News Column

Shortcuts: Reality TV: The Japanese jeans shredded by wild animals

July 9, 2014

Lauren Cochrane



If Blackpool is too posh for Geordie Shore, who will have them?

Japanese brand Zoo Jeans describes its product as "the only jeans on earth designed by dangerous animals". It may sound like the work of Zoolander designer Mugatu, but it is actually sort of true.

"Designed" is a stretch but animals including lions, tigers and bears are certainly involved in the process. Tyres are covered in denim and thrown into the animals' compounds at Kamine zoo in Hitachi, Japan. The animals play with these toys and, hey presto, said denim is torn, ripped and shredded in ways that industrial production could only imitate. Looking at images of the jeans on the Zoo website, the lions - kings of the jungle, of course - seem to be the ones that get really stuck in. The L1 model is very distressed indeed.

While sandblasting has been exposed as being hazardous to workers' health, the demand for denim complete with pre-made rips and tears remains strong - and Japanese brands often apply abrasions to their jeans by hand. Drafting in animals to do the work might be a new technique but Mithun Ramanandi, men's denim buyer at Selfridges, is not convinced that it has the desired effect. "The rips are too sporadic," he says. "Men want them on the thigh, the knee, the back pocket. Rips on the calf, as they are here, don't look natural."

Ramanandi concedes that Zoo may have a market in animal lovers - proceeds go towards renovating Kamine Zoo - but he believes the jeans to be a bit "gimmicky".

Japanese denim continues to have a cult following that has grown steadily since Evisu arrived in Europe in the 1990s with its distinctive back-pocket seagulls. These days, jeans from Momotaro, with handmade denim and sterling silver buttons, can cost more than pounds 1,000.

A more realistic alternative is Mastercraft Union, a British company that sources its denim in Japan and gets the washes done there too. The company's jeans cost close to pounds 400 but they are the real deal. "Sometimes a brand will say 'Made in Japan' when they actually manufacture their jeans elsewhere," says Ramanandi. "They know how important that label is."

According to Ramanandi, real denim purists have their own techniques to get the distressed effect. "Wear your jeans every day for a year and then wash them," he advises. "You'll get a completely personalised look, with fading at the knee, the shadow of a keyring from where it's been in your pocket." Or you could just throw them to the lions.

Lauren Cochrane


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Source: Guardian (UK)


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