The FULLCOUNT Grand Slam
First of all FULLCOUNT is a fashion brand complete with fashion shows and photoshoots. Now let me say they make some fine jeans that would make any denim purist wake up sweating indigo. Part of it comes from the fact that founder-owner Mikiharu Tsujita (humbly self-introduced as Miki) is well versed in denim.
We sat down for tea last week in New York where I showed him the book, "History of Japan Jeans." While flipping through it he points out various veterans he's worked with (some he calls masters) over the years. He begins to tell stories. The one I found especially interesting is about the company he forged with sweat and tears.
FULLCOUNT s one of the Osaka 5, a group of five pioneer brands (Studio D'Artisan, Denime, Evisu, Warehouse, and FULLCOUNT) founded in Osaka for the pursuit of the best denim as seen through their respective lenses.
Tsujita recounts his younger days in the 80’s working in the famous vintage shop Lapine and traveling in the US with co-worker Hidehiko Yamane (of Evisu fame) to hunt for vintage denim garments. At the time vintage Levi's and the likes were already exchanging hands (American to Japanese) at hefty sums and it was difficult finding enough right pieces at the right prices to stock popular "used stores" like Lapine across Japan.
As a result in '89 Tsujita and Yamane launched the brand Rodeo backed by Lapine's owner. It offered raw denim with details that nodded homage to the vintage jeans they loved. Rodeo was famously different from existing brands like Studio D'Artisan and Denime, who pushed similar products but were supported by strong financial backing. It was known as a homebrewed label that distributed in vintage stores for likeminded individuals.
But in 1991 the ambitious duo splintered off and formed Evis (later renamed Evisu). I could not help but ask him to talk about the rumors of Evisu having purchased a vintage American-made shuttle loom (having heard this myth repeated as legend twice the prior day was strong motivation). It is reassuring to hear that the rumors are indeed not true. Evisu began making jeans using denim made on Japanese-built Toyoda looms.
Due to differences in brand direction (Evisu is now known for its colorful handpainted logo's that cover the backpockets; its mascot is the god of money) Tsujita sets off on his own purist's path. He stares off to the side with a distant look as he recalls what went through his mind at the time. Without substantial funding he knew that his next move would either make or break him. It was this feeling of being up at bat with 3 balls and 2 strikes that led him to name his lifework FULLCOUNT.
Since making that swing FULLCOUNT has become a popular Japanese brand offering both knits and wovens for men and women. Jeans from the line have features like natural indigo, Zimbabwean cotton, hidden rivets, back buckles, 100% cotton threads (for vintage purists) and of course selvage. But it is the essence of the vintage jeans that he wore as a youth that he tries to capture. In describing the FULLCOUNT denim he mentions soft and comfortable as being the most important points. As he models the jeans he's broken-in over 5 years he tells me this is the point when the jeans are the most comfortable. He emphasizes the belief that fashion trends change but comfort does not. Their brand concept states "FULLCOUNT is not influenced by fast-moving fashion trend."
Caption: Miki in his 5-year FULLCOUNT jeans standing next to his collection.
Yet he insists FULLCOUNT is a fashion brand. His customers, while appreciating the vintage details, use his products to primarily fulfill fashion needs. This contradiction leaves me a bit perplexed. But after only half a minute I decided I don’t need to fully understand it. Balances and struggles between ideas contribute to denim’s character. You can analyze it all day long (and we do sometimes) but in the end all you need to do is wear it to get it.
Caption: The jeans ripped on his recent travels; New York is a tough city.
We talk about his arc designs post and pre Levi's cease-and-desist letter (sized like a book but doesn't read like one).FULLCOUNT Website
Special thanks to Kotaro Tanaka
Special thanks to Lat40N
Labels: fullcount, japanese