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Jomon ... Great denim ... But

Discussion in 'Streetwear and Denim' started by Alexander Kabbaz, May 7, 2006.

  1. Alexander Kabbaz

    Alexander Kabbaz Senior member

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    Knowing in advance that this review is going to get my butt kicked all over S&D, I considered for more than a week whether I would even write it at all. I realize that there are many properties of denim that streetwear afficionados prize and in that department, I can see why R for 45RPM's Jomon denim exceeds all expectations. The carefully considered criticisms which follow are not meant to dispute the extreme quality of Jomon fabric.

    But there is a great deal more to creating a superb garment ... and one selling for $817. at Manhattan retail price ... than merely using the best fabric. As someone who has been creating and sewing what are considered better quality clothes for more than a quarter century, I was ... well ... simply appalled.

    The actual stitching of the Jomon jeans was better than most. Nonetheless, selling for more than a top-flight shirt with fewer than 1/3 of the stitching, one would expect nothing less than close-to-perfect workmanship. Tradition aside, chainstitched seams don't hold a candle to lockstitched ones, for chainstitches unravel whereas lockstitches do not. Appearance you might claim ... but the exterior appearance of a lockstitch is the same as that of a chainstitch. It is merely a matter of longevity and strength which makes the lockstitch a better choice.

    Frankly, though, that would not have been so consequential to me if it were not for the lack of what the garment industry terms "cleaning". And in that department, the R for 45RPM Jomon jeans were a failure. Today's super-speed sewing machines have what are called "underbed thread trimmers". These small knives automatically cut the thread at the end of a seam to speed up the sewing. To insure that the fabric is not damaged by the cutting knife it cuts leaving a "thread tail" on the garment roughly 1/8"-3/16" long. Similarly for buttonholes, when these are cut there is a bit of space between the knife and the thread which constitutes the buttonhole.

    Better manufacturers then have an end-of-the-line person who, using a small pair of special scissors, trims all of these thread tails so the end of every seam is neatly finished. Additionally, that person also trims the loose threads from the insides of the buttonholes where they were cut by the automatic knife. In absolutely NO instance on the Jomon jeans was this done. The buttonholes were atrocious and virtually every seam had obvious thread tails ... made even more obvious by the contrasting red/gold/orange jeans thread color. As an example of the cost of quality, the person who does this on a shirt requires between 30-45 minutes to accomplish the task. When you are charging $800+ for a garment, this step is not an optional one.

    Additionally, there were the untrimmed raw edges on the insides of the patch (rear) pockets. These pockets are attached by turning under the fabric edge and sewing them atop the denim. A better maker would either overcast these hidden raw edges with what is called an overlock (or serge) stitch to prevent the cloth from unravelling ... or at least cut them with pinking shears to accomplish a similar goal. This was not done and a plethora of loose threads were hanging out of the rear pockets.

    Finally, there was the retail presentation. Yes, it makes perfect sense to me that denim lovers want to dip, wash, shrink, stretch, and shape their jeans at the beginning of the aging process. And I do certainly understand that better denims allow for a wide latitude in this area. But none of those considerations justify dumping an $800 garment on the counter completely creased, wrinkled, and virtually rolled up into a ball. If ironing is mistreatment of the denim, so be it. That does not prevent the maker from drying their prewashed jeans by laying them flat on a table rather than permitting them to dry in this jumbled state and calling it, as I was told, "character".

    Insofar as the common elements of the offering of top-quality sewn products, I think I have earned the right to criticize sloppy workmanship. I apologise in advance for my dearth of streetwear knowledge if my review violates any "customs" associated with expensive jeans.
     
  2. PG2G

    PG2G Senior member

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    Do you think that this is stuff average people would notice, or have you just become incredibly picky/critical about things like this because of your profession?
     
  3. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    Ahh, nice review. All points are valid - it's interesting, I really should have expected this kind of response. What we denim heads qualify as superb workmanship may seem incredibly counterintuitive to a shirt maker.

