Our third installment of Females of Fade takes us out of the US to Japan. Japan is one of the world’s oldest and largest raw denim hubs, producing some of the most beautiful fabrics and artisans. If you are participating in the Indigo Invitational, I would be surprised if you haven’t seen today’s subject leading the way for female faders and taking the community by storm.
Harue Jules Takagishi is part of a group of females registered and competing in this year’s Indigo Invitational. From the get-go, Harue has been actively involved in the community. This is her first year competing, and while she may not remember what led her to the IIY2, she loves the community, the vibes, and then fades.
Harue gives us insight into her incredible fashion sense on the regular. Not only is she incredibly active in the denimhead community, but she is also active in her own community. Making efforts to change the world and learning nothing else from my experience with raw denim and working with The Arcuate, sustainability and leaving this world better than we found it is mission-critical.
Female FadeR: Harue Jules Takagishi
THE ARCUATE: Hi, Harue. First, Thanks so much for answering my questions and being such a force in this competition. I’ve asked everyone to start the same way, so would you both mind telling us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?
Harue Jules Takagishi: Hey, thanks for having me! I am Japanese, a single mother of twins (14-year old boy and girl), a Taekwon-Do Black Belt (IV degree and I started at age 36), and a consultant.
I was born in Osaka, Japan, and grew up in the US. Since graduating from university as an Economist, I have lived and worked in Australia, Singapore, and Dubai in several different roles, including a UN Consultant to the Universal Postal Union. I have worked for several fashion brands, too. Currently, I work for myself after managing large and small businesses as a professional executive. I specialize in e-commerce related solutions for live commerce, social media marketing, and logistics. I help Japanese clients bring non-Japanese solutions into their business.
I am also a business coach and mentor to start-ups and entrepreneurs, and when asked, I will do lectures on a wide range of topics. It is challenging to explain in short words what I do, but for my top clients, I am a Swiss Army Knife that fills the talent gaps for them. But the real beauty of my current position is that (a) I only work with people I like and can have fun with, and (b) I get to wear my competition pair every single day!
TA: I am obsessed. Your life experience is nothing short of amazing. I may need to talk with you about that mentoring. I know you mentioned in the group, not remembering what brought you to the IIY2, but do you remember what got you into fashion and raw denim in the first place? What is it you love about slow fashion?
HJT: I have been in love with jeans and denim since I was a young child growing up in New Jersey. We lived there from when I just turned 7 until 12 years of age. I am Japanese, but you can say I spent my early formative years in the States. I remember falling in love with a particular pair of Lee jeans that I wore consecutively for 28 days during this time. I wanted to keep going, but for some reason, I wore something else on day 29.
That day, a group of girls came running to me and congratulated me for changing out of my “dirty old jeans.” I was shocked that they had nothing better to do than count how many days I wore my favorite jeans. But that experience left a strong impression on me that my love for jeans and consecutively wearing a favorite pair is not something shared by all.
Nonetheless, I was a tomboy and preferred jeans to dresses, so jeans have always been a part of my wardrobe. My father didn’t think his daughter needed a higher degree in Economics and tried to push me into literature, so I told him I would pay my own way and study what I want. I worked part-time at a jeans shop. I think I can still look at a person and tell what size jeans would fit them.
TA: I love this story. I have always been a tomboy myself, and growing up, I can completely relate to being the girl in the “dirty old jeans.” Hell, I was so happy I found raw denim because it seemed more OK not to wash my jeans. Also, how amazing that you worked in a jean shop, so you’re like an OG in this community.
HJT: Back in the 1980s, chemically treated denim came onto the scene, and Edwin soared from incognito to superstardom with a single style. But I was more fascinated by the old-style Big John and Wrangler jeans. Then, in the 1990s, a brand named 45rpm launched jeans and denim jackets with serial numbers. The garments came with a lifetime guarantee for repairs and were made of selvedge denim. I had no idea what made selvage denim special then, but I traveled to Tokyo to the only store that sold those items and purchased jeans with serial No.2 and a denim jacket, too.
When I moved back to Japan in 2002, I got to spend more time with my family. My youngest brother (I have two) is very much into leather biker jackets and selvedge jeans. One day, I noticed he was wearing the most fantastic jeans I had ever seen; Samurai jeans. I have since learned that the CEO of Samurai is a neighbor. When they opened their first store, I wrote a report on how their visual merchandising was disappointing compared to the more exciting stores worldwide.
At the time, I was the General Manager of a fashion intelligence service. They were shocked and happy simultaneously, and I ended up spending a lot of my free time in their stores, speaking to the staff. Along the way, I got my hands on their limited edition 24 oz jeans and the first-ever Yamato 100% Japanese cotton jeans.
As I listened to how excited the guys at Samurai got over selvedge, I was hooked. I then learned how the selvedge-creating weaving machines are old and slower, and it felt like I had a duty to help preserve this precious traditional craft by voting with my wallet. Since then, I basically wear only Japanese brands or global brands that use Japanese fabric.
