Collaboration jeans are a mixed bag. Quite often, they are nothing more than a special patch and a couple of random details over a standard fabric that is nothing more than a promotional tool for the store that is collaborating with the denim brand. Fortunately, the pair that we will be looking at today does not fall into this category, largely because it is not a collaboration with between a store and a denim brand. Instead, it is a collaboration between a denim brand and denim blogger/reviewer/Instagrammer Greg “The Denim Hound” Tamura.
Before we get into the details, I need to get through some housecleaning. Firstly, Greg is a friend of mine and more than that, he is a fellow denim reviewer. As usual, I will do my best to be as thorough and overly-critical as always. Still, this situation may color my views more than normal and I want to be up front about this. Contrarily, the details on these jeans are not my current cup of tea in many ways, specifically the fit and the type of denim used. This may also affect my review to some degree. Additionally, these are a sample pair being reviewed. I do not fit into them and I do not own them.
I also feel that it is important to note that I am not being paid to promote these jeans, I am not being given a pair of jeans for free, and I was not asked by Greg to do this review. I volunteered to review the jeans because I am genuinely interested to see what Greg has come up with and am curious to see how good a pair of Instagram collaboration jeans can be. With other pairs coming out, it does seem like this type of collaboration will continue to grow in the future, which will certainly be interesting to follow. I want to be clear that this is not a normal review, but I will still give as much information as I can. In addition, I will also include a short interview with Greg to allow him to explain the jeans further.
With that out of the way, allow me to give a brief overview on the parties involved in this collaboration. Greg Tamura AKA ‘The Denim Hound’ is one of the most passionate and experienced denim heads that I know and easily the most knowledgeable that I have met in person in terms of modern raw denim.* This is mostly due to the fact that he has owned over 200 pairs of raw denim jeans so far in his life and has reviewed nearly 100 of those pairs over at his blog http://thedenimhound.com/ . This experience definitely makes him one of the more qualified people to design his own pair of denim, especially when compared to some of the other Instagram collabs we have been seeing lately. He also owns a Himel Bros. leather jacket and loves travelling to Japan, which means you know he has good taste.
Kojima Genes is a lesser known name in the denim industry. In fact, I had never heard of them until this specific pair was brought to my attention. What surprised me was that they have existed since 1996 and even have a store on jeans street in Kojima, Japan. This is not uncommon. Every year I hear of at least two brands that have existed for over 5 years, but tend to stick to the Japanese domestic market, and Kojima Genes was one of these. The SF in the name stands for San Francisco, the city where Kojima Genes are imported to and then exported to the rest of the world. It is essentially a smaller scale version of Iron Heart UK (IHUK) with less of a cult behind it.
This is a collaboration that makes sense to me. With Instagram denim collaborations being so new, it would be unlikely for him to have been able to collaborate with a better known brand such as The Flat Head, Full Count, Pure Blue Japan, etc. Therefore, both parties should get what they want. Kojima Genes will help grow their brand in the west and The Denim Hound can custom design a pair of jeans with Japanese build quality.
The cut is quite modern and slim. The size chart above shows that they have a nice mid-rise, something that I am happy to say has been becoming more of a norm lately for many jeans. The thigh is crucially not too small, despite being a slim cut. Unfortunately, Kojima Genes SF does not include the knee measurements in the size chart. This is absolutely an oversight. The knee is a very crucial measurement for the cut and it would be nice to know what they measure in relation to the leg opening. Hopefully this is remedied for the next release. Without being able to try them on, I cannot comment too much on the fit, but it appears to be a solid, slim cut.
Unlike many collaboration jeans, this is a completely unique fabric that is used only for this pair of jeans. Coming in at 13oz, this sanforized fabric is woven by stalwart Kuroki Mills. It is dyed quickly and dried for a very long time, meaning that the color can be darker with less dips. In theory, this should lead to very high contrast fades as the dye is indeed quite dark, but the lower number of dips means that the dye should be worn away quicker, for some very high contrast fades. This alone is a very clever detail. I would assume that something like this has been done before, but this is the first time that I have personally heard of it as a feature and should be a selling point for those who like high contrast fades.
It should be no surprise to hear that I would have preferred an unsanforized fabric. I am happy to hear that Greg himself wanted to go with an unsanforized fabric as well. This makes the denim snob in me very happy and I do understand that for a release like this, a sanforized fabric is easier to deal with. With that said, this is one of the nicest sanforized fabrics that I have seen. Most sanforized jeans are quite flat and boring, to be honest. However, this one contains a nice, subtle amount of slub in both the warp and the weft, giving some of that uneven character sought after in unsanforized fabrics. The hand feel is quite nice as well. The denim is not overly stiff and feels softer than I would have expected, though it feels solid enough for me to have thought it was 14.5 oz at first rather than its actual weight of 13oz. With my preference for a moderate amount of slub and a very dark jean, this fabric is right up my alley. As said before, I would have preferred unsanforized, but for a sanforized fabric, this ticks every box for me in terms of my personal preferences.
