It has been almost 5 years since we first released the current version of RARE (R008) in celebration of Big John Corporation's 70th anniversary. Since then, we have added RARE Slim (R009) and RARE Jacket (R608) to the RARE family. Today, we would like to write about what makes this flagship line of ours so special.
The current version of RARE is the 3rd generation of Big John RARE. The first model was released in 1980. We developed artificially-made slub yarns for the first time in the world for this model. In addition, even though by the late 70's the fabric mills have moved onto using high speed looms to weave denim, we chose to weave RARE fabric on old shuttle looms. It was the birth of the first Japanese selvedge denim.
In 1997 we released the 2nd RARE named "Rare Meister." This hand-made model featured natural indigo dyed denim and limited to 300 pairs.
And in 2010, we once again challenged ourselves to create the best pair of jeans in Japan today.
We started the road to the perfect denim by picking the right mix of cotton with the help of Asahi Boseki, a spinning mill that was founded in 1883. We wanted the sturdiness and chunkiness of denim from the 1960's, but with smoothness that makes it comfortable to wear everyday. After careful consideration, we decided on a blend of 2 kinds of American Cotton.
After we picked the cotton, we searched for the perfect balance of yarn count of warp and weft yarns, yarn twist, and slub shape. And finally, we had the yarn created just for RARE.
Jeans are made up of so many important processes. But we believe dyeing is the heart of denim. In order for us to create the best denim, we went to the best of the best of indigo dyeing.
Sakamoto Denim was founded in 1892 in Hiroshima and has been in the business of indigo dyeing since then. We asked Yasushi Sakamoto, the president of the company then, to help us create the best indigo dye for RARE. Mr. Sakamoto (now-deceased) was the leading expert of indigo dye in Japan, and had received several awards for his contribution to development and preservation of indigo dyeing technique. He was given the name RANSEI (the Master of Indigo).
We agreed that we wanted to recreate the indigo color of natural indigo dye with synthetic indigo dye. Today, most denim warp is dyed with synthetic indigo dye using rope-dye method. This way, the core of the yarn can stay undyed which makes the great vertical fade possible. Dyeing with natural indigo is done by Kase-zome (a.k.a. hank-dye) in which the dye goes into the core of the yarns and thus the fade is blurry. We wanted the best of the both world: beautiful true indigo color that fades vertically.
Mr. Sakamoto, who had seen thousands of shades of indigo in his life, believed the most ideal indigo color is the color of the sword cover he had from Edo period in Japan (1603-1863).
After many attempts, the perfect indigo dye that satisfied the master of indigo was finally created. It was truly a great achievement of Japanese craftsmen.
With the great yarns made by Asahi Boseki and dyed by Sakamoto Denim, we headed back to Okayama to a weaving mill named Shinya. At Shinya, old shuttle looms are maintained and operated by true craftsmen who are dedicated to the quality. They own about 70 shuttle looms and was operating over 40 of them at the moment. We talked about the qualities we wanted in RARE, and after much discussion, we finally picked one shuttle loom from the 1950's that would be perfect for weaving RARE.
Weaving selvedge fabric is very inefficient compared to regular weaving method. But for this project, skilled craftsmen at Shinya adjusted the shuttle loom settings for RARE in a way that made the productivity to drop by 10% more than average selvedge denim.
It took a lot of time and effort, but finally the 15.5 oz special fabric for RARE named "BIG7055" was finished.
*Next article will be about the construction details of RARE models.