In this exclusive interview, we get to know the new guard of Japanese denim, Hajime Inoue of TCB Jeans.
If you have seen the denim documentary Weaving Shibusa (and if you’ve not, you have no right to call yourself a denimhead), then you will have seen Hajime Inoue, founder of TCB Jeans discussing his love for denim and what brought him into the fold. He speaks alongside some impressive company including many prominent members of the famed Osaka 5.
Many of these brands have been around for decades, while TCB is a relative newcomer. TBS’s pure dedication, which borders on obsession would appear to exemplify the new breed of Japanese denim designers and manufacturers.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Hajime Inoue and I make jeans.
Who started TCB
I started TCB as a sewing factory back in 2008
The Cat’s Out of the Bag
How did the brand get its name?
It came from American slang. “Taking care of business”. I liked the meaning behind the phrase. If you are going to do something, you should do it properly. But it is also mixed up with another phrase I was toying with “Two Cat Brand” we roll this out in our back patch… it is a little fun with the two horses of the Levi’s patch.
How did you get into the denim business?
I don’t exactly have experience working with other brands. But when I was in my teens, I worked as a salesman in a tailoring store. I could explain the craft that went into the jeans to the customer. Back in 2000, I moved to Kojima of Okayama-ken. I was 20 years old when I started working for a sewing factory there. 8 years later, I opened the TCB factory.
You clearly have a passion for denim and clothing with history, how did it all begin?
I have influences from so many people, it would be impossible to choose just one.
One I remember from my childhood was passing the “oldclothmans” store. Then the master craftsmen I met when I moved to Kojima. American movies from the past, a Japanese drama series in the 90s. So many things.
A Deeper Understanding of Denim
What is the concept of TCB?
TCB at its foundation is a sewing factory. The manufacture of garments is planned and executed on a small scale. This is quite a normal way of doing things in Japan.
We believe that it is possible to more deeply understand the best way to manufacture an item with careful study of clothing of the past. We focus on this and add a further dimension by sewing the garments ourselves.
We search for the machines that would have been used in the past to manufacture the jeans. Machines from American manufacturers such as Union Special, SINGER and REECE. We then use them in the right way, exactly how they would have been used to produce jeans in the past.
With everything done in house, we can keep a close eye on the production, making sure every item is made in the right way. This is impossible if you outsource manufacture.
Passing Down the Knowledge to the Next Generation
What was your motivation to launch the brand?
I wanted people to understand the concept of TCB and ensure that the skills we use in this factory are not lost. They need to be passed onto the next generation. For this, I think building a brand is essential.
What inspires you when crafting a jean?
I love Levis very much. The first time I held a pair, I was so stunned. The fly is buttons, the denim shrinks, the leg twist. It was like something I had never seen! At that moment, the concept of clothing was overturned up side down.
Our back patch is even inspired by Levi’s two horses. It is TCB in “Two Cat Brand”
You Never Forget Your First
Do you remember your first pair of jeans?
I bought EVISU jeans as a junior high school student with the money I earned from a paper round.
Why do you think denim has become so popular recently (over the past decade)?
With the internet, the amount of information available just exploded! It is great that it also allows the creator and the user to connect directly.
What do you love the most about denim?
Of course TCB jeans. Recently I wear the 20’s every day!
Dont Worry, Be Happy
How do you wear and treat in your dry denim jeans – any special routines?
I am wearing it naturally without worrying much. But it may be because you can wear it as work clothes, at work.
What do you recommend your customers to do regarding breaking in their jeans?
I hope they go the natural route.
Do you collect anything (other than denim)?
I collect old dolls and advertisements related to cats
How many pairs of jeans do you have in your private collection?
I have not recently counted but I think there are 100 pieces but some of the sizes are a little small for me now, hahaha.
Face to Face with the Craftsman
Is there another brand that inspires you?
I like shops and brands where you can see the face of the maker (Furniture, food and music)
It is the most important part of TCB Jeans.
Are there any up and coming or unknown brands that you think are worth looking into?
I’d like to say TCB Jeans …hahaha
There is one that is already famous in Japan, Truck Furniture. Check them out!
Jeans Lovers the World Over are Welcome!
Where will TCB jeans be five years from now?
We will create a shop in the jeans factory, I am looking forward to seeing jeans lovers from all over the world come to the store.