Journal

Nihon Menpu • Pumice Grey Selvedge

Treasure by Nihon Menpu, Japan

12 OZ | 100% Cotton | Pumice Grey | Red Selvedge | 3x1 RHT

On a recent trip to one of our denim sources in Los Angeles I found this incredible 42 yard roll of Nihon Menpu selvedge, in a very unique pumice grey color. This is enough to make 12-13 pairs if we manage it correctly. We will likely make one pair and post it online to get some bids on producing the remainder.

Finding fabric like this is very rare. Yes, there is a lot of surplus selvedge sitting around in warehouses in LA, but rarely do I come across anything as unique as this. Nihon Menpu produce a lot of indigo denims but I have never seen one in this pastel grey, it is simply phenomenal. 

Nihon Menpu, Japan

If you're not familiar with Nihon Menpu (which translates to 'cotton cloth maker' in Japanese), it's the crown jewel of the denim textile world. It was founded in 1917 by Jiroichi Kawai (and still a family business) in rural Okayama, Japan, which is also home to other world renowned mills like Kurabo and Kuroki. Today the company is run by Shinji Kawai and employs around 60 people.

Brands like Mr Freedom, Sugar Cane and Edwin all have very strong ties to the plethora of history and indigo culture this hundred year old mill is steeped in. Yet the soul of Nihon Menpu comes from its distinctly Japanese heritage. The factory has made indigo-dyed fabric for most of the near-century it's existed.

Image: Noble Denim

They were the first Japanese mill to produce denim and still us old shuttle looms, in particular the 1920's Toyoda G10 shuttle looms. The looms weave in a gentler way than larger industrialized looms, and produce what the Japanese call "gentle weaving" whereby the textile can relax due to the reduced tension.

Nearby on the island of Shuikoki, one of the last remaining true natural indigo facilities in the world, Nihon Menpu champions the Ai method. This ancient technique uses “Sukumo”, the composted leaves of the Japanese Polygonum Tinctorum plant, grown on the island. Kawai-san has visited the island many times, harvested the indigo leaves and studied under Dr. Osamu Ni, one of the leading experts and researchers in this ancient art.

Nihon Menpu

Often, this Edo Ai method is combined with dyeing via natural indigo cake, from Indigofera Tinctorum, a more efficient, but still, unthinkably old-fashioned technique. Hence there are some Nihon Menpu denims, like the Edo Ai, made for Sugar Cane, which feature a combination of dyeing techniques from the 16th,18th and 20th centuries.

Thank you to Paul T of Loomstate for this information on Nihon Menpu, he had the pleasure of visiting the mill, so I thought some of his words and knowledge would do better justice to such a sacred subject. More here.