Diving into Japanese Denim

The documentary ‘Weaving Shibusa’, directed by David Leisher in 2017, explores the techniques used to make jeans in Japanese workshops.


WordsManon Baeza

When he realised that very little information was available about the methods used to manufacture jeans in Japan, filmmaker David Leisher decided to explore the subject in his documentary Weaving Shibusa, in 2015. From Tokyo to Nagano via Osaka, David Leisher travelled the country to meet the key players in denim, including artisans and designers.


Indigo-stained cloth

It was after the Second World War, as industrialisation grew significantly, that denim imposed itself on Japan. This expansion was particularly due to the Osaka 5, five brand experts in denim. They wished to produce the material using an ancient method that is notably used during the process of dyeing cotton. The material is dyed by hand, in indigo, and thus takes on the iconic, intense navy-blue colour it is famous for. The attention to details goes as far as the jeans’ edge. Its material stands out due to its coloured border and, above all, its uniform finish, which prevents the denim from fraying and gives it a more robust quality; a method known worldwide as ‘selvedge.’


Weaving Shibusa (2017), a documentary by David Leisher is available to buy or rent.