eternal 888 denim diary: bukit batok nature park

Bukit Batok Nature Park. A small park that packed with so many surprises. Spotted Thrasher birds, Temasek shrimps and of course with the tranquil quarry. My Eternal 888 is 1 year 10 months old//1 soak//2 wash//worn 5 days per week// This stage most fadings are obvious. Train tracks, whiskers, honeycombs, roping and vertical fading to name a few of them. Will show more details soon :-O

Levi’s 501XX 1966 & Type III trucker jacket

Here is one of my favourite Levi’s 501XX 1966 model wearing to work. Hasn’t been washing since a year ago, so far he has no odour. Light weight denim with the tapered silhouette. Worn since 2009. 7 years 10 months old. Size 30/32. 9 washes. Hand-painted NASA “Spacewalk of Gemini”. Not forgetting my beloved trucker jacket from my late father.

ETERNAL 888 DENIM DIARY: bmx

Eternal 888 BMX in jeans 3Eternal 888 BMX in jeans 2

I get stoked doing all these little thrill on my wethepeople and my beloved Eternal 888. 1 year 8 months old//1 soak//2 wash//worn 5 days per week//

Zimbabwe cotton and Fullcount

Know more about the best cotton in the world as used by fullcount denim jeans. Thanks to article with an exclusive interview by heddels.com

cotton ball in hands

A Look At Zimbabwe Cotton with Full Count’s Mikiharu Tsujita

One of the crucial elements that separates the raw denim hobby from ordinary consumer fashion is the careful consideration of the materials used to construct the jeans. If the modern raw denim movement was born from a fascination with selvedge denim and vintage shuttle looms, it grew up as manufacturers pressed further into a drive for unique garments featuring not just old-fashion fabrics, but carefully-selected machinery and materials ranging from rebuilt Union Specials to original copper rivets, iron buttons, and heavy-gauge cotton thread.

But out of all the elements present in creating a pair of high-quality jeans, cotton is the most basic and essential ingredient. It is the foundation upon which everything else is built. And among all the different varieties of cotton available–ranging from Texas and California cotton to luxurious Supima and fine Egyptian varieties–Zimbabwe cotton stands out as the superlative variety for denim.

The question of whether one cotton or another is better is to some extent subjective and depends upon the specific requirements of a brand, Zimbabwe cotton stands out for a variety of reasons. It’s picked by hand, not machines, and only one crop is produced per year, giving the production of this cotton an old-world quality that’s inevitably lost in other varieties where machinery and big agribusiness is the driving force of production.

zimbabwe_cotton_picking

Yet the quality comes at a price, and not just in monetary terms: Zimbabwe is known for the oppressive dictatorship of the Mugabe regime, infamous for its numerous human rights violations. This inevitably raises the question: does Zimbabwe cotton’s quality come at the expense of supporting an oppressive regime, or is it more complicated than that?

In order to get some perspective on the quality of Zimbabwe cotton and the issues involved in its production, I spoke to Mikiharu Tsujita, the founder of Full Count. Not only is the brand one of Japan’s most respected denim producers, Full Count was also one of the first companies to use Zimbabwe cotton in the production of selvedge denim.

Full Count's Mikiharu Tsujita.

“I first became aware of Zimbabwe cotton around 1994,” Tsujita says. “But when Full Count started making jeans at the end of 1992, we’d been using American cotton. Ever since I was a teenager I was a fan of vintage American jeans, especially the leather patch Levi’s 501XX made between 1947 and 1953. These jeans didn’t necessarily fade better compared to other vintage jeans, but they were extraordinarily comfortable – the fabric had a distinct sheen and flexibility.  They were so comfortable that they were the only jeans I ever wore.”

Though these vintage Levi’s weren’t made with Zimbabwe cotton, they embodied the quality that Mr. Tsujita desired for his own company’s jeans, leading him to search for the perfect cotton. “I could never get over the amazing feeling of those leather patch 501XXs I wore when I was a teenager, so I made up my mind that somehow or another, I was going to make a fabric like that.”

Mr. Tsujita tested out various types of cotton, such as Peruvian, Egyptian, and Supima cotton. But amongst these better-known varieties, one type stood out: Zimbabwe cotton. Though it wasn’t particularly well-known at the time, its qualities immediately caught his discerning eye. “It wasn’t just the quality that appealed to me,” he says.  “This variety of cotton was hand-picked, resulting in reduced wastage – the parts of the cotton crop with flaws, which wasn’t suitable for production.  On top of that, the strong sun exposure of Africa facilitated the rapid growth of the cotton plants, producing an extremely strong, long fiber. Furthermore, this was organic cotton.”

With the help of a trading company, Mr. Tsujita was able to acquire Zimbabwe cotton and begin producing denim from it after carefully practicing dyeing and weaving techniques, elevating the cotton from obscurity to the present status it enjoys as perhaps the best cotton for denim production.

