“Designed” is a stretch but animals including lions, tigers and bears are certainly involved in the process. Tyres are covered in denim and thrown into the animals’ compounds at Kamine zoo in Hitachi, Japan. The animals play with these toys and, hey presto, said denim is torn, ripped and shredded in ways that industrial production could only imitate. Looking at images of the jeans on the Zoo website, the lions – kings of the jungle, of course – seem to be the ones that get really stuck in. The L1 model is very distressed indeed.
While sandblasting has been exposed as being hazardous to workers’ health, the demand for denim complete with pre-made rips and tears remains strong – and Japanese brands often apply abrasions to their jeans by hand. Drafting in animals to do the work might be a new technique but Mithun Ramanandi, men’s denim buyer at Selfridges, is not convinced that it has the desired effect. “The rips are too sporadic,” he says. “Men want them on the thigh, the knee, the back pocket. Rips on the calf, as they are here, don’t look natural.”
Ramanandi concedes that Zoo may have a market in animal lovers – proceeds from the jeans go towards renovating Kamine zoo – but he believes the jeans to be a bit “gimmicky”. Japanese denim, though, continues to have a cult following that has grown since Evisu arrived in Europe in the 1990s with their distinctive back-pocket seagulls. These days, jeans from Momotaro, with handmade denim and sterling silver buttons, can cost more than £1,000. According to Ramanandi, real denim purists have their own techniques to get the distressed effect. “Wear your jeans every day for a year and then wash them,” he advises. “You’ll get a completely personalised look, with fading at the knee, the shadow of a keyring from where it’s been in your pocket.”
Alternatively, you could just throw them to the lions. – By Lauren Cochrane © Guardian News and Media 2014
Images – zoo-jeans.com