    I'll respond to each point, to at least attempt some form of validation. Not saying you're wrong, because all the points you made are true, but most of the points you made are precisely what creates the higher garment price.
     
  4. Augusto86

    Augusto86 Senior member

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    At 800 dollars for a pair of JEANS, they had better pass muster from every tailor in London, New York, and Hong Kong. Honestly.
     
  5. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    It's really not that simple. Also consider that the price for them is $600 or less in Japan, so that would be a better point for comparison.
     
  6. minya

    minya Senior member

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    These jeans were also hand-dyed with natural indigo. Very, very few other jeans currently in existence are created in the same way.
     
  7. Augusto86

    Augusto86 Senior member

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    800, 600 - they're still a pair of JEANS. 600 buys me a Kiton suit on Ebay. It buys not one, but several dinners at the finest restaurants in the world. I can get a CAR for $600(not much of one, but still). At that price range, they had better be sewed with gold thread by nubile swedish virgins. I mean, isn't there a point where it reaches the absurd?

    Also, what is this fetish over the old production processes? Why should the way they USED to make jeans be better than the way they currently do? Why should pure natural indigo be better than synthetic dyes? By that logic, the very best clothing in the world would be the untreated hide of a bear killed with a crude wooden spear. After all, it's a millenia-old technique, perfected over centuries!
     
  8. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    Also, what is this fetish over the old production processes? Why should the way they USED to make jeans be better than the way they currently do? Why should pure natural indigo be better than synthetic dyes? By that logic, the very best clothing in the world would be the untreated hide of a bear killed with a crude wooden spear. After all, it's a millenia-old technique, perfected over centuries!

    Heh. Standards for creating denim have gotten worse over time. The old machinery and standards are much higher than the newer stuff. It's not like making wool, where technology just keeps getting better and wool from one year ago thats the same quality as 10 years ago is much cheaper.

    Traditional/older style denim is getting more expensive, not less.
     
  9. Arethusa

    Arethusa Senior member

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    Wait, wasn't 45rpm R supposed to be a lower priced range for 45rpm? I don't really follow them much.

    Also, I think the untrimmed stitching may be intentional. The other points are valid, but considering the 'denim culture', especially as it applies to people willing and able to drop almost 1k on a pair of jeans, that does strike me at least not improbable.
     
  10. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    Nah. R is the highest end of 45rpm AFAK
     
  11. Alexander Kabbaz

    Alexander Kabbaz Senior member

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    Do you think that this is stuff average people would notice, or have you just become incredibly picky/critical about things like this because of your profession?
    Probably the latter except for maybe 10% of my shirt clients who would definitely notice.
     
  12. Alexander Kabbaz

    Alexander Kabbaz Senior member

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    Ahh, nice review. All points are valid - it's interesting, I really should have expected this kind of response. What we denim heads qualify as superb workmanship may seem incredibly counterintuitive to a shirt maker.

    I'll respond to each point, to at least attempt some form of validation. Not saying you're wrong, because all the points you made are true, but most of the points you made are precisely what creates the higher garment price.

    Great. That's exactly what I was hoping to learn.
     
  13. tweedlesinpink

    tweedlesinpink Senior member

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    800, 600 - they're still a pair of JEANS. 600 buys me a Kiton suit on Ebay. It buys not one, but several dinners at the finest restaurants in the world. I can get a CAR for $600(not much of one, but still). At that price range, they had better be sewed with gold thread by nubile swedish virgins. I mean, isn't there a point where it reaches the absurd?

    Also, what is this fetish over the old production processes? Why should the way they USED to make jeans be better than the way they currently do? Why should pure natural indigo be better than synthetic dyes? By that logic, the very best clothing in the world would be the untreated hide of a bear killed with a crude wooden spear. After all, it's a millenia-old technique, perfected over centuries!



    So...which Saks carries this untreated hide of a bear, perfected over centuries? As a violinist i do know that many of the craftsmen who work with traditional methods are generally judged to create instruments with better sound than the violins created on production lines today. The old handcrafting methods still persist today, and are more highly valued. Might this not be the same for jeans?


