Interview by Oliver Horton

This is not your typical authentic Japanese denim brand. Mastercraft Union (MCU), which was launched for the spring/summer 2015 season by designer Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, offers what firstly sounds like an oxymoron: stretch selvedge denim. Here, Hiroyuki Yoshikawa discusses the brand's concept and the future of denim.

What is Mastercraft Union?
It’s the union of master craftsmen from around the globe. The concept started with jeans – which is crafted by myself (with 20 years experience in denim) along with my technical partners at our sewing and washing facilities in Okayama, Japan. The plan now is to expand the concept further – working with other craftsmen who spend their lives making excellent items of clothing, which we can adapt and apply the MCU treatment to.

Why have you set it up?
Because I love jeans and how they have been a part of our culture for the last 100 years. I was getting bored of the same denim stories being told and wanted to push denim forward into the future and how we will relate to it going forward. Its history is what I love but it’s so familiar. Where it’s going is unknown and that is what excites me. I want to play a part in where it’s going. Keeping it fresh and presenting it to a new audience.

How do you see the future of denim?
Comfort. That’s the only area that has seen huge leaps and bounds in development recently. We have done everything with denim. Athleisure has contributed to the comfort factor. Denim is now about how it feels when you wear it. Not just about how it makes you feel, but how comfortable the fabric feels on you. That’s why stretch plays such an important part in our range. Hard, unwashed 14oz denim is what we fell in love with 20 years ago and it’s what we all cut our teeth on. The challenge is to keep that heritage feel but put it onto a jean that feels comfortable from day one. I would hope that MCU manages to cross both criteria with our very authentic looking vintage washes executed onto stretch fabrics for ease of wear.

Paper Denim by Mastercraft Union
Paper Denim by Mastercraft Union

Explain your design process.
The process can start with anything and can come from anywhere. It never comes from one place. You just have to keep your eyes open to what’s going on everywhere. But for inspiration, the best place is still my native Japan, where tradition meets tech and both methods are equally important when honing my designs. While I very much adhere to the handed-down, hand-crafted way of making and washing denim, I like to mix it up with more modern techniques that look to the future, such as the detailing of our heat sealed branding, technical draw cords and stretch fabrics.

How do you decide what is on-brand?
We already know the categories – jackets, sweats, shirts follow the denim. But we have taken our time to sample and test garments with smaller (traditional) factories that fit our MCU principle - they use the best processes, materials and have enduring expertise. Products from master craftsmen like these tend to be timeless but through our collaboration with them, we ensure they have a modern and relevant language, like our denim.

Of what product are you proudest?
Our ‘Resin Slate’ dirty black jean, which was very recently worn by Brad Pitt, our heavy sweatshirt that only one factory in the world can make, and our chambray work suit.

And what design detail delights you most?
Our matt black matt soft touch branded poppers, the heat-sealed branding on our back pocket and our heat-sealed back patch with the MCU logo embroidered underneath.

How can and will Mastercraft Union grow?
Growth will be organic. Our aim is to try and make the best jeans / other products possible retailed by the best stores in the world. If we can manage this, and clients appreciate this, the growth we hope will come.
Can we expect stores, ecommerce, celebrity collaborations, movies or anything else? We may open our first store in Tokyo or London once we have enough product categories to fill a store with.

What other brands do you admire?
Kapital is one of my favorite denim brands. White Mountaineering and Kolor are the brands that inspire me push the boundaries on what I can do. But Junya is the designer / business I most admire. It’s workwear being pushed through into the 21st Century. I am pushing myself to get to their level. One day… maybe.

Mastercraft Union fall/winter 2015
Mastercraft Union fall/winter 2015