One Man Denim Brand Battle: Conner’s Sewing Factory WWII San Francisco Jeans Review

The last several reviews have been fun to do and I am glad I did this one man brand series, but anyone who knows me knew which brand was going to be my favorite before the first article was published. Conners Sewing Factory is my favorite denim brand in the world. I love many brands that make denim such as The Flat Head/R.J.B. and Freewheelers, but when it comes to denim and only denim, CSF is my absolute favorite. I have already discussed the brand several times before, especially in the third part of my Japan Trip Series which you can read here: https://almostvintagestyle.com/2018/01/19/japan-trip-part-3-conners-sewing-factory-and-castles/  . That article, however, was merely a brief overview and the story of how I bought my first pair of jeans from the brand. This article will be a much deeper dive into what makes the jeans and the man behind them so special as well as why I love them so much.

DSCF1260

DSCF1261I do not think I could love these jeans any more than I do

Part of the reason that I am going to be spending so much time discussing this brand is because of how much I personally enjoy the products, but the other part is due to the fact that outside of places like Denimbro, this brand is still relatively unknown and is certainly underappreciated. My goal in writing this is to share my passion for these jeans in an attempt to inspire others to see what is so special about them. This is a brand that I believe deserves more attention than it has and although my influence is extremely minor, I am going to do what I can to proclaim the greatness of CSF. While this may seem a fool’s errand to some, allow me to point out that it was in fact the extreme passion of fellow denim heads that attracted me to the brand in the first place.

DSCF1262

DSCF1267Beauty is in the details

Before purchasing my Conner’s Sewing Factory jeans, I was not very much into reproduction denim. I owned a pair of Ooe Yofuketen and a pair of Freewheeler’s 1951 jeans, but any reproduction aspects of these jeans were not what I loved about them. The Freewheeler’s jeans were purchased purely because I love Freewheeler’s products in general and the Ooe jeans were purchased mostly because of the cut and the fact that Ooe was known to make truly excellent jeans. In fact, before finding out about CSF, I had hardly noticed which denim brands were reproduction-focused brands and which were not. For example, I did not used to understand in the past that Warehouse was a reproduction-oriented brand. Because most of the denim brands that I learned of first were Naked and Famous, Momotaro, Pure Blue Japan, Iron Heart, and 3Sixteen, I mistakenly figured that most denim brands were more modern in design.

When I did discover the world of reproduction denim, I was not initially enthralled. Although I adore history to the point of majoring in the subject while in college, reproduction denim did not interest me. To this day, most of my wardrobe is classic-inspired rather than pure vintage or reproduction, hence my online handle. As such, when I first read about Conner’s Sewing Factory, I was skeptical, but I read through the thread discussing the brand on Denimbro anyway. To my great surprise, I found myself becoming absolutely fascinated with this company.

DSCF1278

DSCF1270The patch is gorgeous and the bar tacks are top notch

The brand is the brainchild of Yoshiaki Konaka, who is the founder as well as the only maker for the highest line of his brand. This was already of great interest to me as I am a sucker for one man brands. However, even for a one man brand, CSF is quite extreme. Konaka-San was able to visit and spend time with Yawara Miura’s 3,000 strong vintage Levi’s collection and subsequently went to the furthest extremes to recreate the jeans that were made back in the 1940’s and earlier. Konaka-San of course sourced and repaired period correct sewing machines to use as well as period-correct 100% cotton thread. The denim used is custom made to his exact specifications and differs depending on the exact time period of the model he is making (he currently has three different denim fabrics). For example, the 1946 ‘First Half’ jeans utilize the fabric that was used during WWII while the 1946 ‘Second Half’ jeans correctly use a different fabric that was more uniform and replaced the more irregular WWII denim.

DSCF1273

DSCF1274Love these buttons and threads!

