(Re)Maker: Bonum | Pop-In@Nordstrom: Faded
This month’s Olivia Kim-curated Pop-In shop – Pop-In@Nordstrom: Faded – focuses on unique, easygoing style for men and women, combining broken-in fabrics and precision craft. Here we zero in on one of our featured brands, Bonum.
Less a brand and more a workshop with a storefront, Bonum makes and remakes beautiful jeans every day, sometimes blending their own new denim with vintage denim in the same jean, with options for repairs and bespoke pieces if you visit the shop in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Product development manager Jun Kobayashi organizes all that making. He began his denim days with indigo dye experiments in college. Later he worked at the Kapital denim factory, cutting and sewing near Kojima Station in Okayama.
On Skype, he schooled us on the significance of Okayama in Japanese denim (it’s hype), the availability of vintage American bandanas in Japan (unavailable) and details about styles we’re carrying.
Thank you to Bonum store manager Terumasa Ikuta for translating during our chat.
What’s Bonum’s story with reworked clothes, and what’s your story as a designer?
We started Bonum making semi-tailored and custom-made jeans. We differentiated ourselves by making jeans from scratch and using modification techniques to create different looks, for example jeans from the 1950s. Nobody taught us how to remake denim, we just tried over and over. Every day we tried to make new clothing. I used to be a factory worker in Okayama for Kapital, sewing and making jeans. At the time, I was making my own designs and started manufacturing them to earn a little money on the side. That’s how I started as a designer.
What’s the significance of Okayama in Japanese denim?
The Okayama prefecture promotes the area internationally. Before they did that, nobody knew Okayama. But the local government started to promote that story every day, “Okayama has denim!” Now people in the U.S.A. or Europe have that association. Nowadays, customers need a brand to grasp on to, factories need a name and everyone wants to point to a region. There are famous brands made in Okayama, but the reputation is mainly a local government promotion.
How collaborative is your design process?
Everyone on the Bonum team makes designs. Each item is different. Together, we make clothing. We don’t specialize in men’s or women’s. We make unique items for everyone. We also do repairs and make bespoke products.
The Bandana Top: where do you source your bandanas?
We get the bandanas from the U.S.A. This is a new product for us. Normally we like to use vintage fabrics, but vintage bandanas are hard to find right now so we use new ones. We use five bandanas to make one shirt. The sleeves are from one bandana.
How many pairs of pants are involved in one pair of Raw Seam Jeans?
We make those from one pair of jeans. We cut the hems open and we draw new patterns and cut those too. To get the fuzzy look of the seam, we have to wash them. The hand work—these are all done by hand, of course—takes only about 40 minutes. The washing can take longer.
What about the Patchwork Jeans?
That’s only one pair of pants used. The processing for those is like giving the jeans a suntan, sort of. We use dark denim and then put fabric on the leg. Then we process the jeans—we use different concentrations of a bleach solution—take off the fabric and the color is changed. Then we layer new fabric on top. That’s how you get that asymmetry.