Selvedge Denim (also self-edge or selvage)
What is Japanese 4Way Stretch Selvedge?
Initially known as 'self-edge', the selvedge is the narrow , tightly woven band on both edges of the denim fabric. A selvedge end prevents the edge of the denim from unravelling and shows a clean, finished look.
Old shuttle looms produce denim where selvedges are closed. Alternatively, on larger modern weaving machines, the weft yarn is cut on every pick, resulting in a fringed edge.
Non-selvedge stitching on a pair of designer jeans vs. KATO' selvedge
But one may ask, why is selvedge denim so desirable? There are a few reasons for this, one being that the shuttle-loom production process creates a denser weave than non-selvedge. This makes for better quality. Another reason is that the shuttle-loom process is older technology. The same reason someone would want a hand-made wooden table or chair, the character of the traditional method can be seen and felt. The process of the shuttle loom can be slightly inconsistent which leads to variations in the look of the denim which is quite unique for an industry where mass-production and uniformity is the norm. In the world of fast fashion, it is refreshing for some to buy a piece of clothing that will be with them for years to come, gracefully wear and evolve. .
One way to identify selvedge from non-selvedge is what is called the selvedge ID. Selvedge ID color varies with the brand and producer. For instance, colored thread was used by Cone Mills to identify the particular fabric used by it's major manufacturers. Vintage Levi's jeans were originallly an all white strip and later had a single red striped selvedge. Lee's had a blue or green strip along one and and Wrangler's was yellow. Nowadays, many selvedge denim brands get creative with their selvedge IDs because they know that customers love to show them off. As you can see below, KATO' enjoys this detail of expression.
Lineup of KATO' Selvedge ID's
What is raw denim?
Also known as dry or unwashed denim, raw denim has not gone through any washing or distressing processes as is typical with other jeans. As you wear the jeans, the denim will fade at crease points and mold to your body. This essentially creates a moving art piece that showcases your life and active lifestyle that caused the wear. The longer you go before the first wash, the more prominent fading will be. For this reason, some denim-heads go months or even years before the first wash. Quality raw selvedge is a piece of clothing you don't have to feel strange about wearing nearly every day. In fact, many pride themselves in how fast they can get wear marks on their jeans in the least amount of time, which is done best by wearing them daily and forgoing that first wash for as long as possible.
Why Japanese Selvedge?
At one point in time, most of the world's denim was produced in the United States. As time passed, the quality suffered as mass production took priority over more time intensive traditional methods. So where does Japanese denim come in? In the 1960s, Japan entered into the denim business. Jeans became popularized by observing the denim worn by US soldiers after World War II and became fashionable across Japan. As Japanese craftsmen began producing denim, some decided to stay true to the traditional methods and dedicated themselves to produce higher quality denim than other regions. Japan is one of the only places to stay committed to the vintage shuttle-loom produced denim manufacturing process which is costlier and more time intensive. Today, Japan is considered to produce the best quality denim in the world. Their high quality standards and attention to detail has refueled an appetite across the globe for higher quality jeans.
At our source of the Kaihara Mill in Japan, there is intensive process of rope-dying and shuttle-loom weaving taking place. This meticulous process and finished result is what makes Japanese selvedge denim the most sought after in the world. Kaihara Mill specializes in sanforized denim, which refers to the pre-shrinking of the fabric to less than 1%. This reduces unwanted size changes. That means if you like the fit when you try on KATO', you most likely will continue liking it as time passes.
What are the origins of 4Way Stretch Selvedge Denim?
Nick, our designer at KATO', took selvedge denim to the next level. He wanted to create a denim which not only looks authentic but also is comfortable. You can find a lot of uncomfortable but great looking denim on the market but he couldn't find the one that had both great style and comfort aspects. He sought that everyday comfort but was unwilling to compromise the vintage elements in the process. After years of working with Kaihara Mill with non-stretch selvedge, he wanted to make the transition to an unattempted 4Way stretch. At first, the mill told him that it was technically impossible, but Nick was unwilling to accept defeat. After many failed attempts, they were able to produce this amazing 4Way stretch fabric that is used in all KATO' jeans.
Everyday someone is making the leap into breaking in their first pair of raw denim or adding another pair to the collection. Our 4Way Stretch Selvedge has the fit, look, details, and comfort that will satisfy everyone from the seasoned "Denim-head" to the conservative customer trying their first pair of raw jeans. Our 4Way Stretch Selvedge Japanese fabric has the perfect amount of 360 degree, multi-directional movement. The jeans will fade like a dream, except they are more comfortable than any other authentic selvedge jeans on the market.
Vintage shuttle loom weaving selvedge denim at Kaihara Mill
Will it fade like non-stretch selvedge denim?
Yes! It will fade like traditional raw vintage denim. Here is the picture of our signature 14oz Raw 4Way Stretch Selvedge after about a solid year of wear.
One year of wear: KATO' 14oz Raw 4Way Stretch
What does the weight of denim mean?
The weight of denim is quite significant to the feel, fit, and durability of the fabric. The weight refers to the weight in ounces of 1 square yard of fabric. At KATO', we produce 10.5oz and 14oz. The 10.5oz is going to be a little lighter and cooler as the fabric can breathe more than heavier fabric. The 14oz is going to be a little more rigid, durable, and capable of good fading with time passing. There certainly is no answer to which one is better, each one has their respective strengths. With non-stretch selvedge, the heavier weights can make the denim significantly more uncomfortable and tougher to break-in. With KATO's 4way stretch material, both the 10.5oz and 14oz weight options are ready to wear and comfortable from day 1.
How should I wash Selvedge Denim?
This is a highly contentious topic which ranges from never washing(not recommended by us) to doing an ocean wash where you actually walk into the ocean with your jeans on. Thankfully for those that don't live 5 minutes from the beach, we recommend a more flexible approach. If your jeans stink and you can't stand it anymore, you have a couple options. You can turn them inside out and do a gentle wash on cold, hand wash, or soak. After all of these options you must air dry for the best long term results. We do suggest using a non-harsh detergent, which we happen to make! If you want to hold off on too many washes, we also have a spray that will help with any rogue smells that start to pop up. Check out the bundle here: Denim Wash and Spray
Why are all your jeans made in the USA?
While we honor our Japanese roots, we live and operate in the great USA. While this is a more expensive option for production, it gives us the utmost control over the manufacturing process and the ability to conduct constant inspections and quality control procedures of our products. Many brands make their garments in cheaper locations overseas. We don't believe in cutting corners, we only cut the highest quality imported Japanese denim on American soil in Los Angeles, California.