The Indonesian Denim Brands Giving Japan a Run for Its Money

The U.S. and Japan are no strangers in the premium denim conversation.

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There’s a lot to laud when you’re talking about premium denim brands from America, Japan and Europe. Each brand’s taken creative license with the preeminent five-pocket denim jean first introduced by Levi’s nearly 150 years ago, tweaking everything from fit to finish to hardware to thread. You’ve got Momotaro, Samurai, Tellason, Dawson Denim, Naked & Famous, Companion and so much more. The number of brands from these regions trying their hand at Time’s garment of the 20th century is dizzying.

But a new wave of denimheads has been growing in a country not often included in the selvedge conversation. Indonesia has experienced a growth of cordwaining craftsman that stretches back decades and along with their love of hand-welted boots, the Southeast Asian country has also grown an unrivaled fervor for all things indigo. In pursuit of the sickest fades by way of heavy selvedge denim, custom-woven fabrics and high-level construction techniques that would make any fashion-lover turn their heads, these are just a few of the denim brands giving places like Japan a run for their money.

Oldblue Co.

Oldblue Co. focuses on denim through an Americana heritage approach, focusing on a workwear and western design aesthetic. Think repro five-pocket jeans based on WWII Levi’s, cinch-back jeans made to 1930s standards, duck canvas ranch jackets and chambray work shirts. While the brand takes cues from vintage Americana, it sources fabrics from the U.S., Japan and around Southeast Asia.

44 Repro by Oldblue Co. $195

18 Oz Over-slub Atlantic by Oldblue Co. $185

Work Jacket Type III by Oldblue Co. $175

Sage

While Oldblue Co. sources their fabrics internationally, Sage focuses on selvedge denim milled in-house. Fans of heavyweight denim should look to Sage’s lineup of jeans which tip the scales at 18-ounce on average and go all the way up to beefy 21-ounce denim. Most of its denim come unsanforized, meaning it’ll shrink several sizes with a wash, catering to denimheads seeking a “purer” denim experience. Sage’s approach takes inspiration from nature and the outdoors with their leather patches and graphic tees often depicting animals and camping scenes.

7th Anniversary Special Sierra 18oz Unsanforized by Sage ~$82

Canine Type II 14oz Deep Indigo Denim Jacket by Sage ~$41

Wolvenchief 21oz Unsanforized Deep Indigo by Sage ~$79

Carnivore’s Soul

Gearheads and fans of Iron Heart will feel at home with Carnivore’s Soul which steps to the tune of revved-up motorcycles. The brand offers heavyweight denim from Japan, the U.S., Thailand and Indonesia cut into jeans with rare details like hidden rivets, reversible vests, reinforced truckers jackets and more. Whether you have a hog or not, Carnivore’s Soul products are built to take a beating.

Tigris 17oz Unsanforized Deep Indigo Selvedge by Carnivore’s Soul $75

Two Face Reversible Motorcycle Vest by Carnivore’s Soul $55

15oz Double Elbow Denim Jacket by Carnivore’s Soul $52

Chopperlife Coach Jacket by Carnivore’s Soul $52

Go With Racer Tee by Carnivore’s Soul ~$13

NBDN

While Oldblue Co. and Carnivore’s Soul’s designs take after American aesthetics in a more straightforward approach, NBDN twists heritage details in unexpected ways while adding cues from the wabi-sabi philosophy of Japan. You’ll find chainstitch runoff at the back pockets, trucker jackets with club collars and staid leather patches swapped out for scraps of indigo-dyed fabrics patchworked together with sashiko stitching. Like many of the brands in this list, their library of fabrics shows off interesting denims with unique tints, workwear stripes and scale-busting weights.

Susanoo God of Storm by NBDN $169

Cyclops 14.5oz Deep Rich Dotted Line by NBDN $145

Springfield 66 Blouse Trucker by NBDN $166

Springfield V by NBDN $169

Khaki Canvas 21oz Super Heavyweight Vintage Workpants by NBDN $159

Elhaus

Elhaus stands out among this list for its streetwear-heavy designs. Unlike the rest of the brands here, Elhaus produces collections for each season like fashion houses rather than emphasizing seasonless core garments. The brand got its footing in the beginning with its jeans, which remain popular to this day thanks to 16-ounce denim that’s substantial without being masochistic, available in a variety of colors and outfitted with niche details like shell-stitched fly and offset belt loops. While its denim offering remains straightforward, its seasonal collections riff on military classics like jungle jackets and cargo pants for the denim lover with streetwear leanings.

Thunder Bird Denim Iron Tail 16oz Deep Indigo by Elhaus $196

Jungle Jacket by Elhaus $136

Vagabond Jacket by Elhaus $168

Fender Pants by Elhaus $148

Philosphy T-Shirt by Elhaus $68

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