Mr Oishi and The Rise of ONI Denim

As proud exclusive stockists of ONI Denim in the UK with arguably the largest selection of the brand internationally, we thought it was about time we introduced you to the man himself Mr Oishi San - the purposefully elusive denim Guru whose association with denim spans decades … read on for details of why he handpicked Son of a Stag as an exclusive stockist in the UK, learn more about his personal interests and what sparks his enthusiasm for the intricate details seen on each new revelation, what is the secret behind his Secret Denim and more importantly what exciting news does he have for us!

Mr Oishi is known for taking pride in what he creates and therefore pride in where his creations are stocked, although Son of a Stag has stocked the brand for many years now, it did take over 2 years of discussions to reach the agreement… So what was it that sealed the deal? Amongst other things, the numerous vintage machines including the Union Special 43200G… the only machine worthy of chain stitching. And as most ONI Jeans are sold in L36 it is vital for any customer of the brand to be able to have this service. Oishi San is now considered a friend of the store, when reflecting he told us “when I met Rudy-san for the first time I was genuinely touched by his passion, seriousness and good humanity and thought he would be a very good partner for the ONI Denim brand”.

Any avid followers of the brand will know that Mr Oishi has been in the denim world for decades. He did in fact first start out in the early 1970’s when he was one of the first members of Levi’s Japan. He shared this story of his first business trip to the LEVI's San Francisco headquarters in 1973;

Image of Mr Oishi outside Fred Segal in 1973

“This is a photo of me outside a historic jeans shop Fred Segal, it was very famous in Los Angeles at the time. When I visited in 1973, the founder's wife taught me various things about denim but mainly the difference between Levi’s and Lee. At that time Levi’s was overwhelmingly No 1 for the amount of jeans handled in the USA, with Lee being a very popular brand for entertainers. However back in Japan, there is a long-established store in Ameyoko Ueno owned by Mr Kinjiro Moriya. It is with great thanks to him that I have learned so much about pre-American jeans and workwear. The store had such a following it was popular with famous movie stars including Ken Takakura.”

I think it's fair to say that this business trip and his influences from Mr Kinjiro Moriya were the initiation for Mr Oishi’s inspiration of denim fabrics and how versatile they are. It is clear when you speak with him that he lives for it, “people discuss how quickly or slowly denim discolours but it depends on the density of the fabric, which also changes depending on how it is woven and the way of wearing. That is the fun of indigo denim, it cannot be said to be uniform. I think no other fabric can be better than indigo denim”. And we couldn’t agree more, the past 50 years experience has given Mr Oishi the ability to develop denim fabrics and silhouettes like no other. It is with his extensive knowledge powered by his willingness to experiment and learn that he can produce the quality of denim that we know as ONI Denim.

But where did the name come from? You may have heard of it sometimes being referred to as ‘Demon Denim’... which is completely true to the name. It was during the initial stages of production, when he first witnessed a slab of denim woven with a Toyoda G3 loom built specifically for selvedge denim. With this set to an ultra-low tension (something he had not seen before) the results were a rugged and rough denim fabric… “When I saw the prototype sample with this, it looked like a demon” which in Japanese translates to ONI. It was on that day he named the brand ONI Denim.

Image of ONI Denim Leather Patch

The process behind the brand is like that of a mathematician, every part of every stage is meticulously considered and calculated. ONI Denim is known for their ultra-slubby textures and low-tension weaves. One of their most famous fabrics is Secret denim… and it is just that, a secret. But of course we want to know more… “As the name suggests, it is secret even at the stage of making the yarn and lots of secrets about dyeing and all other processes. We can create unique textures, colours and features that cannot be seen anywhere else. Therefore, it is a secret!” All we can tell you is the process consists of multiple layers, including unusual thread making, unusual rope dyeing, unusual weave and unusual weft colours. The result is a perfectly imperfect finish which is unique to the brand. Great fades are provided by the dying process and as the secret denim softens it gets more comfortable over time.

ONI Kiwami Fabric

It's all about the product, preservation of past techniques & styles but making them better, more durable and like no other denim brand. ONI Denim is unique and rare, taking methods of production from the past and creating something beautiful for the future. They purposefully use spinning techniques and different numbers of warp yarn to recreate that old-fashioned feel. Sadly, earlier this year the spinning factory in Kyushu was destroyed by a fire. This factory was used to make the threads that make up the 22oz natural indigo Kabuki fabric. Despite researching the same yarn in other spinning factories, Mr Oishi is unable to make the Kabuki fabric again, making it even rarer than it was before. However the good news is there is a new fabric about to hit our shelves, “I am not disappointed because I will continue to develop wonderful denim fabrics that do not exist anywhere in the world, including ONI KIWAMI” Kiwami is now available to purchase at Son of a Stag in-store and online..

Inspired by his love of flamenco music Mr Oishi told us “it is no longer flamenco like it used to be, but now it is amazing” and that is how he sees his denim creations… they may be similar in ways to iconic jeans from the past but he is making them better with every new fabric and silhouette. It was his love of sports cars that inspired his use of a hint of red on ONI Kase 15oz orthodox denim, “I like that sports cars often have red brake callipers and so once around 10 years ago I used red coating for the first wing button on ONI Jeans. This time however I will relaunch the item with matted deep red”.

For Mr Oishi San the importance of making jeans is not about profit or building a brand just for money benefits, he wants only to develop the best jeans in the world and in our opinion, he succeeds every time. At a grand age of 71 he feels the brand will not live on without him, making ONI Denim one of the rarest brands out there. Don’t just take our word for it, check out our collection now in-store and online.