Japanese Denim Production And Consumption–A Note

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japan denimJapan is one of the important countries in the world – both for denim fabric and apparel production as well as for denim consumption. In this report, we will provide the following details on the Japanese market:

  • Production of denim fabrics in Japan – capacities and actual estimated production in 2011
  • Fabric exported and and consumed in the same year
  • Denim apparel production in Japan –2011 and  Imports . The net consumption of jeans in million pcs .
  • A note on history of denim in Japan.
  • Production capacities of denim mills in Japan

Note: Pl ignore our last article emailed on 7th March – it was sent by mistake and was not related to denim industry…Sorry for inconvenience.

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Denim in Japan has a long history. In the decade after the second world war the craze was for used denim released from the American military and sold on the Japanese black market, usually after resizing to fit the typical Asian build. But after liberalisation of imports, the first Japanese-made jeans were manufactured by Maruo Clothing from 50 rolls of denim produced at the Canton Textile Mills in Georgia. The year was 1964. In 1972, Kurabo initiated a collaboration with the Japanese denim brand Big John, which to many around the world is quite an unknown brand. Additionally, like most of the early Japanese denim brand, before Big John established the cooperation with Kurabo they got their denim from Cone Mills. Another well known Japanese weaving mill, Kaihara, did not begin their production of selvage denim before 1994. Currently there are only 4 denim fabric mills in Japan – Kurabo, Kaihara, Kuroki and Collect. Nisshinbo, which used to manufacture in Japan has shifted fabric operations to Indonesia. Japanese denim is synonymous with selvedge denim . There is a general belief that old looms from US were bought by Japanese and that ensured Japanese domination as a selvedge denim producer. However, the contribution of Japan to selvedge fabric production began with the introduction of Toyoda looms by the Toyota manufacturing . In 1924, Sakichi Toyoda invented the Model G automatic selvage loom, a techical wonder of its time that overshadowed the American equivalents like the Draper looms. The loom has been described as, “a landmark achievement that advanced the global textile industry and laid the foundation for the development of the Toyota Group,” and the design of loom was exported to Europe, and produced under licence in the UK. Toyoda shuttle looms were still in widespread use in the 1970s, in particular at the Kurabo mill that produced the first fabric. The looms still surviving keep on weaving the magic in denim. On the garment side, Japan still produces a decent quantity of denim apparels. According to the Japan Jeans association, for the first time after 2006, the jeans production has increased in Japan in 2011 over the previous year by 2.7% to 56 million units. The production of denim bottoms rose by 2.6% to 47 million units and that of tops grew by 3.3% to 9 million units.

Denim Fabric Consumption For Jeans Manufacturing  in Japan (million mtrs)

Year Denim Fabric Capacities Actual Estimated Prod. (estimated) Exported Consumed in Japan
2011 65 48 10 38

From the above table we can see that Japan consumes about 80% of fabric produced within their own country and about 20% is exported. This also shows the strength of the domestic market.

Denim Consumption in Japan

The Japanese denim industry is invested with powerful emotions: the big-sky romance of the American West, the pre-digital age nostalgia of blue-collar workwear and a kind of raw-boned masculinity are quite foreign to the average Japanese male.The Japanese consumers are very brand and quality conscious and ready to pay the extra price for the brand name. Premium Brands like Momotaro, Big John, Evisu , Sugarcane, Iron Heart etc still carry the brand value . But there are worries on economic front as Japanese economy suffered a contraction in 2011. However, real clothing expenditure has been declining since 2009 and the Japanese consumer has become more pragmatic and price conscious. Brands like Uniqlo allow the consumers to keep up their wardrobe at lower cost. But the real low in prices in Japan came with the launch of the G.U Brand by Uniqlo at 990 yen ie around US$13. The economic situation is forcing consumers to buy such jeans in numbers. The total garment ownership of denim apparel in Japan is high at 16 pieces.
The Japanese market is estimated to consume about 250 million pairs of denim apparel as seen in the table below. Imports continue to be about 80% of total consumption, though domestic production has improved a little. Japan, for a country with its high costs of production, manages to produce more jeans that are made in US !.

Denim Apparel Consumption in Japan (million pcs)

Year Denim Apparel Prod. Jeans Imports
Denim Apparel / Jeans Consumption
2011 56 195 251

 

Production capacities of denim mills in Japan

Company Name Prod. Capacity (Million mtrs p.a)
Kaihara Denim

36

Kuroki Co. Ltd

12

Kurabo

12

Collect Co. Ltd

5

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