It’s amazing how hobbies from childhood can determine the whole life. Played “American” baseball at school, Hajime Inoue met with the culture and characteristics of an alien country for him. And on his first job, he ran into a tailor who sewed jeans by individual measures. Both of this happenings had such a strong impression on Hajime that he decided to completely immerse himself in the world of American denim and study everything connected with it.
Since then, a lot of time has passed, and Hajime achieved all his goals: he became one of the key figures in the field of Japanese denim, and also made a name not only for himself, but also for his business TCB Jeans. We talked with Hajime about how it all began: first work, moving to another city, vintage Levi’s and two cats that always surrounded him.
You have been working in the denim industry for more than 10 years. How did you choose this path?
When I was young, I worked as a salesman in a small Hiroshima atelier. At that time, I was attracted by the work of a tailor who was sewing jeans according to individual standards of clients. And the more I watched this process, the more I admired him.
In 2000, when I was 20 years old, I moved to Kojima, Okayama Prefecture, and started working at a sewing factory. In 2008, I founded a small company TCB, and it, by the way, originally was also a sewing factory.
The name “TCB” is a reference to Elvis Presley?
Not certainly in that way. I took this abbreviation from the old slang of American teenagers. TCB — “Taking Care of Bussiness”. The one who does this is the best.
But there is another meaning: “Two Cats Brand”.
“Two Cats Brand”? Why?
I adore cats! I live with them since childhood. Even now there are two cats in my family, so TCB is “Two Cats Brand”.
Thinking over the concept of the brand, I decided that we needed a recognizable symbol. It’s also became cats, the image of which you can find on almost every label of TCB Jeans.
All of TCB Jeans production are based on American workwear from 1920–1970’s. Why do you have such an interest in american goods?
In school I was actively engaged in baseball. Often I left the hall in the late evenings. It seems to me that the more I was engaged in this purely “American” sport, the more I immersed myself in the roots of American culture.
From the photos in your blog, we can conclude that the TCB is a very small circle of enthusiasts engaged in production. Do you really do all the production stages in your factory?
Yes. All TCB products are made exclusively in our own factory. We have rare machines and vintage sewing equipment, which is very difficult to find in other enterprises.
The first products of TCB Jeans were reproductions of 50s and 60s Levi’s jeans. Tell us why you started with them?
I love vintage Levi’s! When I first encountered them, I was shocked. Just imagine — their fabric was so dense that when shrinking it could easily turn the metal buttons. When I saw this, my attitude towards clothing changed once and for all.
Long time ago I had two pairs of Levi’s: one from 1950s, the other from the 1960s. These were my favorite jeans, so I decided to reproduce them. I tried to fully convey all the important details of the jeans of those years, but with a few exceptions: the rear tag on TCB jeans was adorned with cats, not horses.
Your denim fabric is not like any other. What is the reason for this?
I spent a lot of time looking for the right denim. It was important for me that it corresponded in all respects to the samples of the 1950s and 1960s.
Finally, I managed to find it, and to my surprise, it was made from Zimbabwean cotton. I was amazed, it was double luck! In my opinion, denim from Zimbabwean cotton has a special charm, the beauty of which is revealed in the process of socks and aging.
It is manufactured specifically for TCB Jeans in the city of Ihara, Okayama Prefecture. We can ask the manufacturer to customize denim. For example, bring it closer to the samples of the 1920s. Any other factory can’t do that!
Not so long ago your assortment was replenished with the model TCB 50S SLIM, which caused a certain interest among the public. What was the impetus for creating these jeans?
I love a vintage landing, but I’m not the majority. I was often asked to make the silhouette of the TCB 50S more modern, and I agreed.
You know, many Japanese car manufacturers make imported complete sets with the left-hand drive. I thought it would be great to “update” our flagship model, making it more understandable for today’s youth and the western public.
Perhaps in the future we will introduce other models in a modern version.
Most of the Japanese jeans brands still reproduce the cult models of Levi’s. Do you have a desire to experiment with jeans based on Lee or Wrangler?
In general, I would gladly reproduce things even from unknown brands, if they will be interesting to me.
Our readers are well acquainted with Japan and its culture. But what do you know about Russia?
I still have a lot of memories connected with the Olympic Games. Then your country won a lot of medals!
And, I would like to get ushanka… I will be glad to wear it in Japan winter, ha-ha-ha!
Summing up, share with us plans for the future. Thank you!
We look forward to completing the repair at our factory. Soon we will make it open to all visitors from all over the world, and everyone will be able to personally see all the features of the production of TCB Jeans.