Being in love with denim has taught me to appreciate how garments worn with TLC or total reckless abandon can both age beautifully. For this same reason, I love leather jackets and shoes, and both knit and darn my own sweaters. I love slow fashion because I see it as a way for fashion to witness a person’s life. The fades and wear tell the story of a person’s life. I sometimes look at a tear or a stain and remember when it happened, smiling at myself. No one else may remember these minor incidents, but my jeans do.
TA: What a rad way to find yourself in this community. The fact that you dove into supporting the Japanese denim world full bore is really amazing to me. It sounds like being a female in male-dominated communities is nothing new to you. How would you describe your role as a female in this community? What would you say to women on the fringe of this community, interested but perhaps hesitant to join for whatever reason?
HJT: I am a 54-year old Japanese senior executive. This means that I have spent pretty much all my career as the only female – from salesperson to board member. Let’s say I feel quite at home being in a male-dominated community. That said, I don’t come into this community as a militant feminist, so I hope none of the men are intimidated by me or see me as someone in need of any man’s protection.
I may not be as hardcore as the most extreme denim loyalists, but I am not a spring chicken either, and I feel quite at home in this community. As in any good, interest-based community, I find this one very warm and welcoming. No, that is an understatement. Here, I do not feel that my gender is an issue *at all*. I am just another denimhead!
That said, I am pleasantly surprised there are more women here than I had expected, and that is an excellent thing. My message to any Female interested in joining is, it is OK. This is NOT a sexist community. If you love your denim as we do, let that guide your decision to join. No more questions asked! We don’t care what your gender, age, race, or size is!
TA: Yes! An open and welcome community to all is what I am hoping to bring to light through this interview series. Do you generally seek out female cuts in raw denim, or do you prefer to go with non-female-specific cuts?
HJT: Great question! The short answer is: I go for unisex and menswear. This is because I am not a curvaceous woman. I am more frame than flesh.
Once at Evisu, maybe 30 years ago, I tried on both female and male cuts. When I came out of the dressing room wearing the men’s cut, the associate said (verbatim but in Japanese), “Since you have no hips, the men’s cut looks perfect. The fact that you are a woman doesn’t even register.”
If he wasn’t all smiles, I would have thought he was trying to insult me or pick a fight. But he was right. The famous Levi’s 701 – Marilyn Monroe’s Levi’s of choice – is so wrong on me. But the 501 looks cool. Enough said.
TA: I would have had the same thought. Since you steer towards men’s cuts, what did you decide to go with for the Indigo Invitational, and why do you choose them?
HJT: When I learned about the IIY2, I was just starting to break in two pairs of Nudie Jeans – a Grim Tim and a Thin Finn. I keep revisiting Maria Erixon’s interview on The Good Things In Life because it is such a great read. And I love her philosophy about unisex jeans. Nudie is excellent because they use fabric from Japanese mills, and the super low yoke is a favorite feature.
Nudie was at the top of my mind when I learned about the competition, so I promptly bought a fresh pair in time for the registration. On the Facebook page, I feel like I am the only person to choose such lightweight denim, Nudie Jeans Grim Tim Dry Blue Savage, 12.5 oz. Since fading indigo is so personal, I feel many of us are here for the ride. It doesn’t feel competitive at all, and there is so much camaraderie. Besides, I prefer to go niche rather than wear what everyone else is wearing, so it suits me fine.
TA: It sounds like you have tried many different pairs of jeans. I know we spoke about male vs. female cuts, but how do you find the fit-finding process? Have you found the perfect fit, and if so, how many pairs did it take for you to find it?
HJT: How much time do you have? I think the search for the perfect fit is like searching for the holy grail or the end of the rainbow. It is the quest itself that captivates, and in the end, is elusive! There are always bespoke jeans, right? I have yet to try it, but I plan to visit Denim Madness in Osaka towards the end of Y2.
I am quite athletic. This means for me that my thighs and calves are well developed. I first look for a fit that sits right on my hip bone that is not too clingy on my thighs. I can’t wear skinny jeans because they make me look like a professional wrestler. By now, I have a go-to reference: and that is the 501XX vintage 1966 model. I don’t know what it is about the 501, but it is in a class of its own in my books, and I love them.
With more modern cuts, the Momotaro Go to Battle Tight Straight model and the Samurai S003 JP are favorites. I am definitely a button fly person, and I will go for that feature every time. I love the Grim Tim because of the Japanese denim and the button fly, as well as the super low back yoke. I think I have more than 200 pairs of jeans in my wardrobe. I had to kiss a lot of frogs to find my prince, but I can’t seem to let go of the frogs, either.
TA: Wow! 200 pairs is pretty impressive, and I respect your reference pair is a vintage model. With a brand new pair of jeans, the break-in period can be a tough go for some. What is your favorite part about starting on a fresh pair of selvedge? What would you say is your least favorite?
