Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kato in Sweden

For some, 2008 is the year of the rat. For us Swedes, it's the year of Japanese denim.

SOLO has already been selling Sugarcane jeans for some time, just recently got Studio D'Artisan and for next year they're bringing in Kato.

I've been curious about Kato for quite some time and after meeting Neil at SOLO I like it a lot. Unfortunately I will not be able to convey the Kato concept to you as well as Neil could, but I hope that you will still get some feeling of the brand.

Kato is not your average amekaji or work wear brand but is strongly influenced by both of these styles. You could say that Kato is more of a casual brand.
This might sound funny because nothing can be more dressed down than work wear, but what I mean is that it's easier to wear than straight reproductions because of its updated cuts.
I would describe Kato as a, design-wise, cross between a reproductional brand and Levi's Engineered - curved arms and legs, loose, comfy cuts and distinctly different pocketshapes.
The patterns are actually updated yearly according to customers' requirements and likings.

Quality-wise Kato is every bit as good as the more traditional brands. One thing that you should note, though, is that the denim used is not ring dyed/rope dyed but hank dyed, meaning the threads of the denim are dyed to the core and take much longer to fade.

Attention to detail is very high and the threads used to sew the garments are usually of the same material as the cloth of the garment. For example, the thread used to sew the jeans is made from the same Zimbabwe cotton as the denim.
This means that you will get a similar ageing on the seams as on the denim. Polyester thread, that does not shrink much nor fade, would not look good matched with worn-in, unsanforized denim. It would be a clash of modern and old.

One of the most interesting things is that almost all colors used to color Kato's fabrics come from nature. This because they simply found that these colors yielded the best results and not because of some environmentalist fad.

Buttons, buttonholes and probably a whole lot of other things that I'm forgetting are handsewn.
I feel that there is a lot of thought and spirit put into these garments and some of them make me a little.. happy.

Neil J. Christopher of Kato. Passionate, to say the least.

Logg-dyed chinos. The bark from a tree is left in a pot for 18-24 months to ferment and then used to make the dye for these pants. The outer and inner bark give different colors.

"We want the inside of our garments to be as beautiful as the outside."(mis-quoted, but something along these lines.)

At the red dots, the core of the thread is dyed with indigo and then topped with red. It will fade to give off a slight hint of indigo.

Rivets are set by hand and covered with a citric acid, so as not to bother your skin(?).

Workpants inspired by those used in 1930's Japan. I think those were in turn inspired by Brittish or American workwear.

Jacket cut shorter in the back, pants higher. They make a great couple.

Freddie trying on another Kato jacket. I didn't get a picture of it, but the corduroy that's on the inside of the collar is dyed with the color from a plum husk.

These seams are actually singlestitched.


The tags are attached to the garments with a certain type of chainstitch that is used in rice bags. It will unravel if you pull the loose ends.

Comparing Kato denim to.. something else.

Checked and striped herringbone.. ooh.

Slightly faded Kato jeans. Stubborn.

The showing wasn't centered around jeans so I don't have much to say about them, unfortunately.
Instead I offer you snaps from the Kato booklet to try and make up for it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Audience with the King

A while ago I got the opportunity and pleasure to meet one of the founders of Acne (Action) Jeans, Jonny Johansson.

For those who aren't educated on Swedish denim history, I can tell that Acne's entrance into the clothing industry in 1997 and what gave them recognition was their first blue jeans with red seams and the flame tag on the backpocket.

They were originally made in only 100 pairs as a promotion for the Acne that was then mainly an advertising agency but when the jeans became popular, another branch of Acne was created and more jeans were made.

I have a pair of Acne jeans with red seams as well as a denim jacket with the same details.
Jonny helped me date them and as it turns out, they're both from 1998-1999! That means they're from the first or second rerun of this model but not from the first hundred pairs.

Jonny with my jeans and jacket.

I like these jeans not only because of their history and their significance but also because the denim is very nice. It's quite heavy at 14 ounce per square yard and has a slightly different blue hue, a little black-ish. It's the denim I like the best from Acne.

The story about when I found the jacket is quite funny. First I was talking to someone about how great the first Acne jeans were and right after that I went to an unsorted second hand store. I was very uninspired but decided to take a quick look anyway since I was nearby, and one of the first things I saw was this jacket!
When I rode the subway after making this great find, I sat next to someone with a pair of the same jeans and they had really taken on the dirty look that was discussed in the comments here.

The denim was produced by an Irish mill that went bankrupt not long after the first Acne jeans were made.

The jacket is like a skinny Levi's type 3 jacket.

If you too are a fan of these jeans you'll be happy to hear that Acne is producing them again for their tenth anniversary. The anniversary collection will contain the 'best' or most iconic garments that Acne has made in the ten years since 1997.
I truly hope that the denim will be like on the originals.

Discuss Acne jeans at ringxring.