What is more, his techniques mirror those used at the time. His pockets and seams are hand folded instead of ironed and he sews with the methods used during the time, meaning that there is less consistency between each pair made. This could be seen as lower quality, or it can be viewed as more accurate to how the jeans were made at the time. In fact, such is his dedication to technique that the jeans are made more or less cleanly depending on the exact model. Certain models from the past were made with slightly different cuts and different levels of quality and this is something he recreates in his own jeans. This is what makes his products superior to other reproduction brands. Those brands either have modern, laser straight stitching produced by modern techniques or they have purposefully sloppy stitching that is usually the same for each pair. Konaka-San, on the other hand, utilizes techniques from the past that naturally causes more minor defects that are different in each pair, making them far more authentic and much closer to original pieces.

DSCF1276

DSCF1277The wonky back pockets are a result of technique and are full of character

For example, the restrictions of the war means that the regular WWII San Francisco model has a rougher denim, lacks coin pocket rivets, has different buttons, and less neat sewing than the 1947 model among many other small details that I do not have time to mention in full. In addition, even between specific pairs of the same model, you will see many small differences and quirks not present in others due to the techniques he uses to sew the jeans. To paraphrase from Konaka-San himself, it is very interesting to him to express the different nuances between the different jeans. He even goes so far as to emphasize the importance of understanding the time that the jeans were made as well as the target customer of the time to find out how brands actually made their products.

Konaka-San has said that he believes his techniques are at the same level as those of the workers who made the jeans in the 1940s. He uses not only the same method, but the same manufacturing environment as those who made jeans in the 1940s. He says that his true craftsmanship is that in 70 years, his items will compare favorably to vintage Levi’s jeans. Having met him myself and seen his workshop, I can attest to his commitment to his techniques and his passion for what he does. He is a gracious and kind man, but he is not humble. While speaking with him in person and through Instagram, he has told me more than once that he believes that he makes the best jeans in the entire world. That is a bold statement, but it is one that I personally agree with after spending many months with my CSF products.

DSCF1275Hidden rivets

I now own three pairs of CSF jeans as well as one denim jacket, but today, we will be focusing on my first pair of jeans, a WWII San Francisco model in size 36. The jeans have a very vintage cut and the waist is undersized after soaking as the measurements show:

Waist: 17.5”

Front Rise: 13.75”

Rear Rise: 16.5”

Thigh: 13”

Knee: 10.5”

Hem: 8.8” (mine were hemmed to a 29” length)

tTImiOc

L9A3SMfI love the way these fit

I normally take a size 33 or 34 in denim, but had to go for a 36 in these and a 38 in one of his other models. The waist is undersized, but does stretch a little. The hip, on the other hand, is even more undersized and does not stretch so sizing up at least 2 sizes is a generally good idea with this brand. With that said, the fit is fantastic in my opinion. The high rise is comfortable and the thigh is neither baggy, nor restrictive. The silhouette is certainly classic, but it is far from overly wide or sloppy. I must say that I am impressed with how flattering these jeans look on me, at least in my own opinion. I certainly believe that they flatter me better than slim and tapered fit jeans. Most importantly, they look killer over a pair of engineer boots.

a8l5Dbm

agydqCYMy favorite jeans, jacket, button down shirt, and boots

The fabric itself is possibly my favorite denim fabric of all time. It is slightly slubby and certainly a tad hairy, but simultaneously quite comfortable. At 13.5oz, it is in a perfect middleweight category that works during all seasons. This denim certainly has more character than offerings from brands that prefer sanforized fabric or use Cone Mills denim, but is not characterful simply for the sake of itself as brands like Oni and Pure Blue Japan are prone to be. For me, it is a perfect balance that is rooted in its historical accuracy.

DSCF1263

DSCF1268This denim is exceeded only by the details of the jeans

The details are endlessly fascinating and include period correct appointments such as donut fly buttons with a laurel top button, copper hidden rivets that are more simple than the ones used in later models, and a lack of coin pocket rivets due to the restrictions of the time. The sewing work is by far my favorite characteristic of these jeans. This may come as a surprise to many who know that I love incredibly straight sewing, but there is something special about having character as well, which these jeans have dripping out of every stitch and thread.

