Culture, Trends & Stories

Five Unconventional Denim Brands You Need To Know

From raspberry scented jeans to the most durable jeans in the world, discover unique denim brands that have amassed a cult-like following with their innovative creations.

April 26, 2021
Written by
Melinda Junata
"Where can I find good jeans that are not Levi's?"
— A frequently enquired first world problem

A quick dive on google and you will find yourself drowning in a flood of think pieces on luxury denim, sustainable denim, denim for men, denim for women, Japanese denim, and many more. There seems to be a pair of jeans out there for everyone.

This isn't a generic list of denim brands. This is a list of some of the most unique and audacious brands out there that have a story behind every stitch. So when you're looking to buy a new pair for your post-vaccination life, this is the list to save.

1. Momotaro Jeans : For The Nostalgic Ones

Momotaro Jeans is not your typical Japanese denim brand. They deliver high quality Japanese selvedge denim with an interesting myth attached to it and it starts with a boy and a peach.

Founded in 2005, Momotaro Jeans has been making jeans that are comparable to vintage jeans by blending traditional techniques with modern fit and Japanese meticulous craftsmanship. Their Gold Label denim is made-to-measure and they strictly use hand-dyed threads from a traditional handloom  Oh and did we forget to mention that it has a one-year waiting list.

The name, Momotaro comes from the popular Japanese folklore about a young boy that came out of a big peach, a symbol of longevity, hence Momotaro's mascot is the boy and the peach.

Jeans with two white stripes on its right pocket placed on a bed of leaves
Momotaro 'Going to Battle' Jeans (Source: Momotaro)

Momotaro Jeans weaves in Japanese historical references into their designs. For instance, their popular 'Going To Battle' series has two stripes on the back pocket to reference the Samurai of the Edo period, and they use their distinct pink selvedge line and pink thread to reference the peach in the Momotaro folklore.

Hisao Manabe, the founder of Momotaro Jeans, started the brand with hopes to revive his ageing hometown Kojima, a small town in the Okayama prefecture, that also happens to be the birthplace of Japanese denim. He is also the founder of 'Kojima Jeans Street', his initiative to attract domestic and international visitors to get their denim there.

2. Naked and Famous: For The Imaginative Ones

Remember when you were a kid with a fresh perspective towards life?

Brandon Svarc, the Founder or Naked and Famous credits his childhood to be the foundation of all of his creative works in Naked and Famous. People dubbed him as the Elon Musk or the Willy Wonka of the denim industry as he always strives to create something 'out-of-the-box' by pushing the boundaries of innovation and materials in denim.

Standing world's heaviest jeans
World's Heaviest Denim by Naked and Famous

Naked and Famous's Denim is anything but your average pair. Since 2008, they have been creating denim with the unusual materials and processes that you can think of like paper, camel hair, wool hair, milk, pineapple, cashmere and they are just scratching the surface. Some of their notable denim creations are the glow-in-the-dark jeans, scratch-n-sniff raspberry jeans, and thermochromic jeans that changes colour in different temperature. They also pride themselves to cut, make, and sew their raw denim jeans in Canada with the best Japanese denim fabrics.

Glow-in-the-dark denim with ghostbusters logo on the leather patch

"I remember knowing and realising that there’s no way that my imagination is going to get any better as I get older. I knew that as a kid, as a little boy, you have the greatest, most powerful imagination ever so when I try to design crazy things, I just try to remember being an 8-year-old boy.", says Svarc.

Svarc believes in creating a denim brand that position itself far away from the mainstream media and mass culture that is filled by celebrity endorsement and advertising, and instead focus on offering affordable and high-quality products with their own unique personality. Who would have thought that embracing your eight-year old self's wildest idea would create an iconic and eccentric denim brand.

3. Boyish Jeans : For The Conscious Ones

It's no longer a secret that fashion industry is known to be the second most polluting industry in the world. In fact, according to the Fashion Revolution 'What My Jeans Say About The Garment Industry', a typical pair of blue jeans consumes about 919 gallons of water during its life cycle. That is equivalent to the amount of water 5 people drink in a year.

Jordan Nodarse is a fashion designer based in Los Angeles. While working in a up-and-coming fashion brand, he was alarmed by the waste generated by the fashion industry. After learning the ins and outs of the industry, he sets his own mission to steer changes in the denim industry through his own denim brand, Boyish.

