A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten – Raw Denim In Japan

Raw Denim In Japan - A Photo Tour Of Ooe Yofukuten

Raw Denim In Japan - A Photo Tour Of Ooe Yofukuten

This is a guest post from Jonathan at The Bandanna Almanac, a great site that covers a variety of cool things from photography and design to Japanese textiles and vintage work-wear.  

Johnathan recently had the opportunity to visit with Hiro and Ryo, the couple behind Japanese denim brand Ooe Yofukuten, and tour their workshop. In doing so, he found what he calls a “living sewing museum” which he has been kind enough to share with us. His interview with Hiro and Ryo can be found here.

Raw Denim In Japan - A Photo Tour Of Ooe Yofukuten

Where Ooe Yofukuten products are painstakingly constructed

I had some preconceptions of Ooe Yofukuten before entering, but one thing I hadn’t expected was to enter a living sewing museum tucked cozily into the countryside of Japan. This workshop is more akin to an industrial-era museum than a sewing workshop. In reality it is a little of both.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Hiro showing me a double-needle chain-sticher. Capable of sewing back pockets, front pockets and a few long seat seams.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Results of the Double Needle Machine

Ryo and Hiro spent the morning and afternoon with me showing me around their workspace. Taking their time explaining what each machine does and how they work.

Of course, they pointed out specifically the year each machine was built (most pre-1930). I would have to say as a person who loves old machines (especially old textile machines), I was in heaven.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Union Special with belt loop attachment

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Gear-fed Double Needle Long Seam Stitcher. This can sew anything. For the hard stress point seams on the seat and the long seams on the legs.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Seam Stitcher - Before & After

All of my preconceptions had been entirely erased by mid-morning.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Chain stitching machine with "Top Secret" waistband attachment. Gear fed.

There is something very magical going on in this little workshop. The sound of servos and clutch motors purring, the elegant spinning of fine mechanisms, it all made a sort of window into the past. A living tribute to a time of simple items of high quality.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

A very ancient thread stand that came with the long-arm stitcher.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Old Double Needle Union Special, Long arm. For sewing long seams

Ooe Yofukuten doesn’t make just jeans, but a wide assortment of hand made goods. Ranging from tissue cases, to jackets, and bags. Everything is sewn on these musical gear-driven machines. Every piece made by two peoples’ hands. What they are really creating here are folk crafts.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

The reliable single needle chain stitcher. When all else fails this is the back-up.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Hands-on

As we talked and shared bits of our own histories with each other we came to realize that each of us had found new in the old. Our inspirations and techniques from people long ago.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Wonder where this came from? Chain stitching for hems

It isn’t just machines but also materials that make things special here. Denim painstakingly chosen for authenticity and color. If you are going to make a heritage product you have to keep things real. Using old machines is an integral part of this process, as it shows the obsession for authenticity, and the importance to quality.

The heritage of denim is locked in chain stitches and the history of these machines; customers can feel assured that what they are getting is a piece of restored history.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Semi-automatic button hole finisher.1970's German made machine. More like a orchestra of gears.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

The best materials for the job

After we visited each workstation and once I understood completely how each product is produced, Ryo and Hiro showed me some of their trinkets, and past and current projects.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Ichinomiya wool-blanket lined work coverall

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Three pairs of samples - Colour evolution

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

"B^UTTONS"'. Ooe Yofukuten's selections of custom rivets, buttons, and patches.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Back patches

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

A pair of jeans that have traded several hands, and took a trip around the world.

Raw Denim in Japan - A Photo Tour of Ooe Yofukuten

Signatures and graffiti on the Traveler's Jeans

Stay Raw!

- Johnathan

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