Ever wondered what the best denim brands are across the globe? Here’s a walk through history: denim’s origins were traced back to 1873, where an American tailor first crafted rivet-studded denim pants that labourers in mining and the like. Shortly after, dry goods wholesaler Levi Strauss & Co. got the rights to manufacture these denim pants, making it the first and oldest denim brand in the world.
Denim isn’t merely a hit in the states—denim manufactured in Japan is lauded for its exceptional quality. In the late ’60s, Japanese textile companies sought to recreate denim in the country. Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures then became home to textile-producing regions, recognised for its looms and denim production centres.
One of the regions, Kojima, is also labelled Japan’s denim capital, and is home to companies that produce selvedge denim. What’s interesting about selvedge denim (that also justifies its heftier price tag) is that it can only be woven on vintage shuttle looms, most of which are no longer in production. Selvedge denim is made of tightly woven bands and sports finished edges that doesn’t fray or curl.
Below, we take a closer look at some of our favourite denim brands from USA, Europe and Japan:
Nudie’s are synonymous with one thing that sets them apart from other denim brands — eco-friendly, organic fabrics with a sustainable production ethic. Since its launch in 2001, the organic denim brand has made headlines for its 100% organic cotton denim collections. Its repair, reuse, recycle brand philosophy model offers customers a free fix up for their worn jeans that they can resell or donate to the company’s recycle program.
Nudie’s are also known for their raw denim — customers are encouraged to not wash their new jeans for at least six months to prolong the life of the jeans. According to founder Maria Erixon, “the more you wear and repair jeans, the more character they have. Denim is a living fabric that changes over time – and they are for everyone, of all ages and genders.”
No denim brand in the world is as well-recognised as Levi’s. The most notable denim brand in the world was founded by German immigrant Levi Strauss, who came from Buttenheim, Bavaria, to San Francisco, California to open a branch of his brothers’ New York dry goods business. Not long after, the famous 501 jeans became a bestseller, cementing Levi’s denim waist overalls as the best-selling men’s work pants in USA.
The brand has now amassed a range of different styles and silhouettes through many generations, from the 505 Regular Fit Jeans to the 511 Slim Fit Jeans, alongside denim jackets, distressed shorts, and even a customisable option for your denim needs here.
Back in 1989, Frenchman Jean Touitou launched A.P.C. based off his personal desire for raw denim, sourcing all the A.P.C denim directly from Japan. The brand’s raw denim jeans is known for its super stiff, super tight fit that stretches out according to your figure over time. Its raw denim jeans are unisex, as there was no requirement to fit women and men since the jeans moulded to the figure one way or another.
The anti-fashion fashion brand was created as an clapback to the loose-fitting jeans that were all the rage during the late ’80s. Think Parisian-chic threads that are chic, understated but “defiantly normal”. If you’re looking for an entry-priced pair of denim jeans that’s chic, long-lasting, and an absolute classic to keep in your wardrobe, A.P.C.’s inky blue raw denim is likely your go-to.
The first British denim label was founded by Chloe Lonsdale’s godfather in 1969, back when London’s youth counter-culture and jeans-as-uniform movement was on the rise. During the ’70s, Tony Lonsdale was the first Englishman to import flares from California and sell them at his Jean Machine stores. Shortly after, the brand was the first denim label in Europe that designed flare jeans, giving Made In Heaven a cult following.
Fast forward to 2006, Chloe Lonsdale, current chief creative officer, re-launched Made in Heaven, as M.i.h Jeans. Most recently, the label has been focusing on more sustainable practices, launching the Paradise Capsule that incorporates low impact fabrics and processes, and pursuing transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain.
Momotaro was founded in the Okayama prefecture and despite its relatively short history (founded in 2005), it’s credited for reviving the lulling denim industry in Okayama. The brand employs the original denim and indigo-dye artisans of Japan, with all the denim manufactured by hand, using age-old techniques steeped in tradition. A Momotaro signature is two painted lines inspired by battle flags used by Samurais in the Edo period, representing morale and momentum.
Momotaro uses an indigo dyeing machine that’s the first of its kind in the world — accelerating the ‘rope dyeing’ method while making it cost-efficient. This process combined both the ‘ring spinning’ and ‘rope dyeing’ method to create denim that’s smooth and tough with a superior hue as well. If you want the perfect blue jeans made with low-technology (all handmade!) and the best cotton/yarn, Momotaro is right up your alley.
Established by Shinichi Haraki, Iron Heart was launched with an ethos of ethically-manufactured, durable clothing that will surpass trends. With a background of more than 20 years in Japan’s garment industry, Haraki initially targeted the biker community when he launched Iron Heart. Later on, the design and construction of the clothing became more versatile and was picked up by a wide variety of individuals.
Most of the designs are made of heavyweight fabrics i.e. flannels, denim, chambrays, and the bestseller — the 25oz XHS (extra heavy selvedge) denim jeans. Iron Heart also offers many types of denim and cuts (all of which would age beautifully), including vintage selvedge denim and heavy raw denim.