Photo/IllutrationJapan Denim products on sale at the Ginza Six shopping complex in Tokyo (Kohei Kondo)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Seeking the right fit, 18 companies in the nation’s denim production hub straddling Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures jointly launched their own brand that got off to a strong start in Tokyo's Ginza and is expanding nationally and overseas.

Japan Denim was launched this year after Acces Co., an apparel maker based in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, called on local manufacturers.

It offers uniquely designed denim products such as a skirt with large pleats in the front and a pair of pants sewn with pearls all over the piece.

The small and midsize manufacturers that comprise Japan Denim take pride in their sophisticated skills, working behind the scenes to supply high-quality denim to luxury brands.

However, amid dwindling production of domestic denim due to an influx of inexpensive fast-fashion items, they decided to step out of the shadows and into the limelight to ensure their survival.

The items are priced roughly between 20,000 yen ($184) and 50,000 yen.

The products went on sale at the Ginza Six shopping complex in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district between March and April this year, generating a total of 16 million yen in sales in about a month.

It was apparently the second-highest figure for any brand sold there for a limited time.

Japan Denim’s strong start surprised even Acces vice president, Takahisa Takagaki, who didn’t expect the products to sell to this extent.

The Bicchu-Bingo region, which mainly covers Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, and Ibara, Okayama Prefecture, is a major production hub where many denim fabric manufacturers and processors are based.

Utilizing traditional techniques of “aizome” indigo dyeing used for “kasuri” cotton textiles, mass production of denim started in the 1960s.

According to a survey conducted by the Fukuyama city government, more than 80 percent of domestic denim is still produced in the region today.

These companies are confident in their high-quality skills as they also handle denim products for overseas premium brands. But because most of the merchandise are produced under original equipment manufacturing (OEM) arrangements, they remain in obscurity.

However, with the denim industry also hit by a surge of low-cost fast-fashion clothing and cheap products from overseas, it has become increasingly difficult to eke out a profit.

Takagaki said he was driven by a sense of crisis and decided to take a shot at launching the new brand.

“Unless we could raise our profile, young workers would decrease in number and we would just dwindle away,” he said.

There are local-based manufacturers trying to establish their own apparel brands across the country, but many find themselves struggling after failing to gauge consumer preferences.

Japan Denim has commissioned famous apparel brands to provide designs in a bid to fight for survival by keeping original products coming.

Japan Denim products have been available for purchase since May this year at eight Acces-affiliated Parigot shops nationwide. The brand also plans to expand sales channels into department stores and overseas markets.

“We have been doing business only with trading houses, but we hope we can expand our deals with the new brand as a starting point,” said Yuki Shinohara, who is in charge of developing new businesses at Shinohara Textile Co., a denim fabric manufacturer based in Fukuyama.