How much would you pay for a pair of jeans that someone's worn for a year to give them that broken in look, unique to the way that individual wears them? One Japanese company is heading a campaign to do just that. And they're hoping it will revive its local economy.
This temple in Onomichi City in Hiroshima prefecture was built more than 600 years ago. Its chief priest is wearing not traditional robes, but denims. And the chef at this sushi restaurant famous for using locally caught fresh fish is also wearing jeans. The priest and the chef are part of the Onomichi Denim Project now underway in this western city. The organizers are asking people of all ages and from all walks of life to wear their denims for a year. Participants include carpenters, doctors and ship builders. The goal of the project is to make bonafide used denims.
Its leader is Yukinobu Danjo. His family runs a generations old sewing business in Onomichi. They once owned several plants, but cheap imports have forced them to scale down their operations over the past decade.
I grew up here and I'm a part of Japan's manufacturing industry. I don't want to abandon it.
Danjo wanted to create special denim clothes that would help revitalize the local textile sector. This thought prompted him to get creative with people in and around Onomichi. He asked for help from a renowned local denim designer. They decided to create a special kind of vintage denim through techniques used up to the 1960s. The thread was died at this 120 year old firm. Only the outer part of the thread was dyed. So the core remained white. The technique creates beautiful shades of color and patterns when the fabric is rubbed.
The different movements each person makes while wearing the jeans create unique patterns. After being worn many times, the denims don't just become old or used. They become like vintage jeans.
The Onomichi Denim Project aims to tell each person's story through denim. The denim takes on something akin to a real feeling. Danjo visits a participant at a fishery cooperative in the city.
It looks like the knees are faded well, maybe too much. But isn't it better for pants to be faded more evenly?
No no, your way is best.
Fisherman Nobuchika Tagashira participated in the project. He has worn the jeans almost every day for the past year. They have faded greatly and turned yellow due to exposure to seawater and the wind.
I grew to like the jeans after wearing them for the first six months. Then I was eager to see what they would be like after the full year.
If all the workers in Onomichi wear jeans as their work pants we can build a new denim town. I'll be overjoyed if that helps revive Onomichi in a way we haven't seen in a long time.
The people of Onomichi have collaborated to create a new style of denim, and the jeans will go on sale next month. But that isn't the end of the story. A second denim project is under consideration, and could lead to another round of unique creativity for this celebrated textile heartland.