    I think everyone can call many things in the world absurd (including Auto Braking Systems, Nike AF1s and economic sanctions), but that price means that someone's willing to pay for it, and judging from 45rpm's standing among denimheads it's a good number of well-informed consumers that're willing to pay, and i don't reckon they think it's absurd.
     
  14. Alexander Kabbaz

    Alexander Kabbaz Senior member

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    At 800 dollars for a pair of JEANS, they had better pass muster from every tailor in London, New York, and Hong Kong. Honestly.
    Every good tailor in London and New York is already charging about $800 for a pair of pants. The $800 wouldn't shock them. It's really a different world with different goals and an unfair comparison. There is no more or less work in making a pair of pants whether they are jeans or worsted wool ... except that when you are sewing with contrasting thread you'd better be more accurate than the invisible serge of bespoke trousers..
     
  15. Geowu

    Geowu Senior member

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    Haha... Alexander Kabbaz, your points are valid. I thought the same as you did. First, the chain- vs. lockstitching: traditionally, as well as today, jeans are made using chainstitching because of its stretching properties. So, although lockstitching is better in some areas (and are used), chainstitching is preferred for other areas. I costs more, it uses vintage machinery. Talking about vintage machinery, that's the reason why they don't have the modern trimming features you pointed out. The vintage machines are better than today's, and these jeans are in the spirit of replicas. Japanese are very traditional with replicas. If the stitchings were not trimmed back in the day, they don't do it now. The same goes for the back pockets and all the sloppiness. Actually, I agree with you, and I always cut the loose threads AND inside the back pockets and watch pocket. But, here's a concept for you to think about: Japanese and orientals value imperfection more than perfection, or, in better words, for them imperfection is perfection. Their aesthetic is about imperfection. As Lao Tzu said, "to be perfect, be imperfect". So, the Japanese like the fabric to be slubby, the seams to be untrimmed, the legs to get twisted, and so on. BUT, the quality and the look is always superb and unmatched. It's just another way of aesthetics. That's why they don't iron the jeans either. Think about it, jeans are not formal wear, they are work-wear! it's a whole different spirit.
     
  16. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    Good points Geowu, and I'll add that while they do value the imperfections, they value the natural, historical and traditional imperfections. 45rpm Jomons are hand-made, and are hand rope-dyed with indigo many times (this is why the price is so high, basically). So while they accept , and appreciate hte imperfections that the vintage machinery causes, the attention to detail in the hardware, the hand-felled inseams, and the stylistic intricacies (even the stitching on the back pockets is seriously unique, as simple as it may be) is second to none.

    Consider this: Rag&Bone and 5EP jeans, which are American brands and their first market is domestic, are sold around $275-$325 per pair.

    They are made with synthetic (although a wonderful color) indigo. Consider Jomons on that same level - perfection in workmanship, but with hand, rope-dyed natural indigo. Does the process warrant a premium of $300? Truthfully, I cannot answer that. But most natural indigo jeans that are dyed with such care and so many dips cost at least $500.
     
  17. benchan

    benchan Senior member

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    Well, this topic had been brought up before.
     
  18. Augusto86

    Augusto86 Senior member

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    The peculiar cycles of life shall never fail to amuse me. Once upon a time white bread was the most expensive, since refined flour was harder to make. With the advent of industrial-agricultural complexes, it is now cheaper, and 'Organic', usually darker bread is the most expensive and 'elite' type eaten by those who shop at Whole Foods(myself included).

    I suppose everything is priced at what the market will bear.
     
  19. Alexander Kabbaz

    Alexander Kabbaz Senior member

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    Brian and Geowu - Thanks a lot. I can accept the Japanese philosophy you describe as regards reproduction of even imperfections. But ... I couldn't live with it. I guess you could say that trimming loose threads has become somewhat of my cross to bear. Since I do so much of it it really stands out to me when others don't. Thank you again for your comprehensive explanation.
     
  20. Geowu

    Geowu Senior member

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    You've got a nice business! I like all the zimmerli variety you have.
     

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