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TCB Jeans, the vintage king from Japan
Mentioning the name Hajime Inoue and TCB Jeans in the world of denim automatically brings a smile and excitement to the faces of denimheads. Not only is Hajime, founder and maker of TCB Jeans, a very loved and friendly person, he is also regarded as possibly the best vintage denim maker in Japan. Some might even refer to him as the King of Vintage reproduction.
So why do people regard him in this manner and rate him so highly?
Passion, desire, drive and research
Hajime Inoue's story is a long tale to tell, on how he started out as a salesman at Porky's in Kyoto and slowly but surely discovering his own passion and the niche that triggered him to such a great extent that he ended up creating his own brand: TCB Jeans, which means Taking Care of Business but also Two Cat Brand, from Hajime's long-lastng love of cats.
Back in 2007, after a steady experience in sales, Hajime decided that he wanted to become an independent brand and focus on his desire for extremely well made denim. Starting out as an OEM manufacturer, making original equipment for various customers, he quickly realised that this wasn't his thing. For Hajime it was all about making the best thing possible and think about the long-term quality.
On a journey to self-discover what would be the best way to move forward and create a sustainable brand, it took Hajime till 2012 before his brand TCB actually took off.
Mastering the Old World
So what makes TCB Jeans such a great repro brand?
Much of this status lies in the fact that they research every little detail of vintage archive pieces and having the ability to pretty much produce and control every step of the process in-house, in the TCB studio in Kojima, Okayama.
Where most brands that are focused on reproducing certain styles from decades ago, it is exactly that: they reproduce the style, the fit, a little detail.
TCB Jeans, and in particular Hajime, researches how the fabric was woven at the time and exploring the original warp and weft weaving and the color tones of the weave. This is a very difficult process to undertake based on, often semi-destroyed, vintage garments that date back to the 1870s.
After understanding the weaving, Hajime focuses on recreating similar construction methods and indigo-dyeing techniques as exact as possible. Sometimes it can be done in the exact same manner but sometimes they also have to revert to a different technique, especially when it comes to indigo dyeing.
By spending so much time on these details, it is amazing to actually see a finished garment by TCB Jeans and compare it with the archive pieces. One of my most favourite examples in this is the denim overshirt by TCB Jeans, that's inspired by a Levi's overshirt from the 1880s and has identical details and stitching. I've learned about this "lost and found" vintage garment through the book Jeans of the Old West: History which shows the original garment in close-up and with all the construction details noticeable as how it is reproduced by TCB.
In my humble opinion, this level of research and dedication to recreating the best possible denim garment is what sets TCB Jeans apart from most other repro brands. I've not yet seen another brand that has this high quality of denim making in this specific niche, and for such a great value for money. As a huge lover of dwelling in decades gone by, TCB Jeans is the perfect fit. Pun intended.