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Japanese Denim and the Art of Shibui

By Sarah Yahr Tucker

There is an old Japanese proverb: The indigo dyer always wears white. Which basically means: when you’re busy making incredible stuff for other people, you don’t have much time to promote yourself. Deep. This is why you’ve probably never heard of the Kaihara textile mill. No self-promotion necessary.

In the far east of Hiroshima, up twisting mountain roads, overlooking the inland sea, is the factory that produces some of the highest-quality denim in the world. We are semi-obsessed with Japanese fabrics, and they have helped inspire many of our past and present collections. So for the LAD Studio, our first line of exclusive styles, produced in extremely limited quantities to ensure utmost quality, we went straight to the source – artisanal Japanese fabrics dyed with rich, deep, natural indigo. At Kaihara, they are indigo masters with dying traditions from the Fukuyama region that go back to the 19th century.

Natural indigo is like the bluest blue on the planet, extracted from the Japanese ai plant for the last 1,500 years or so through the occult art of aizome. These days, only a handful of Japanese farmers still produce it the traditional way, drying and fermenting the indigo leaves with ingredients like wheat bran, wood ash, lime, and sake in a temperamental process that takes months to reach perfection. How can you tell if the dye is ready? Dip your finger in and taste it! Indigo-dyed fabrics actually repel insects and bacteria, so the ancient samurai wore them to fend off mosquitoes and heal injuries. (#warriorproblems)

Kaihara began producing indigo-dyed fabrics in 1893, and in the 1970’s started using those traditional techniques to make denim. Denim with depth and character. Denim that shows the care and skill poured into every thread. So, we chose them to manufacture the fabric for our LAD Studio Denim Jacket.

But wait. Denim? Aren’t we all about life after denim? Actually, we have never been anti-denim in our everyday wear. In fact, our original goal was to produce shirts and pants that would complement the denim every guy has in his wardrobe. We know. You’re shocked. But we like denim too! And so for our first denim creation, we went for something we all know and love – a classic jacket that goes with pretty much everything in your closet.

Premium denim is the most personal clothing you will ever own. Pure cotton and indigo gradually molding and fading around your body (and the phone in your left pocket) into one-of-a-kind comfort. It has no season and no gender. And when crafted as an art form, like they do at Kaihara, it’s completely timeless. Denim was the perfect choice for the LAD Studio capsule collection, because that’s what all of these styles are about. Classic, essential pieces that you can wear forever. Like Kaihara, we’re merging the old and the new into something you can’t quite define. But the Japanese call it shibui – old school cool.

Shop the LAD Studio collection now.


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