the color of most of jeans makers to remain similar to one another.
A manufacturer of denim fabric, Rampuya & Co., created the original color for Momotaro Jeans. Rampuya & Co. has been gathering information on the dye, as well as developing new material while staying true to the original dyeing process.
Hand woven denim
The production of only one superior pair of natural indigo dyed, hand woven jeans takes at least three months to reach its final state. Tsuru no koubou, which was opened in 2002, owns an original hand weaving machine of which only few exist in the world. Hand woven denim takes almost eight hours of work per day just to produce one meter (3.28 ft.) of denim. This results in it taking at least three days to finish the denim for one pair of jeans.
The tension of the yarn on the looms differs on rainy and sunny days. It is also different depending on the season, for example, a hot summer and a cold winter. In such conditions weaving a yarn into heavy ounce denim requires the right rhythm. Denim fabrics weaved at a uniform rhythm with a hand loom, compared to those weaved by power looms and without such a technique, maintain a diagonal and loose density with a clear uneven surface, resulting in incomparable character.
Seldvedge (selvage) is an essential element of vintage denim. It functions as proof of the fabric being only weaved by the vintage looms called shuttle looms. Shuttle looms were invented in England in 1785 and later developed in Japan by Sakichi Toyoda, father of Toyota Motor Corporation founder, in 1897. When domestic heavy ounce denim was produced in Japan, automatic looms made by Mr Toyoda were a mainstream product, though no longer produced nowadays. The traditional production method has nearly disappeared due to the mass production of denim following the popularization of latest shuttle looms.
Denim fabrics for Momotaro Jeans are mainly made by shuttle looms. In order to weave heavy ounce denim with a rough feel, lowest possible tension and without losing any of the cotton’s original characteristics, a careful selection of power looms and a slow weaving technique are required to create genuine denim.
Momotaro Jeans pays strict attention to working on every part of the process such as the right choice of cotton, shape of slub yarn, dyeing, and weaving. This is why Momotaro Jeans delivers perfect fit and brilliant fading.
For original jeans made from genuine denim, a special vintage sewing machine is indispensable.
In the early stages of the domestic jeans production in Japan, American production equipment, such as the Union Special Sewing Machines, were imported. By the late 1970s the imported machinery had replaced the local mass production equipment. The domestic sewing machines had a different structure from the vintage sewing machines, creating differences in the skew or buckering around the chain stitched part of the jeans. In order to provide this vintage skew and buckering, Momotaro Jeans has gathered the remaining Union Specials in Japan.
That’s all for now. I’m gonna leave you with few final words. A quote I heard today, which I somehow liked very much. If one day someone is doubting whether you can man up, you can use the following words. “I shave, sir. I have a driver’s license. I’ve won a couple of fistfights. I saved a life. I’ve lain with a woman. I’ve been hustled, defied my father’s wishes, broken hears and been heartbroken. So by all the markers of this society, I am a grown man.”
Be easy everyone. I’m out, peace!