For the sartorially inclined, indigo and Japan are somewhat inseparable; the pigment being found in clothing as dichotomous as denim and dresses. And while the indigofera plant can grow across the globe, it has been a staple in the Japanese wardrobe for millennia. Ironically, indigo's popularity in the country was born of rather un-elevated circumstances; the readily-available pigment was used to dye cotton in the 17th century as the lower ranks of Edo society were banned from wearing fabrics such as silk. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and the less-fortunate made due with what they had. Due to the lack of recourses, repairs using fabric scraps were a regular undertaking. As such, what is known as Boro came into existence; once a sign of shame for the poor is now considered the pinnacle of traditional Japanese clothing artistry. The last half-decade has seen more traditional Japanese clothing enter the fashion mainstream, often remixed with aspects of modern tailoring. Blue Blue Japan, SOULIVE, and FDMTL all present different approaches to this aesthetic, and complement each other quite well.
Blue Blue Japan: As the flagship brand of Seilin Co., Blue Blue Japan elevates Seilin's trademark individualism and infuses it with a high fashion elegance. Indigo, paired with fabrics such as suede and silk, is given a different context; one that highlights to true exoticism of the pigment in its natural state, permeating the textile through dyeing with painstaking repetition. Blue Blue Japan may covet the affection of Japanese fashion cognoscenti now, but the label actually originated in 1996 as the house brand for Okura, an American clothing shop in Kobe. In the subsequent two decades, Blue Blue Japan has risen to cult status, namely among those who value the brand's blend of old-world production with modern fashion relevance. In the brand's FW17 collection, one will find the same obsession for indigo and traditional Japanese techniques that SOULIVE and FDMTL champion, but paired with elements of classic tailoring for a result wholly unique to the label. Two stunning examples of what has been said here can be seen in the indigo-dyed Suede Double Riders Jacket, as well as their Patchwork Trousers. Both announce the label's allegiance not to a single aesthetic but a general principle of individuality.
SOULIVE: While founded in 2013, SOULIVE is in actuality the product of 2 decades of textile experimentation. Japan Blue Co (the parent company), and Collect Co (the fabric mill) have been pushing what can be done with indigo since 1992. With siblings such as Momotaro and Japan Blue Jeans, SOULIVE serves as an experimental outlet for one of Kojima's most prolific companies, and inherits their obsession with construction and detail. While multiple colors are always represented in SOULIVE's collections, indigo is at the heart of this brand. The pigment is paired with both traditional (at times, nearly obsolete) Japanese construction methods and garments, which the brand then juxtaposes with elements of modern design; the result is a garment with traditional Japanese costuming at its core that manages to be very wearable. Shop favorites for FW17 include the Wool Hanten and the Boro Repair Western Haori. Each is a synthesis of the design elements mentioned, and serve as excellent statements in any outfit.
FDMTL: Similar to SOULIVE, Gaku Tsuyoshi's FDMTL mixes denim knowledge and indigo obsession to unconventional results. Each season, the independent brand places boro patchwork and faded denim at the heart of their collections. That being said, FDMTL is also willing to distill the elements of traditional Japanese garments and utilize them in more abstract ways; take this season's Patchwork Wool Cardigan and Gown, both of which incorporate boro thematically yet manage to maintain a little more wearability across aesthetics. The brand focus on the proliferation of boro can also be seen in their collaborative spirit; FDMTL has recently partnered with Vans, New Era and Masterpiece, to impressive results. Tsuyoshi is clearly intent on making high quality Japanese patchwork wearable by those outside of denim fandom. While based in Tokyo, FDMTL uses fabrics exclusively from Okayama, Japan's rural denim capital. In this way, the brand manages to synthesize the quality manufacturing of Japan's countryside with Tokyo's aggressive exploration of men's style.