ISSUE

5 Pocket Denim Pants

GUEST

Kenichi & Koji Shiotani

from WAREHOUSE

2019.12.13

PHILOSOPHY OF BEAMS PLUS

VOL.13

Find out little-known yet interesting facts about clothing through the words of discerning designers who have been creating
essential masterpieces for BEAMS PLUS collections.
The crucial new philosophy of BEAMS PLUS,
“Updating timeless classics for the future,” cannot be achieved without their wealth of knowledge.

vol.13

Left: Kenichi Shiotani Right: Koji Shiotani
(Designers of WAREHOUSE)
Kenichi and Koji Shiotani are twin brothers born in 1973. After working together for EVISU JEANS, they established their own brand WAREHOUSE in 1995 when being as young as 21. They soon distinguished themselves in the industry by creating faithful reproductions of vintage five-pocket jeans with a concept of ‘The never-ending pursuit of detailing.’ Since the launch, their brand has been offering jeans and other types of clothes based on the idea of good old American casual styles. Although the brand is about to mark its 25th anniversary, their sincere attitude toward exploring the history and details of clothes, including types of cotton, threads, fabric and sewing methods, hasn’t changed from the very beginning, receiving high praise not only from Japan, but also from the U.S., the birthplace of jeans, and other overseas countries.

Jeans have been playing a key
role as casual clothes,
while continuously changing
the silhouette according to the times.

The golden age of the U.S. is
the golden age of jeans.
Models made in
the period determined the standard.

Kenichi: The main theme of BEAMS PLUS is ‘America, during the period from 1945 to 1965.’ And that is the golden age of the country. Jeans also enjoyed its heyday in the two decades during the nearly 150 years of history.

Koji: For example, Levi’s produced the 501XX jeans, a model now regarded as the king of vintage jeans, during the period, while Lee introduced the Lazy S back pocket stitching instead of the previous arcuate stitching. It was also the time when the brand updated the design of the leather patch to the current version and attached red tags on their signature 101 jeans. Wrangler released their famous 11MWZ shortly after their brand debut in 1947. And, after the name of their mother company, the Blue Bell, was removed from the brand’s patches in 1965, they started to mass-produce their products.

Kenichi: Just looking back the history of three major jeans brands, we can see that the period between 1945 and 1965 was the most brilliant time for the denim industry. Around that time, each brand completed its signature model that still attract today’s vintage fans. It’s the time when the standard of jeans was determined.

Koji: Jeans became a part of everyday clothes after World War 2, though the garment was considered as workwear before then. In the 1950s, it began to be regarded as a fashionable item for youth thanks to style icons of that time such as Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley. After Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn showed their cute looks with jeans in the 1960s, the garment immediately became popular also among women.

Kenichi: Since then, jeans have been playing a key role as casual clothes, while continuously changing the silhouette and coloration in accordance with trends. It’s been universally loved by people regardless of age and gender and firmly embedded in our culture. It’s quite rare for clothes.

We’ve never forgotten the feeling
we had
when wearing
our first vintage pair of jeans.

Koji: We began to wear jeans as a part of fashion during junior high school years. It was the 1980s, and our first pair was used 501 jeans without selvages.

Kenichi: Around that time, we frequented Lapine, a vintage clothing store in Osaka. Mr. Hidehiko Yamane worked at the store before establishing EVISU JEANS. We first learned about vintage jeans from him. He taught us the basic knowledge, including some facts that old jeans have selvages and they can be twisted after being washed. We didn’t know why but things like that intrigued us a lot.

Koji: We got our first Levi’s 501 with selvages shortly after that, and were amazed by how comfortable they were soon after wearing them. The fit, the size and position of pockets, the faded color, everything was different from the 501 jeans we had known before. We’ve never forgotten the feeling we had at that moment. It was the time we fell in love with vintage clothes, and we still love it so much.

They own a number of vintage jeans as references
for their design projects.

Kenichi: During the period we worked at EVISU JEANS, we wore jeans from Lapine’s own brand, RODEO UNCLE, along with old Levi’s 501 and other vintage ones. And, since the launch of WAREHOUSE, we’ve been wearing our own jeans. So, the denim brands we’ve ever tried are not quite varied.

Koji: There are so many different types of jeans in the world because the garment is a universal fashion item. Everyone has their own favorite. Our specialty is vintage or crafted jeans, so we hesitate to state our opinion on other types of jeans since we don’t have adequate knowledge about it. As designers, however, we do have our own philosophy on how jeans should be made.

