Monday, November 03, 2008
Ooe Yofukuten & Co.
Since coming to Tokyo, I actually haven't bought more than one pair of jeans. There are a few different reasons for this, but the biggest one is Ooe Yofukuten & Co. I bought a pair of their AG1101XX jeans and am now participating in their first aging contest and could not be more satisfied with my current denim situation.
Here's my pair of AG1101XX;
Delivered in this box and came with a chart specifically for this contest.
You can order these from Ooe Yofukuten & Co. free of charge, I think.
Tag inside left backpocket.
Contestant No. 13 /20; Black selvedge.
The AG1101XX is a 1947-1951 501XX replica and fits pretty much exactly the same as the LVC version and is sized the same--it starts out at tagged size and shrinks 2".
The denim is 13.5oz and has quite a lot of excess fibres, making it look 'hairy', just like it should. It's not very starchy after the initial wash that I gave my jeans before wearing them and it stretches quite easily.
The texture reminds me a lot of the Warehouse 1000XX denim, but it is a tad darker in color.
This model is very barebones and simple, but the character comes after the wearing process, and I expect the jeans to look a lot like the ~50s worn-in Levi's I've seen in shops in Tokyo.
If you're interested in acquiring a pair, you can't, but you can instead get the same model with slightly different denim and details at the Ooe webshop. You can get the sanforized or the unsanforized flavor.
Ooe Yofukuten & Co. is one of my most pleasant findings here in Japan and perhaps also the biggest surprise because of their background.
The brand consists of Ryo and Hiro who started making jeans only after meeting eachother. They did however start out a long way from this business.
When they met, Ryo was working for his father's construction company and Hiro was a programmer.
Hiro had no interest whatsoever in vintage jeans, but Ryo had a huge interest since childhood and went through highschool with empty pockets, because he was always saving up for vintage jeans. His grandfather had been a tailor and an inspiration for Ryo. Ooe Yofukuten & Co. was the name of his shop and is now used as a tribute to him and means 'Ooe Clothes Shop', where 'Ooe' is the surname of Ryo and now also Hiro, as they are a married couple.
After they met, Hiro also started working for Ryo's father's company. After a while, though, Ryo's passionate talk about jeans started to get to Hiro.
But how would they make the jeans? They had no way of obtaining the machinery and materials required, so they started out with just a simple all-purpose sewing machine.
They had no skills in sewing nor patternmaking before this, but as time passed, they got better and got to know people who helped them get a hold of machinery and fabric.
Today, their craftsmanship and quality of materials and machinery is second to none.
The couple researches their new products by buying vintage pieces or looking through turn-of-the-century catalogs, from which Ryo makes patterns, using which Hiro sews the garments. The result is then promptly shown on their blog and sometimes they also display their pieces at fleamarkets.
Ooe Yofukuten & Co. is still such a small operation that all garments are sewn by Hiro.
Ooe is not represented in any store, only sold on their website with their enthusiastic blog as the only advertisement. They are residing in the small city of Aichi on the Japanese countryside, where they have an atelier and 'updated' machinery that today consists of seven different Union Special sewing machines.
In my opinion, Ooe Yofukuten & Co.'s product is on the same level as that of Warehouse. In some ways it's actually better, because I prefer their early reproductions to Warehouse's.
1902 Double Knee Overalls
1850 Logger's overalls
The denim they use is always strictly authentic in its look. Many other brands choose to use more innovative fabrics, like heavier or more slubby ones, and it is merely a matter of choice which you prefer, but I do know which is my favourite nowdays.
I think the most vintage-looking denim comes from Levi's Vintage Clothing, Warehouse, Ooe Yofukuten & Co. and Fullcount, and by that I mean specifically their standard 13.76oz denim.
Two weekends ago I went to Lightning magazine's denim festival in Odaiba. There I met Takashi of Denim Gallery, Ryu of Let go as you like and the owners of e-denim and Jeans Pavilion, and many of their friends.
Amongst this group of people, the only brands worn were Warehouse, Levi's Vintage Clothing Japan, Edwin-made Lee Originals and Ooe Yofukuten & Co. I think this is a testament of how great their product is, not only in terms of quality but also in authenticity and spirit.
After the festival, I left for Harajuku where I met Ryo and Hiro who were visiting Tokyo for the first time in 15 years. We went to various vintage shops for inspiration. I was very proud that I got to meet them on their first trip to Tokyo in such a long time.
They told me about their background, their philosophy and their ambitions and of that I have told above. Most of all, we just had a good time together.
If Ooe caught your interest, please visit their wonderful blog and look at other products at their official website.