Arriving at Kojima station is a bit like arriving at a denim theme park. The vending machines, stairs and walls are covered in denim prints, even the station staff are decked in double denim uniforms. A short train ride from Okayama, while the area is quiet and calm, Kojima Jeans Street is the place to be for denim lovers looking for handmade, one-of-a-kind garments that are well known around the world for their high quality. Rows upon rows of jeans hang above the streets, while the streets below are indigo-colored, and lined with red and white road markings to mimic selvedge, the traditionally finished edge of classic Japanese denim.
The area boasts stores from some of the top jeans manufactures including Japan Blue Jeans and Momotaro, many of which have factories and fabric mills in the same area. Most stores have a workshop inside, allowing customers to have their jeans customized or tailored to fit in a short waiting time.
The rich heritage of workwear denim continues to be a strong influence, with ripped and stitched effects, classic Americana branding and leather accessories. More modern fabrications and silhouettes are equally as impressionable. Clean, minimal styles are given matching branding treatment, with blank back patches, few accessories and simple, two-color graphic tags, letting the high-quality fabrics do the talking. Shirts and tees with smooth ombre effects give a modern update to natural indigo dye techniques.
Attention to detail is essential, with denim’s go-to camouflage print seen on point of sale ribbons, pocket bags and garment fabrics.
Betty Smith, the area’s original denim manufacturer, has a number of museums and stores open to visitors. A working factory is also on site, where the jeans are still lovingly made by hand. My favourite feature is a small store inviting customers to customize a blank pair of jeans from scratch, choosing from a huge range of back patches and labels, rivets and buttons, which can be attached with guidance from specialist staff. There is even a separate building for finishing, where worn effects can be created by rubbing the denim over embossed plates.
Something for everyone, visitors can be assured that products from Kojima Jeans Street will be honestly made with the highest quality denim, dyed with natural indigo with the greatest care. A truly inspiring place, it is clear why the area’s denim industry has a huge influence on commercial fashion and indigo fanatics alike.
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About Amy Lee, Trends and Insights Specialist, Avery Dennison RBIS
Based in London, Amy is often found at the most influential arts and fashion events, trade shows and store launches. A Northern girl from Cheshire, England, she has been known to take her own Yorkshire tea bags around the world with her!
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