Innovation Meets Tradition In UNIQLO's Kaihara Denim
Innovation Meets Tradition In UNIQLO's Kaihara Denim
Jan 18, 2017 OTHER
See how our amazing jeans get made, from start to finish.
UNIQLO is proud that Japanese denim manufacturer Kaihara helps produce the materials that make UNIQLO's jeans. Since the 1960s, Kaihara has applied the knowledge gained from manufacturing indigo-dyed kasun (a Japanese term in which the yard is specially dyed to produce certain patterns) textiles into making their denim, and their expertise and quality are such that the company is now among the top names in premium denim in the world. Below, learn more about this revolutionary maker.

The Beginnings of Kaihara Denim

Kaihara's head office and its Japanese factory are located in Fukuyama, Hiroshima. Since the Edo period (the early 17th century to the mid-18th century), the city has been known as a key producer of kasuri textiles in Japan, and in 1893, Kaihara was established in an area renowned for producing Bingo Kasuri.

Although Kaihara initially produced kasuri that involved traditional non-chemical dyeing methods, in 1970, it became the first company to produce denim in Japan. It was able to do so because it developed rope dyeing, a process used in the US, in house. Since then, Kaihara has overseen every process of production, from spinning to finishing, at its factory in Japan in an effort to strictly control quality. Even now, the quality of the company's products enables the denim maker to maintain a solid share of the global market.

The Highest-Graded Cotton in The World

Kaihara always maintains enough cotton for five months' worth of production at its Japanese factory, and a whopping one-third of the yarn that is produced there is transformed into UNIQLO jeans.

Only raw cotton that is harvested from high quality cotton is used for Kaihara denim, and cotton of varying characteristics is blended to produce a ratio that is perfect for denim. Kaihara is one of the few denim manufacturers in the world that demands cotton of the highest quality.

Care goes into the spinning of each yarn.

World-Class Rope Dyeing

This image shows the cross sections of "white-core" or ring-dyed cotton yarn—the exterior is indigo blue while the core retains cotton's natural white color. Only denim material that is woven from such yarn is able to furnish the beautiful gradual changes that fading produces. The secret to producing this white core is a process called rope dyeing. Kaihara was the first in Japan to develop and use this method beginning in 1970.

After being formed into 500-meter-long ropes, the yarn repeatedly submerged in indigo dyes, pressed, and left to oxidize in air. The process is varied to produce differences in the color's intensity, and many of the range's patented machines and equipment were exclusively developed by Kaihara.

Kaihara has dyed over 1,000,000 kilometers of yarn since 1970—enough to circle Earth 25 times.

A Commitment to Vintage Denim

Even now, exceptional, old-fashioned shuttle looms that were made during the 1970s and early 1980s are in operation at Kaihara. They are carefully repaired and maintained to ensure optimum performance.

Kaihara insists on using old-fashioned shuttle looms when producing authentic denim. It believes that "red selvedge denim that has been produced on looms resembling old shuttle looms is not vintage denim. Only denim that has been woven on the shuttle looms of the 1970s and 1980s can be genuinely called "vintage."

This image shows a wooden shuttle that is used to thread the weft on old-fashioned shuttle looms. The shuttle flies back and forth, producing a rhythmic clanking. It is this reciprocating motion that produces minute inconsistencies in the denim, a key element of vintage denim's exquisitely modulating texture.

Modern high-speed looms can produce about 350 meters of yarn in a day, but an old-fashioned shuttle loom is limited to about 120 meters. Kaihaira is so committed to denim traditions when producing authentic denim that it is willing to significantly sacrifice productivity in favor of vintage denim's tell-tale texture. The denim that is used for UNIQLO jeans features Kaihara's dedication to tradition and a superb production process that is arguably the only one of its kind in the world.

Want more? Shop men's denim and women's denim right now and try out these world-class jeans for yourself!