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Since successfully changing gears over half a decade ago, 3sixteen and its denim has defined the brand. It’s a known fact that 3sixteen founders Johan Lam and Andrew Chen both respectively have a part in Self Edge — the denim retailer founded by husband/wife duo of Kiya and Demitra Babzani — which has made their transition into denim and American contemporary menswear brand, all the more easy.
3sixteen’s production has often seen them focus on a domestic story such as Japanese-produced fabrics combining with American craftsmanship. To further expand on their denim collection, the brand’s nearing the release stages of their latest effort, the Kibata Jean. Utilizing a 14oz. unsanforized denim (unwashed, shrink-to-fit), the denim’s namesake is in reference to the Japanese definition of untreated denim that’s left in its true loomstate. The fabric is derived from Okayama, Japan’s Kuroki Mills. Over 40 years of technical knowledge and experience in production has gone into making this latest slubby, unwashed fabric that is eventually finished in America. We explored both the production process of the materials and eventually the finalized denim, with a detailed rundown of what makes 3sixteen’s latest effort and their denim in general so unique.
Look for 3sixteen’s new Kibata jean starting November. It will be available in four different offerings, the SL-100xk, ST-100xk, SL-120xk and ST-120xk. The SL references Straight Leg while ST references Skinny Taper. The SKU designation refers to either Raw Indigo (100xk and indigo with a white weft) or Shadow Selvedge (120xk and indigo with a black weft).
The fabric itself should be the first thing any discerning customer pays attention to when examining a pair of jeans in person. All our denim is custom woven to our exact specifications in Okayama, Japan by Kuroki Mills. They have specialized in denim production for over 40 years and are one of only two mills in Japan that does all their indigo dyeing under one roof. It’s important to us that the denim we use cannot be found on any other jeans in the world. While many construction details are tried and true and utilized by many brands, we believe our denim is what distinguishes our jeans from the rest.
The fabric you’re looking at is our newest development, a 14oz. unsanforized denim that we have coined “kibata” which is the Japanese word for loomstate. This means that the fabric is completely untouched once it comes off the shuttle loom; no additional processing (sanforization, singing, skewing and mercerizing) will be done to the fabric before it is shipped to us. Most denim is sanforized and processed to preshrink the fabric and give it a cleaner, more uniform look; we elected to bypass the processing to allow the fabric to age with more character as it’s worn.
Beyond its kibata state, another factor that will affect the way the jean ages over time is how the fabric is woven. We elected to have this fabric woven at low tension on the shuttle loom, which results in denim with a rough hand that shows more irregularities in the weave from the start. The weft yarns tuft through the fabric even in raw state and the loose weave will allow the fabric to fade in an extremely unique way. We expect the fabric to streak vertically and show many complex shades of blue as the denim ages.
Here’s an example of a worn-in pair of our ST-100x jeans in our flagship 14.5oz raw indigo selvedge denim next to a brand new pair. Most clothing in the world is produced to look its best when brand new. We consider and engineer our jeans to look just as good when they’re beat up as when they’re new (and every phase in between).
Most jeans utilize pocket bag fabrics that weigh 3-4oz./square yard. Ours comes in at a whopping 8.3oz – overkill for some perhaps, but we figured that one of the highest stress areas of a jean deserves a beefy fabric that will withstand repeated abuse.
The selvedge detail on the fly isn’t functional nor is it meant to be seen by anyone but the wearer, but we like having it there as a little personal touch. We’ve also added a hidden selvedge detail inside the coin pocket as well.
All of our hardware is produced by YKK in North America. The washer and burr style rivets that we use allow for a bit of denim to peek through when punched. We contrast the vintage style of the rivets by using a more contemporary gunmetal finish.
We’ve tested several styles of buttons over the years and these are by far the best both in aesthetics and function. We use an open top button with a two-prong backing that prevents button rotation and pull-through. The open top or “donut” style button allows you to easily see that the backing has been fastened securely.
Six years ago, we came across a small Portland-based company making leather goods out of natural tan English Bridle leather, and proceeded to order a belt and a lanyard from them. We loved the quality and story, and reached out to see if they’d be interested in making leather patches for our jeans. We released our first run of jeans in 2008 with Tanner Goods leather patches on them, and they still make them for us to this day. What we love most about the patches is that they age alongside the jeans: as the denim wears out and lightens up over time, the leather patch darkens beautifully and softens up.
All our jeans feature chain-stitched hems; they’re not any stronger than top-stitched hems, but we like using them because that’s the way vintage jeans used to be hemmed – a nice detail to let customers know that we put thought into every stitch that’s utilized on the jean.