Finding companies that choose not to participate international trade shows may sound strange today, although Kaihara Denim is one the few manufacturers who can afford it. SI met Yoshiharu Kaihara, chairman and CEO of Kaihara Corporation, while he visited the last July edition of Milano Unica in Milan. He explained what strategies guide one of the oldest Japanese denim manufacturers and what he sees in the future of this market.
Mr Kaihara, you are visiting Japan Observatory, an area of Milano Unica hosting top-quality Japanese fabric manufacturers. Are you considering participating in this show in the future, too? What other shows do you exhibit at?
We only participate JFW Textile Show in Tokyo. We don’t exhibit at any other show as I already have enough international clients. We prefer to sell directly to our clients and tell each of them the real story about how we produce our fabrics. We want to explain them how much care and skill we pour in every single meter of denim we produce throughout the entire process of spinning, dyeing, weaving and finishing.
What is your company’s production capacity and what are the products you sell best?
We produce 3.5 million meters of denim per month (about 42 million meters per year). We sell about 75% of what we produce overseas and 25% to our local market. Most of what we sell, about 70%, is aimed at the women’s market, and it is mostly stretch. The majority of our products employs a cotton warp and, very often, alternative fibers like, for instance, synthetic fibers, stretch fibers or new materials like, for instance, hollow fibers, for the weft.
What do you see in the future of jeans?
Jeans are genderless and seasonless. For this reason jeans are not part of a trend, they will always remain and will never die. Although a change is creeping in as many are wearing jeans to play sports. In fact jeans have become indispensable companions for sports. For this reason athleisure will influence jeanswear long into the future.
Do you think that the future will lay more in raw (unwashed) denim or in heavily washed jeans?
The washing process is important for this market. You can get such different results and products by treating jeans differently.
How are jeans perceived in different markets?
Every market has a different perception. In the US jeans were born as workwear and still continue in part to be considered as such. Japanese consumers, instead, consider them as fashion items. In this case they may follow specific trends. Also in Europe jeans are perceived as fashion items, although this market is more price-sensitive and can offer products of different quality, therefore belonging to different price ranges. Although I think that no drastic changes will happen in Europe for jeans in the future as this market is somehow consolidated.
Are there any personalities or brands you appreciate especially above others?
Adriano Goldschmied is a great creative and also a long-time friend. Referring to brands I have some mind, but I prefer not to mention them.
Editor's note: Kaihara was founded in Japan in 1893 as one of the world's first manufacturers in broadloom kasuri fabrics. In 1970 it developed the first rope-dyeing machine in Japan and soon after established one of the first fully integrated denim production systems in Japan. Thanks to its highly advanced production system it manufactures and exports high-quality denim all over the world.