I thought it might be a good idea to start a thread about Japan's first denim brand. When you think Japanese Denim you have to think of BIG JOHN. As a pioneer of Japanese jeans, BIG JOHN keeps challenging itself to be innovative while remaining 'In Tradition.' What BIG JOHN has been loyal to since its start as a sewing factory is quality. Who was first? It seems BIG JOHN has got the long end of itâ€¦
A little bit of history:
BIG JOHN Corporation celebrated its 70th annversary in 2010. The story of BIG JOHN goes all the way back to 1940, when Maruo Clothing Company was founded in Kojima, Okayama, specializing in work wear and school uniform manufacturing. Maruo was the predecessor of BIG JOHN. But in the late 40s the fabric supplier quitted producing the fabric that Maruo used for its uniforms, so they had to change their business. Mr. Osaki â€“ the founder - then discovered denim and he started importing second hand vintage denim from the US in the 50s. The American-made jeans were generally sized too big for the Japanese customers therefore the jeans had to be modified in the waist.
It wasnâ€™t until the year 1965 that the first domestic jeans were born in Kojima, under the Canton brandname and the first ever Japanese domestic jeans were introduced in April that year. They received 50 rolls of denim fabric from Canton Textile Mills Inc. from the US and in October of the same year the first one-wash jeans were sold. This resulted from the fact that Japanese consumers who were used to second-hand jeans and felt raw denim was too uncomfortable. It was the beginning of the whole idea of â€œwashâ€ that has become an essential element of denim design today.
BIG JOHN debut as a denim brand was in 1967 when they imported American denim fabric from Cone Mills and created jeans under the original label (the prototype from 1967 was completely US-made).
RURI is BIG JOHN's original 14.5 oz sanforized selvedge denim. Itâ€™s a replication of the fabric color of the first BIG JOHN jeans released in 1967. This was also the best selling color in the 70's. The fabric name RURI is one of the traditional colors in Japan.
-> Big John Ruri in the Regular Straight fit
1973: in cooperation with Kurabo, BIG JOHN was the first Japanese company to introduce a 100% all-Japan-made-jeans for the first time. At that time, Japanese textile mills had never officially produced denim before. It took them 8 tries to get it right, hence the name â€œKD-8â€ - Kurabo Denim on the 8th try. The jeans were an instant success and BIG JOHN sold like crazy during the 70s.
GUNJO, BIG JOHN's original 14.5 sanforized selvedge denim. The color of GUNJO is a replication of the very first Japanese denim used in the production of jeans, the KD-8. The dying technique at that time had not been fully developed so KD-8's blue was on the lighter side with a red/brown hue. In order to recreate this color they used indigo dye with lower concentration in the baths during the rope dying process. Despite the vintage color, the fabric is woven to have an even surface, giving it a modern appearance.
-> Big John Gunjo in the Slim Straight fit
The Kurabo Mills was founded over 110 years ago and it stands as one of the oldest manufactures of Japanese textiles today. The Kurabo Mill was the birthplace of Japanese selvedge denim and has pioneered many denim manufacturing practices that are in common use today. These include using natural indigo dyes as well as a unique denim spinning and dyeing process that creates a very resilient denim with unique fading patterns. The quality of Kurabo Mills denim has earned them the respect of denim aficionados around the world. Kurabo is most famous as being the denim that supplied Japanâ€™s first denim brand, BIG JOHN. Today, Kurabo continues to works with many top of the denim brands in the industry including Baldwin, Epaulet, and many more.
What they have been loyal to since their start as a sewing factory is quality. Today, it seems that â€œMade in Japanâ€ has become a synonym to good quality. Under the company motto â€œQuality Comes First,â€ they continue to explore innovations while honoring the traditional elements of Japanese denim. BIG JOHN goes deeper than just â€œMade in Japan.â€ Each piece of BIG JOHN clothing is made in factories with highest standards and extensive experience in manufacturing. They have helped these factories build up and worked alongside them for decades. That is why BIG JOHN is confident in the quality of their garments. From design stage until the end product, BIG JOHN never compromises in the quality. They believe that their attention to details is what makes our product stand the test of time.
Today, all products in the BIG JOHN collection draw on references from the history of the company and previous ground breaking jeans.
BIG JOHN also appllies their expertise in denim and love for denim into the wider range of wardrobe like the â€šSmart Denim Shirt â€˜ or the outstanding â€šHerringbone Vests â€˜. With Japanese design, Japanese fabric, and Japanese production as the core of the brand, BIG JOHN pursues uncompromised quality and subtle yet distinguished style in each piece of clothing they make.