The fabric was quite impressive, but the details do not lack merit as the jeans are stuffed with them. The first to note is the fact that the jeans are stitched with a tonal poly core thread with a copper color thread for the inseam and the hem. The tonal thread certainly gives a more modern, streamlined look which makes sense given the cut and fabric. I really like that the inseam and hem are in a contrasting color to give a pop of color. On the back pocket is a very beautiful and well executed pattern inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Great Seto Bridge in Kojima, Japan. The suspension bridge arc looks good enough that I almost wish it was done in a contrasting color rather than tonal blue.
The hardware is all solid, Japanese-made fare. The fly buttons look standard other than the aged bronze finish on the top laurel button, which looks quite nice. However, they are actually stainless steel on the back which is a nice detail. The real hardware stars are the copper rivets. Similar to the rivets on the Big john Rare jeans, they are flush and slightly conical, meaning that they do not stick out and do not catch on anything or tear up whatever rubs against them.
Selvedge details are present both on the coin pocket and half of the fly. A full selvedge fly would have been preferred, but it’s still a nice detail to have. Something to note is the grey overlock stitching that is present on the fly and the inseam. This is a very subtle color that makes the fly and especially the inseam look quite clean. Hidden rivets are present on the back pockets along with bar tacking and the selvedge line is a nice pink color, reminiscent of Momotaro jeans. There are also hidden rivets on the back pockets and tucked belt loops that continue to keep the details on the high end of the denim world.
Unique to these jeans is the patch, dyed by Pigeon Tree Crafting using the “taco dip” method. The patch design is nothing special in my personal opinion (though it is cool to see the paw for Denim Hound on it), but the indigo taco dip is quite nice and definitely makes it pop more, raising it to a much higher level. Pigeon Tree Crafting is known for his indigo dying and has become quite good at it, as evidenced by these patches. You certainly won’t see them on another pair of jeans right now. Another fantastic feature is the copper colored sashiko pocket and yoke lining fabric. This is a beautiful fabric in a gorgeous color in its own right, but the fact that it is used as a yoke lining is even better. Off the top of my head, I can think of less than 5 pairs of jeans that even have yoke lining and most of them are from Momotaro. The pattern is called Shippou and refers to the seven treasures of Buddhism, It is used because it shows how different people can overlap and work together.
The construction is overall quite impressive. The leather patch is held on by a single, continuous line of stitching, there are several different thicknesses of thread used throughout the jean, and the back pocket arcs are beautifully implemented. The sewing is not Roy or Ooe Yofukuten straight, but then again, nothing else is. Without question, it is on the higher end of the spectrum, equal to my Kamikaze Attack heavyweight jeans and the Pure Blue Japan jeans I used to own. The sewing is not as dense in some places, but that is because the chainstitch thread used is quite thick.
In terms of construction, the overlock stitching was what impressed me the most on these jeans. This was some of, if not the neatest overlock stitching I have seen on a pair of jeans if you don’t count shell stitching. The fly and the inseam looked incredibly clean as a result of this and it was quite impressive. Additionally, the pocket bags were sewn much neater than usual, which was great to see. Button holes were quite densely sewn, and the bar tacks were neatly placed. There were no wonky stitches that I could find anywhere on the jean, which is a great sign.
Unfortunately, there was one broken chainstitch on the top of the seat. With this being a sample pair, I deferred to Greg to explain this situation and he had the following to say:
“So this sample pair has gone through a lot. I really tested areas for strength and invasively pulled and picked at seams and threads, just to see what it can handle, and it can handle a lot. But like any garment, it can only take so much. The sample I got was two sizes too small for me, but that didn’t stop me from trying lol. I held my breath, buttoned them up and tried to squat it out for quite a while. I wanted to see how much the denim would stretch and the seams could handle. They are very durable in construction, but one thing I found it that the denim doesn’t not stretch as much as a loose weave from say PBJ or ONI. I would compare the stretch factor similar to Momotaro or Japan Blue. Its a medium to tight weave. So after my stretch trial, as well as having a few friends try them on( that were also too big for them) The chain stitching on the back rise popped. I wasn’t surprised, after what they had gone through. I believe that would be the case in any pair of jeans. The thread used for the chain stitching is cotton wrapped polycore, so it is industry standard for strength. The stitching is all done very well and by people and machines that make Japanese denim for brands we all love and respect.”
Personally, I am inclined to believe Greg here. The fact that the stitch was not loose on the other side of the jeans implies that this was not a factory defect. Aside from this, the construction was very solidly executed.
At this point, I have to bring up the fact that the price of these jeans is only $200. For this level of overall quality, a beautiful, exclusive fabric, and some wonderfully well thought out and stunning details all distributed through a Western source for peace of mind, that price is an absolute bargain. I will mince no words and say that if you are looking at 3Sixteen, Rogue Territory, Tellason, or Japan Blue jeans, you really should give these a look instead. The denim is far more impressive than anything from the American brands mentioned and the details are superior to anything Japan Blue offers. The only deal on the market this good is TCB, but that is a repro brand that you would not be considering if you are looking at these jeans. The margin on these has to be quite slim, meaning that anyone grabbing them is getting a heavyweight bargain.