It is difficult to explain, but to me, it is endlessly impressive that these jeans can be so characterful and have so many quirks and wonky stitches, yet be so obviously well made by a person with incredible skill and dedication. The back pockets are beautifully wonky, yet the rear seam on the jeans is lined up perfectly. There are loose threads all over the place and the stitch count varies depending on the area of the jeans, but they are still well put together. They do not feel flimsy and the bar tacks are quite dense.

DSCF1282

DSCF1296

DSCF1285An impressive juxtaposition of wonky stitching and precision

The fascinating thing about Conners Sewing Factory jeans is that despite their seemingly-sloppy construction and 100% cotton thread, there have been nearly zero durability and construction quality issues. I have worn two of my pairs for around 4 months each and the only problem I had was a freak accident with one of the button holes. This was a very easy repair and was not actually due to any of the stitching coming loose. Several other people have been wearing their CSF jeans for much longer than me and have had no issues at all, which is extremely impressive for jeans that were not designed with durability specifically in mind.

DSCF1288

DSCF1290Each pair is signed and dated by Konaka-San himself

There is a magic to these jeans that I cannot fully put into words. It is not a magic that can be seen in photos or even explained in person. In fact, it is a magic that I am sure many will not see even if they handle the jeans themselves. However, it is certainly a magic that is real to me. I love these jeans. I adore them and am completely obsessed with them. In the past, denim was always the least important part of my wardrobe, even when I got into raw denim. Leather jackets, shirts, and boots always took the front seat while the jeans were lucky to be stuffed in the overhead compartment. Conners Sewing Factory changed that.

The extreme research, dedication, commitment, and skill that Yoshiaki Konaka possesses has resulted in what are unequivocally the best reproduction jeans on the market today, and perhaps the best of all time. To say they are the best jeans period would be unfair because that is impossible to determine. However, it is clear that he has gone beyond what anyone else ever has in his own denim category. In fact, he does not even like to use the term ‘reproduction’ himself. He told me himself that he makes “the original.” That is certainly one way to put it.

DSCF1292

DSCF1291

DSCF1294While seemingly messy, these as well as my other pairs have been quite durable

However, I think the best way I have heard CSF jeans described was the way my fiancé put it. When I explained to her everything about these jeans and why they are more than simply reproductions that mimic specific faults in every pair or have a vintage cut or have purposefully sloppy stitching, she responded by simply saying “Oh, I get it. It’s art.” This is what Conners Sewing Factory jeans are. They may not actually be art, but they are certainly the closest thing to it in the denim world in my eyes. At the very least, there is nothing on the market that is anything like them. In this way, Yoshiaki Konaka has indeed created a denim brand that is unparalleled. At the very least, he is my all-time favorite denim maker and has done what no other could; he made me truly fall in love with jeans.

DSCF4401

DSCF4402To top things off, they come in a beautiful box with laminated certificate of authenticity

Check out the Conners Sewing Factory website here: https://www.onepieceofrock.com/

Follow him on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/csf_official/

If you are interested in purchasing a pair, the best way to do so is by direct messaging Konaka-San himself. If you have any questions or are unsure of any details, feel free to direct message me on Instagram or send me an email. I have quite a lot of experience with his products and am more than happy to help. I should also point out that I have purchased all of my Conners Sewing Factory jeans with my own money at full price and receive absolutely no commission for my review or for referrals. I simply love these jeans and want others to love them as much as I do.

A special thanks to the members of Denimbro, especially Double 0 Soul, Flash, and Dr_Heech. Some of their knowledge and thoughts on Conners Sewing Factory has been used in this review. If anyone is interested in the brand after reading this article, please enjoy reading through the discussion on the brand on the forum. There is a wealth of knowledge there.

https://www.denimbro.com/conners-sewing-factory_topic3064_page1.html

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s