Catching up with Samurai

Since all of the Covid madness descended upon us all earlier in the year, it’s been hard to get out and do interviews, but luckily a few weeks back I did manage to get down to Samurai’s main Osaka store and have a good catch up with one of my favorite people in the whole industry, Toru Nogami. Always cheerful, speaking with Nogami-san is a pleasure. I hope you’ll enjoy our short conversation as much as I did.

So how the heck have things been going?

How have things been going? It’s been rough! (laughs) With this corona thing still hanging on…it’s been really affecting of course our exhibitions and such but…yeah it just can’t be helped right now. But even still, we’re managing to continue on, getting to whatever stores we can, shipping out new stuff, etc. Just basically doing our best despite the circumstances.

How about the state of the industry as a whole right now here in Japan?

Yeah really, I wonder eh…it’s pretty hard to tell exactly. It’s an odd situation because of course you have everything slowing down due to the virus, but at the same time you’ve got everyone in the industry really working together to keep it alive and well so…not sure what the end result of all of that is going to be yet.

How about the mills?

Mmmmm…in our case maybe not too bad. They’re working on reduced hours at the moment anyway.

Sewing factories?

Yeah…of course they’ve lost a lot of work as well but…it just really can’t be helped I don’t think at the moment, with everything that’s been going on.

This might be a tough one to answer on the spot, but what do you want for Samurai in the future? Or where do you see the company in 10, 20 years?

At the moment we are doing our best to come up with new stuff, continue making the best denim we can, not to give up on that, you know. In the future I want to continue like this of course, and make denim that might seem almost impossible to make at the moment, come up with new ideas like that. I love coming up with new stuff so we’ll continue along with that as best we can. You know, 5 years, 10 years…heck I could die tomorrow! (laughs). You just never know how long you’ve got so…what should I say? (we all crack up for a bit). But even if I die I think someone will carry on Samurai so…the main thing would be to come up with denim that people thought impossible to create…that’s really what I want to do as we move forward. I haven’t reached something I’m really 100% satisfied with….that’s where I’m headed.

Is there anything you haven’t made yet but really want to make at some point?

Something I haven’t made yet?

Nogami-san watching over the planting of Samurai’s all-organic cotton.

Yeah, not yet but maybe in the future you’d try it kind of thing…

Ah I get it. Ummm…it would be in the whole Made in Japan vein that we’ve been trying. You know, with our Cotton Project stuff, growing the cotton here, making the thread here, using Japanese dye and dyeing it here. It’s just really a dream at this point and I have no idea to what level this could actually come true, but it would be awesome to one day be able to use that cotton we grow here, that thread in all Samurai products. But yeah, I don’t know how realistic that is or how far we’ll be able to go with that one. But hey, you can dream and you can try, right? That would be the ultimate really…to have all of our stuff made with that. And then there’s what I was saying before – making the best denim ever.

Samurai’s all-Japan cotton

Alright, something I’ve been getting asked about a lot lately is why all the changes at Samurai? Like the arcuates, the tab, the jeans length, etc. A lot of changes with this new season.

Yeah, yeah…you know, one thing is that we just wanted to change some things up for the sake of change and keep things fresh.

Samurai’s new horizontal tag.

What about the length? Some long-legged customers don’t seem especially happy with that change.

Well our 36 inch was actually really long, like longer than a lot of other makers’ “36”. I think most other makers had their raw 36 that shrunk a lot when you washed it, but ours were intended to be 36 after washing. We were longer than pretty much everyone else and almost all of our customers just wanted a ton of that cut off anyway so…yeah ours were always meant to be 36 post wash (compared to pre-wash for most brands) so this just seemed a bit long for most cases so we went a bit shorter. We’ve also been getting most of our customers these days wanting one-wash jeans so we also have been leaning in that direction, though of course we still sell raw, unwashed as well. Tons of customers are wanting washed so they can just jump right in to them and have a better idea of final sizing. BUT for us at Samurai, raw is still super important and has a lot of good points in my opinion, so we definitely are continuing with that too. Both.

I see, thanks.

About the tab and arcuates, of course a lot of people are like that’s the “face” of each brand but…it’s a bit hard to explain actually…there’s different ways to think about it. In a way this kind of stuff is important and I guess you can say this is our new “face”, but it’s not like every pair of jeans has to have arcuates on the back pocket, a red tab, etc. And I don’t think people buy the jeans based on that kind of stuff. I want them to see the fabric itself…I hope that’s why people are buying Samurai jeans. We also didn’t actually remove the arcuates like some people were saying, they’re just hidden. The stitches are there (shows me sample), they just come out with wear. Any changing of the shape of the arcuates is also…there are some legal considerations that I won’t get into there, but there are certain kinds of rules about what you can and can’t do here. But I think the whole hidden thing is cool…they come out with time, you have to wait for them, work for them. You can’t see them at first glance, like a ninja. We call it a “kagemusha” stitch which means like “shadow warrior” or “hidden warrior”. They come out later, when they’re fading. We used to use these hidden stitches mostly just on our limited models, but now it’s on our other models too. It’s cool, right? Like you can imagine some ninja jumping out and scaring the crap out of you when you weren’t expecting it. (laughs).

What’s your favorite food?

Lately it’s been curry udon.

Music?

Mmmmm, I guess jazzy stuff.

Message to Samurai fans around the world?

Thank you.

That’s it?

Yep. That’s the most important thing. Just a huge thank you.

Nogami-san, you are awesome.

(we all crack up).

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