Lennaert Nijgh, the Man Behind BDD Jeans, Travelled to Japan to Show You Why Japanese-Made Jeans Are So Special
It’s been 15 years since I fell in love with selvedge denim. I still remember the moment that would change my life; a moment that would lead me to launch my own line of “Made in Japan” jeans.
But why? Why make jeans in Japan? To answer that question, I went to visit the factory that makes BDD jeans. In the video below (shot mainly by my brother), you’ll see the setup behind our small-scale production and the love and care that goes into each pair.
How I Became Obsessed With Making Japanese Jeans
Let’s get back to how it all started. I was 15 or 16 years old and in high school. Some older kids were rocking jeans with high turn-ups that revealed a colourful detail. After some research and a visit to Mode d’Emploi in The Hague, I discovered that the jeans were from Evisu and that this colourful edge was the “self edge.”
I soon developed an obsession with denim and by the time I was 18 I had one goal in life: to create my own denim brand. Most people start a brand because they “cannot find what they are looking for.” For me, that wasn’t the case. I loved my Japanese jeans from Evisu, Denime and Studio D’Artisan; I just wanted to reach a similar level of perfection in my own jeans.
Meeting My Japanese Maker Turned A Vision In To Reality
Despite being determined, I knew I needed to learn more to make high-quality Japanese jeans. So, I decided to study and work for a few years.
About four years ago, while on a production-sourcing trip for a previous employer, I met with some of the most respected Japanese denim makers from Kojima in Okayama, Japan. You may know them from some of the brands they make such as Momotaro and Japan Blue. I told them about my plans for the Benzak Denim Developers collection and they loved it.
In September 2013, about 13 years after my first introduction to selvedge denim, and after a year and a half of development, I released the first two BDD jeans; the BDD-006 deep indigo and the BDD-710 green cast.
Why Produce in Japan?
Every once in a while, people still ask why I make my jeans in Japan.
The BDD collection is produced in the heart of Kojima; a town that plays a central role in Japan’s denim industry. It’s even said that the first pair of Japanese jeans was produced in Kojima. In the famous Kojima Jeans Street shopping area, they’ve even painted the road blue with red and white edges.
Many brands use Japanese denim, but few actually have the jeans sewn in Japan. I do and the reason is simple. Only in Japan do you get a dedicated working mentality, a high level of product knowledge and love for the product at the same time.
After spending a decade in the business, I know that to create a high-quality product, the people you trust with the production of it need to understand your “why.” In Japan, no one asks why denim produced on a loom that is not only much slower but also produces a fabric that is half the width is the natural choice. Or why I want my jeans sewn on “ancient” machines, some over 50 years old.
The Japanese instinctively know why and they always strive for perfection. They understand every seam, stitch, edge and detail. Not only from a technical point of view, but also the history behind it. Working with people who understand your product rather than blindly follow orders is the only way to produce high-quality jeans.
The Crucial Production Steps of “Made in Japan” BDD Jeans
In the first part of the video, we cover most of the production steps. Some of the steps, but not all, that I insist on using for all BDD jeans, which are not that common for mass-market jeans, are:
- All waistband labels are stitched on before the waistband is sewn on, leaving the stitch not visible on the outside
- The waistband itself is attached with a single needle chain stitch that runs from beginning till end and is manually tucked in at both ends
- For both visual and functional reasons, all BDD jeans have at least seven different yarns (divided over three colours and three thicknesses)
- Inseams are closed with a lap seam (instead of an overlocked seam) for extra strength and a clean look
- Belt loops are tucked in the waistband for, again, a clean look, but are much harder to carry out due to the heavy denim used
Another great example of the perfection they strive to achieve is something we witnessed at the factory first hand. The yarn cone was finished during an operation; rather than continuing halfway with a new cone, they unravelled the seam and did it all over. This sounds like a mandatory thing to do, but in mass-production I have seen the very opposite.
The video gives a good summary of all the work and love that goes into each pair of BDD jeans. Of course, there are many more steps than those listed above, but I will save that part for my next video about the anatomy of BDD jeans.
For now, you can get an in-depth look at my jeans by checking out this review that Matt did of the BDD-710.