Master Craft Union is killing it on Japan’s innovative denim scene and using experienced textile craftsmen to create a truly modern brand, says WGSN Denim Editor Samuel Trotman
A few weeks back we had the chance to meet Nick Stavrakakis, distributer of Mastercraft Union (MCU) and one of the newest players in the premium menswear denim market. Not your typical authentic Japanese denim brand, MCU enters the market with a more contemporary approach to denim design, looking to selvedge fabrics, but not as you know it.
Born out of Okayama Japan, the brand is built on the ethos of pulling together the best craftsman from across the globe from Tuscan leathers manufacturers, Japanese denim producers, incredible Scottish knitwear and the finest twills from Italy. This is symbolised by the brands logo, an origami humming bird that represents this cross-pollination approach to product development.
Design is completed by the founder Hiroyuki Yoshikawa in Japan, while Nick heads up the marketing, sales and brand concept through his East London agency, Indigofera. A veteran in the premium denim market, he helped kick off American denim label PRPS‘ global domination back in the early 2000s.
Although PRPS has recently moved into a more commercial arena, Nick has kept a close eye on the growing premium sector and picked up and positioned MCU as the latest contemporary denim brand for today. The dynamic partnership between Nick and Hiroyuki has already landed the brand in high end stores like Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Matches and Barney’s New York as well as a number of other select retailers in Hong Kong and Japan.
With today’s market overly saturated in so many premium denim brands boasting Japanese selvedge denim, Nick was keen to highlight the brand’s transparent approach to design, and justifythe premium price tag. Hand-woven at a family-run mill in Okayama, Japan, the denim is sewn and washed in the high mountains of Shimane, which provides the natural materials needed to create the high-quality fabric with traditional and experimental techniques.
The seasonal lookbooks and website contain detailed information on everything from the brand’s concept, to the mills where the denim is produced and the craftsman who make the jeans, all of which is curated through snappy videos or beautifully shot campaign imagery.
While MCU’s concept and craft comes very much from a purist and vintage approach, the final product has a very contemporary feel that taps into the growing market of guys looking to get into selvedge without all the stuffy vintage aspects.
Much of the jeans’ detailing and branding is extremely refined and minimalist, perfectly complimenting the modern cuts. Signature sign-offs include an Italian bonded seam-sealed back pocket, matte black enameling instead of copper rivets and silicone branding in the waistbands that appears as the jean fades.
Throughout the collection you’ll also find some interesting and modern narrow loom fabrics too, like 3% stretch selvedge, selvedge indigo knits and even a paper selvedge made from 33% Japanese washi paper. The washes are done by hand in Japan by one of the areas most revered artisans including the “Resin Slate” wash, where a 12 oz. stretch selvedge fabric has been coated with an ochre resin layer, or the glossy “Painted Black” finishing on top of a ripped and repaired denim base.
MCU’s Made-in-Japan denims range between €435 – €675 (retail price).
Check out the full collection and explore the concept through the brands website.
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