HJT: I love “that point in time” when the raw denim stops resisting me and decides to accept and embrace me. It is when, with heavier weights, the jeans can stand up on their own, and they still look like I am inside it. I see the process like breaking in a wild horse. There is a point when the jeans stop trying to dominate me and submit. My least favorite part is when the denim fabric gets so soft that it looks like it has lost its will or is no longer alive. I sort of see it as the point when the jeans die in captivity.
TA: That is a beautiful way to look at jeans. We are closing in on the halfway point at the end of this month. Have you successfully worn your IIY2 pair daily, and have you made any repairs?
HJT: Yes! I have been wearing them every day and sometimes overnight when I pull an all-nighter working with US-based teams. For repairs, I have plugged a hole in the pocket lining where my smartphone lives. I used sashiko with rainbow-colored thread.
TA: I love your outfit choices, how fashionable you are, and that you share your outfits with the group. How do you decide what to wear each day? Is it a feeling? Maybe your plans for the day?
HJT: Thank you! I really enjoy demonstrating how versatile a simple pair of jeans can be. My message is to say: OK, we are all committed to a single pair of jeans for a year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! I post my #ootd photos on my own Instagram handle that I created to log this journey in IIY2 but only occasionally in the FB group because I don’t want to overdo it. Everyone is in the group to see the fades, not the outfits, I think.
I choose what to pair with my jeans based on the weather and what I will be doing that day. I guess feeling also plays a key role because I dress up for myself, and I need to feel good about my outfit choice. I am not a designer or a creative director type, but I have worked for fashion brands and businesses in their logistics and sales divisions. I love fashion!
TA: Your lifestyle and career mean that you have some casual days and some days where you go all out and dress up. What is your favorite way to dress up a pair of jeans? Do you have any fashion go-to’s for a night out?
HJT: For me, that means a bespoke tailored jacket or tuxedo jacket on top of a collared shirt or cashmere sweater for day and a sequined camisole for night. Bespoke leather shoes for the day and high-heeled boots or pumps for night.
For a night out, depending on the season and the occasion, I wear a long jacquard jacket (art gallery openings, Broadway shows, etc.), silk jersey military shirt with bright gold buttons (bar, club, off-Broadway, etc.), or embroidered shirts or jackets (everything else).
Sometimes the best outfit for me is to throw an oversized men’s dinner jacket over a tight-fitting T-shirt or camisole. Since designers charge thousands of dollars for distressed jeans these days, I think you can pretty much get away with any jeans so long as you have nice shoes on.
TA: From the interviews Grant and I have conducted, it seems like people are really in the Indigo Invitational for the sheer accomplishment of completing the year and the camaraderie. What are you most looking forward to from this experience?
HJT: I can confidently say I am in it for the ride. I am definitely in it for the camaraderie and the photos!
There are a lot of cool people in the group, making it super fun! I enjoy the interactions and the rich visual stories. Marc Magsaysay (@marc.from.earth) already got a mention, but he is a real binding force. I think Leyla Szabo-Kustan’s warm personality definitely shines in the group. I doubt there is very little on the FB page that she does NOT like or love or react to positively. She is always there for everyone, witnessing everything and telling us that we all count with her clicks! I think she is just pure gold and marvelous!
Stephen Snider is no longer a person – he is a method! Like gymnasts and skaters have their names on a new super trick they perform, he is now forever enshrined in II history! How cool is that? I mean, he is cool, but so are all the others who come up with new ways to expand the Snider method!
There is so much negative stuff out there today because tragedy and conflict sell newspapers and programs (as does sex). But the II community is so positive! And now that I mention it, we are a pretty sexy bunch, too! I don’t think I look at so many closeups of bums and crotches anywhere else!
TA: I will close this out by asking (because I am on a mission), do you have a favorite plain white tee? If so, let’s hear the details.
Harue: It is complicated to drill it down to one, but I will say Mr. Hollywood’s N.Hollywood V-neck T-shirt in white if I had to choose. They have a wide selection of “underwear” T-shirts which is their way of saying “next to skin” T-shirts, but this V-neck is my absolute favorite. Mr. Hollywood’s signature is the back seam. Think: Dietrich’s stockings but on a T-shirt.
The body is narrow but not tight and clingy, there is plenty of length, and the V neck is quite a plunging neckline for a menswear T-shirt, but I love it because my collar bones are one of my favorite features. Its crewneck cousin is also great but is constructed of recycled cotton and comes in a wide range of sizes.
Harue, it has been such a pleasure getting to know you. I have never laughed and learned so much at the same time in an interview. I want to thank you for your knowledge and for sharing your unique story. I hope you have all enjoyed the second installment of Females of Fade, an Indigo Invitations Y2 Contender Series. Stay tuned for more.
If you wear it well, it will be well worn
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