It’s sad to know that there are people
who feel as if they know vintage jeans
just by wearing something
similar in appearance.

Kenichi: First of all, our jeans have to be made with ring-spun yarn. Cheap, mass-produced jeans are mostly made with yarns produced with open-end spinning, a technology for creating yarn by pumping and entwining it with the power of air. Although open-end spinning is highly productive and low cost, fabric made with the technology is not so strong. Once it stretches out, it cannot recover. On the other hand, ring-spun yarn is firmly twined and the fabric made with the yarn becomes crisp and stretchy again after wash.

Koji: As far as I know, open-end spinning was already used in the 1930s to manufacture mainly underwear. People of the time didn’t use it to make jeans because the fabric is not strong enough. I think they even didn’t think about it. While researching, however, I found out that most of jeans were made with open-end denim fabric in the U.S. in the 1980s, and that spoiled the texture and color fading process so much. We’ve heard the same story from people working for an established fabric manufacturer in the country. We actually remember that U.S. jeans made around that time didn’t have vertical fade lines unlike older pairs.

Left: A 1951 book on America’s cotton spinning and weaving technologies and machines.
Right: Vintage thread samples from the U.S.

Kenichi: If you want to create beautiful vertical fade lines on your jeans, you must use slub yarn and true indigo dye. Some manufacturers allegedly mix other types of dyes to create vintage-like colors.

Koji: Regarding dying methods, it must be rope dyeing that allows indigo not to fully penetrate fibers. We also stick to using a shuttle weaving loom machine as it can make the most of the advantages of slub yarn and produce selvage denim fabric. Although modern, innovative weaving machines are much more efficient and can produce various types of fabric at higher speed, they impair the quality of slub yarn by stretching the fibers too hard.

Kenichi: And we must use different sewing machine depending on which part of jeans we’re sewing. For example, Singer’s machines are used only to sew buttonholes. We even sew our jeans with now-defunct machines from Union Special. And all the seam allowances of our jeans have to be measured in inches. The list of our rules on jeans making goes on and on.

Koji: All the cotton fabrics we use are made of American cotton. From details such as buttons, zippers and rivets to finishing to washing, we have our own specific regulations in every aspect of jeans making. That is the answer we got after 25 years of pursuit for the original form of jeans.

Kenichi: So many stores and brands currently produce cheap jeans made with selvage denim fabric. People like to think that all the selvage jeans have equal quality as vintage ones, but the two are totally different. It’s sad and pity to know that there are people who feel as if they know vintage jeans just by wearing something similar in appearance.

Once people wear an authentic
pair of jeans,
they may realize the true
charm of the garment and love it.

Koji: Jeans in our new ‘Sekohan’ collection are designed under a theme of ‘Vintage jeans worn out by someone’ and gets a favorable reception. LOT1105 is one of the models in the collection and sold at BEAMS PLUS. The design is inspired by jeans made in the 1960s and it was the time when washing and drying machines became popular in the U.S. Just like the jeans of the time, our 29-inch model has slightly shorter legs so that the wearer doesn’t have to get it hemmed. We use fabric completely shrunk after repeated washings to recreate the ideal state of vintage jeans with tasteful texture added over time.

Kenichi: Because we stick to the manufacturing methods used in the golden era of jeans and avoid adding shrink-proof processing, each piece looks different in its details including fading and creases. Though they are newly made products, the quality is almost same as a well-worn deadstock pair. Each piece has a unique appearance just like jeans at a vintage clothing store. It becomes even more comfortable and unique as you keep wearing it over time. If you could make your pair one and only, you’ll love your pair even more.

Koji: It’s often said that jeans have not been sold well recently. This unfortunate situation may be inevitable, because that’s how fashion goes. In my arrogant opinion, however, there are too few jeans that capture our attentions these days. If you search for jeans on major online shopping malls, a number of results come up. But you can hardly find something authentic in it. I guess classic-style brands like WAREHOUSE are rather a minority in the current industry.

Kenichi: Having said that, our brand has been running well. We’ve also heard that the sales of jeans at BEAMS PLUS stores are stronger than ever. What we’ve been doing is just to make authentic jeans, while conducting intensive research with unwavering faith, and people with good tastes can understand our sincere effort in the details. We do take pride in it.

Koji: Once people wear an authentic pair of jeans, they may realize or rediscover the true charm of the garment. I think more and more people will love to wear jeans through the experience, just like us who have been steeped in it since the first time we wore vintage jeans.

BACK NUMBER
ENJP
PHILOSOPHY OF BEAMS PLUS

volume.13