On the whole, I must admit that I was more impressed with these jeans than I expected to be. I love the indigo and copper color theme that is done very consistently. You can really tell that Greg has thought of everything. Even the overlock stitch thread color has been thought of. Greg is a complete denim nerd and I love it. The denim is one of the most interesting sanforized fabrics that I have seen, and the construction is solid and quite neat overall. However, what really impresses me most is Greg himself.
I will be honest, this fit is not for me and this is not my style of jean. With that said, it is very obvious to me that this man really knows his stuff and has a knack for designing a very detailed, modern pair of jeans that is above all, cohesive. The fact that all of the design elements link together shows just how much he thought about the design of these and really shows off his talent as a designer. More than anything, I am excited to see what his future holds in terms of creating more projects such as this one. Given that this is his project, I will conclude with a short interview with him that allows him to explain the jeans further and share the link to these jeans for anyone interested.
Almost Vintage Style:
How did this collaboration start?
The Denim Hound:
I have reviewed a couple of pairs of Kojima Genes x SF over the past couple of years and have built a good relationship with the brand. One day they approached me with the proposal to collaborate and I jumped at the opportunity.
What has the process been like in creating these jeans?
It has been a slow and deliberate process. I took my time developing the concept and outlining what I wanted this pair to be and represent. I made sure it was all thought out completely before putting the pen to paper, so to speak. It is the first time I’ve designed a pair of jeans. I wanted to set the precedent for future collaborations, Very high quality, very good value, something you can’t get anywhere else, and it has to have an understated cool. Nothing to loud or gaudy. Kojima Genes x SF has been really accommodating and let me completely do my own thing with this pair. It has been an honor and a pleasure working with them. They have done an amazing job getting all of the details and elements I wanted approved, and found a way to make it all work form a financial point to view. This was no small feat, given what I wanted to do with this pair.
You told me that you originally wanted to use unsanforized denim? In switching to sanforized fabric, what elements we’re you looking for in the fabric?
Like a lot of denimheads, I’m a big fan of unsanforized denim. But there are some really great sanforized denim fabrics out there, like the one used in the collaboration. For this pair we used a special, exclusive denim from Kuroki. This denim really impressed me and wasn’t like the sanforized denims I’ve experienced in the past. The hand feel almost doesn’t seem sanforized, It doesn’t feel overly singed or inky, like most do. It has a fuzzy/hairy/dryness that feels closer to unsanforized. Their are advantages to sanforized denim too. Not having to pre soak, allows you to wear for a long time before it ever touches water, creating the opportunity for strong creasing and high contrast fades. I wanted this collaboration to be successful, and the sizing issue that comes along with unsanforized denim can be a huge deterrent from purchasing, for the less experienced with unsanforized.
Are there any elements of these jeans that you are particularly proud of?
Im really proud of how balanced the pair came out as a whole. I packed it with details that reinforce longevity and some that add a touch of uniqueness and exclusivity. But as you know, details are an art form, you have to know when to stop. I pretty much added everything I look for in a pair of high end denim, without pushing the look or the price over the top. The patch I developed with Isaac from Pigeon Tree Crafting is something I’m really proud of. This is the first pair of jeans to feature this ‘Taco Dip’ style I developed with Isaac. It gives you a patch with both raw vegtan and indigo dyed leather to patina. The sashiko fabric used on the pocket bags and yoke lining Kojima Genes was able to get a hold of is just beautiful.
Did you have a specific target audience in mind for these jeans?
I knew I couldn’t make a pair for everyone, but I did want it to be right for a large section of the denim community. I really wanted to put the next level of denim in the hand of people who couldn’t afford to pay $300+ for a pair of jeans. I also wanted them to be wearable by people in warmer climates, as well as cooler, without sacrificing durability or the solid feeling of sturdy and rigid denim. I think this collab is successful in both of these aspects.
What are your thoughts on Instagram denim collaborations and how do you think your jeans compare?
I think its great that Instagram has put brands and their biggest supporters in direct contact and has given us a platform to help each other grow. With this kind of new opportunity comes some trial and error. I feel that this collaboration is a strong step in the right direction in setting the president for how things can be. I hope this is the first of many successful collaborations for me.
What future plans if any do you have for further releases?
I have some concepts and ideas I’m already working on. I invite brands that are interested to reach out, lets see if we can make something exciting! I hope to do another collab with Kojima Genes x SF and have another brand or two in mind as well 😉 But first I have to make this Bridge 1 collaboration successful. The stronger this campaign is, the more leverage I have to do some really cool things in the future. So everyones support is crucial in the process of my growth in this aspect.
Check out the jeans here: https://www.atriumsf.com/collab-denim.html
They are only available for 30 more days!
*I know some people who know way too much about vintage denim, but this is almost a completely different subject!