Received on 3-3-2017
Embarked on 16-10-2020
Worn for 280 days over a year
Interior designer Joe Tang said, “Denim jeans give refuge to the heart to heal itself.”
Rubbing the pair of jeans on his lap, he said, “I have always loved the texture of denim, it’s kind of a sensual obsession of mine. I also love denim clothes because I can be very laid-back with them, without having to give them special care, for the dirtier and the more ragged they are, the more beautiful.”
Five years ago, Joe read some online sharing by the Japanese about denim shaping and, under their influence, came to understand why the denim that they had shaped and the store-bought ones were so different, hence began his “denim shaping” too – the first step is to wash it, as jeans fresh out of the factory have a layer of thick substance that keeps their sturdiness. Only after washing it away and letting the jeans shrink do they become more form-fitting. Then, you fix up the creases on the jeans and keep to the principle of “wear more wash less”, to rub clear patterns of honeycombs, whiskers and stacks onto the jeans.
December is the best time to start shaping denim. Having gone past the five to six months of the form setting phase, the fading phase may commence in the summer. This is because the mix of sweat and denim fabric causes the denim jeans to harden, and when they are rubbed against, it speeds up the fading. The change is considerably faster than in winter.
From the original colour to its fading out, to honeycombs on the back of the knees, or whiskers that come from the everyday sitting posture, or stacks near the ankles, gradually they take shape. Every pattern is a look into the wearer’s occupation, traces of living and habits, all reflected in both inside out and surface, like a walking diary.
Joe is passionate about denim experimentation. He would even wear two pairs of jeans and two jackets, surface to surface, as pyjamas every day during winter. He would also visit the beaches to experiment with sea wash. A pair of jeans that has undergone sea wash naturally calls for another pair to be tried by the hills for comparison. “When hiking and camping, patterns produced from friction between clothes, sand, stones and soil are richer than those produced from sea wash, but still they don’t compare to those produced through everyday life.”
“I won’t treat it harshly to speed up the forming of the patterns, because I want to write a diary, not a novel. I have to face myself truthfully.”
“To me, denim distressing is an ascetic practice. Now that I’m older, when I’m feeling lazy, I ask myself, ‘Do you still want to progress?’ But will power and actions are both very weighty. So I wanted to set up some goals for myself in my everyday life, to remind myself each day to do one thing.” Thus, Joe took to the “Rigid Denim Challenge” competition to practise resilience.
“Because of work, sometimes I help out at construction sites. Small tools, purses and other things in my jeans pockets would soon tear through ragged holes or leave scratch marks in the pockets. To extend their longevity, I would have to enhance and fix the jeans from within and without. I would also have to let them rest, and disinfect them under the breeze and the sun. Once it’s dry, we carry on. But torn parts on the knees must be fixed by a tailor at once after the competition, or else they break apart.
“This is a vintage Type One denim jacket made by America’s last ‘555’ factory, 1940s edition. Its sleeve openings were torn open and needed stitching. I deliberately used coarse threads to create an irregular effect, to add a personal touch. I would keep fabrics left over from trouser alterations, and in my free time I would muse about how I could play with them. I also make decorations for kids’ denim clothes, provided of course that they are lasting and timeless.”
“When I was small I would do simple repairs on clothes, consulting grandma at times. After she had passed away, I learned on my own by making observations wherever I went. When I was a scout, I would sew patches on the uniform to add some personality to it. Some people think that only girls stitch, that when boys do it it’s weird somehow, but I feel that as long as one is interested, a boy or a girl both could do it, it shouldn’t be the sole right of girls only.”
“I hope that people would remain respectful and appreciative towards their clothes, fix it if it’s broken; I also want my clothes to pass on through generations, ‘This was passed down by Father’, wouldn’t that be cool?”
Today, as I stitched with Joe, the scene looked rather old-school, but therein lies our hopes for the future.