Girl on the floor sipping a glass of champagne
Source: Boyish

Boyish is ultimately Jordan's take in blending his passion for fashion and environmental efforts. Since 2018, Boyish focus has been a high quality denim that is inclusive for all woman's fit and sustainable for the environment. They know the good stuff for us and the planet, like the fact that they are a carbon neutral company since day one, they use organic and recycled materials, and they partner with manufacturers who comply to the highest manufacturing standard.

Transparency is the key driver of Boyish's sustainable journey. Go to their website and you will be greeted by the numbers. Most companies, they are trying to incorporate sustainability as part of their business by creating green pledges but fail to show their numbers. Jordan believes sustainability is nothing without transparency, and showing the numbers is a big part of showing the company's progress and also educating the impact of sustainability efforts to the customers.

Even though Boyish is seen as a newcomer in the denim industry, we should keep an eye on it as it sets out to scale-up their positive impact to the world one jean at a time.

4. Dyneema® Denim : For The Daredevils

Motorcyclists are an interesting breed. Who wants to wear leather all day long? Apparently, they have to. Thus far, leather has been the only material that is durable, wind and heat resistant and in many cases the difference between life and a life-altering incident No wonder they're always geared up in clunky and bulky leather fits.

Not much has changed when it comes to risks but a lot has changed when it comes to fibre technology. Meet the world's strongest fibre, Dyneema®, an experiment that blends their fibre with denim fabrics. Denim is inherently durable, tough, protective and comfortable for the average joe, but with the addition of Dyneema®, it enhances everything, making it the perfect blend for bikers around the world.

A person cuffing jeans
Source: El Solitario

Motorcycle drifting in a desert
Source: El Solitario

At the forefront of its innovation is BERTO E.G. Industria Tessile S.R.L. With the Dyneema® Denim, motorcyclist now can wear a comfortable and protective outfit that adapts to the temperature you're in. The fibre is proven to be 15x stronger than steel and this allows the the fabric to protect riders from slides lasting over 4 seconds.

This pair is suitable for anyone who is a takes their fashion style seriously. The only average thing about Dyneema® Denim is that it fades and ages just like any of your regular denim. Check out El Solitario, Saint, or Taylor Stitch for Dyneema Denim products.

5. Y/Project : For the Neoteric

As brand who has a reputation to always deliver the unexpected, Y/Projects is known to give extra surprises in the denim world, especially when they introduced the $315 Denim Panties. The Creative Director, Glenn Martens, described it as a little bit absurd, but also quite sexy.

Source: Y/Project

Y/Project is a fashion house based in Paris, and they are known to add a little spice and twist to stable wardrobe items, and one of them being denim. Some of their denim experiments includes denim shirt with an asymmetrical shoulder pad, denim jeans that looks like it has been patched multiple times, detachable denim jeans, multi-layered denim jacket, and the list goes on.

Since Glenn joined the brand as the Creative Director in 2013, he took the brand forward by breaking the norms in the fashion industry. He nurtures the brand by embracing its playful and witty side while blending in masculine and feminine looks that eventually create the eclectic aesthetic that Y/Project is known for.

Source: Y/Project

We are currently in a very exciting period of denim revolution. All of the brands that I have mentioned here are doing their part in not just preserving denim history but writing a new future of denim that is experimental, empowering and transparent. What innovations would you like to see more in the denim industry?

Have you heard of INDIKON 3D?

INDIKON is created in collaboration between Bandicoot Image Sciences, Sydney based tech startup that specialises in digitising materials, and INQOVA, a digital consultancy for the denim industry based in Hong Kong.  

Together they are bringing fabric digitisation into the mill. You are looking at the ability to sample digital fabrics immediately from mills worldwide and get materials straight into your favourite 3D software.  

Now, mills can share their fabric creations with designers and buyers instantly. And they can make adjustments to countless fabrics digitally at a moment's notice — getting rid of an enormous amount of material waste and logistical pollution.  

The solution outputs 4K 3D fabric files that are compatible with Swatchbook, Material Exchange, and other distribution platforms; CLO3D, Browzwear, Optitex, and other 3D fashion design solutions.

In collaboration with Jeanologia and other players in the denim laundry space, they are looking to develop better digital fabrics for better digital laundry.  

INDIKON enables denim mills to build a better digital product development lifecycle to ultimately reduce waste, time, and logistical pollution that come with physical sampling.  

See it for yourself – head over to indikon.co to download a sample set of 3D fabrics to see the potential this has to bring designers closer to suppliers with accurate, high-quality 3D materials.

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