Detail of RJB jeans made from Zimbabwe cotton.

But Zimbabwe’s cotton isn’t produced in a vacuum. The African country has sadly been a hotbed for international controversy due to the authoritarian Mugabe regime, raising questions in the denim community about the ethics of using a cotton that might–directly or indirectly–contribute to supporting an oppressive regime with a poor human rights record.  A recent Reddit discussionignited a bit of debate concerning the ethics of buying jeans made with Zimbabwe cotton. But it raised an important question: to what extent are consumers of high-end denim made from Zimbabwe cotton continuing the oppressive state of affairs in Africa?

“It wasn’t until 1998 that I realized the situation in Zimbabwe,” Mr. Tsujita says. “At the time I was selling jeans in England, when a buyer advised me not to advertise the Zimbabwe cotton because of the country’s poor image. This prompted me to investigate what was happening in Zimbabwe, which from the Japanese perspective looked rather similar to conditions in North Korea. I understood why Zimbabwe had a bad image after the Mugabe regime resulted in lowered prosperity and hyperinflation.

“But once Full Count understood the situation, we resolved to help the people of Zimbabwe through the donations of Japanese non-government organizations. In addition, we helped charities, such as those selling Save Zimbabwe T-shirts. The NGO president Mr. Hayashimoto was also careful not to give the donations to the government, but instead get the money directly to the people of Zimbabwe, through initiatives such as study abroad opportunities for young people that will help to build a future for the people of Zimbabwe.”

Consumers of high-end denim are already quite conscious of where materials and labor for their favorite brands are sourced, but even the most meticulous brands aren’t immune to missteps in production or sourcing materials. In an era when clothing production is dominated by cheap labor and sketchy work conditions, a few companies like Full Count are thankfully concerned with the issues beyond the final product.

Cotton from China

Know your cotton to all denimheads. I have featured my blog on best cotton in the world but China wasn’t mentioned. Found this article from Saintkeat.wordpress.com

Xinjiang Cotton – The Next Big Thing?

I’m sure everyone by now has heard all there needs to be known about Zimbabwe cotton, how it’s long staple can produce a weave so soft, denim mills are charging a premium for them. It has taken the industry by storm with the much accredited hype surrounding it, but has anyone heard of Xinjiang cotton? It has since been used by a select few Japanese brands in the past decade, and recently exclusively used by Chinese brand, Red Cloud & Co.  on all their denim models. I was rather curious about this cotton and began a comprehensive research on the subject matter, I shall start with it’s geography.

Xinjiang sits on the north-west portion of China, that borders Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Kazakhstan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Due to its unique location, Xinjiang’s environment is semi-arid and very cool, as expected from the Gobi Desert which spans from Xinjiang to Mongolia. This wasteland that was unsuitable for cultivation found its way to being the first nuclear test site in 1964 in Lop Nur, a province of Xinjiang. It became very much a military province, housing both a garrison and a prison. One would be surprised then, that the cultural revolution invoked by Chairman Mao had started in the 1950s, his plan was to transform wastelands into rich agricultural lands to resolve the growing famine problem. 200,000 soldiers were commissioned into cultivating the land in resource rich Xinjiang, the soldiers and several thousand civilians that were lured by false promises to Xinjiang, formed the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Since then, Xinjiang has produced melons, tomatoes and nuts, but the most important produce has to be cotton.

China is the largest exporter of cotton in the world, and Xinjiang is the country’s top cotton producing state, with more than 30% of the entire cotton produce coming from Xinjiang, of which, the province of Shihezi is one of the primary producing areas. What makes Xinjiang cotton special is how soft it becomes when its woven into a length of cloth. I was very much surprised myself when I felt the fabric produced by Red Cloud & Co. It felt just as soft as Zimbabwe, with a nice slightly hairy texture. Honestly, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two. Here’s why, Zimbabwe cotton is a long staple variety, with lengths varying between 3.8-4.5cm. Xinjiang cotton is also of the long staple variety with lengths averaging around 4cm as well. Here’s a picture that compares Xinjiang to Supima cotton.

Zimbabwe cotton staples might be a tiny bit longer, but it would make a pretty insignificant difference once its woven into cloth. I noticed a few key factors in producing long staple cotton. Both Zimbabwe and Xinjiang have semi-arid climates, and both are harvested by hand. Machined cotton harvesters shorten the staple lengths which is why Texas cotton is so short and uniformed. Hand picking is extremely labor intensive, which can only be done in regions where labor is relatively cheap, to remain competitive in the cotton industry. However, with that said, denim made from Zimbabwe cotton is much more expensive than denim made from the relatively unknown Xinjiang cotton!

With the growing awareness from consumers in the market, I expect the demand for Xinjiang cotton to increase in years to come, driving up prices and reinforcing China’s stake in the market. Look out Zimbabwe, you’ve got major competition.