When I first moved to Japan back in 2008, one of the most useful and amazing things I learned to say was “Nama biiru onegaishimasu!” While sitting down at a table with a group of loud drunk friends, that fantastic phrase would produce a tall fresh pint of beer. I mean seriously, you didn’t even have to make eye contact with the wait staff, you could literally shout it out at the top of your lungs, and another beer would magically land on your table.
In the same way, “Nama” implies “a fresh beer,” Vishesh Sachdev brings that same refreshing take to his brand of denim. Nama is raw, fresh, and rare. So, when you’re buying a pair of jeans from him, you are literally being served a fresh pair. Whether it’s from his basic, premium, or custom line, you can trust that you’re getting something rewarding. And just like everyone else we have featured here at The Arcuate, he is humble and passionate about what he does.
Vishesh’s philosophy is rooted in a simple core concept: starting with the right fabric is the beginning of great style. I recently went through the custom denim process with Nama and their small but impressive team of artisans. The results were impressive, a review to come on this next, and thought it would be cool to learn more about the man and the brand.
The Arcuate: These days, it seems Instagram drives the discovery of new brands and subsequently increases their following and business. It was through Instagram that we first connected. As useful as Instagram is, it doesn’t always do a great job of painting a full picture of a brand or its story. So, could you tell us a little more about yourself, Nama Denim, and your origin story?
Nama: I was born in Kobe, Japan, and brought up in Bangkok, Thailand, my ethnicity/roots are Indian. I’ve spent most of my life in Bangkok; therefore, I am Thai.
Nama Denim was born in May 2013. I was part of my family business, which has been involved in the trading of Japanese textiles since the 1970s. We would import only Japanese novelty fabrics of the highest quality ranging from a variety of shirtings, pants, and also selvedge denim. At that time, we would be solely involved in the trading of fabrics to local independent brands and other retailers. It was then that I realized that the textile trading market was getting saturated with a not so bright future and decided to start a brand.
Adding value was what I was after. Japanese Selvedge denim at that time was already making waves, and it seemed just right for me to start a denim brand. Why Denim? Denim is different from all other fabrics, it’s potential, and versatility as a fabric is unlike any other and made the most sense to begin here. After experiencing raw selvedge denim for the first time and studying the properties behind each material, it’s the ability to relate to the wearer was unlike any other garment I’ve witnessed before. It was then I realized that Japanese Selvedge denim was going to be what we do.
Nama translates to Raw in Japanese (also fresh, rare) and felt like a great name, so Nama Denim was born, and that’s how it all started. Nama Beer, which also means draft beer in Japanese, help make it a simple choice. Japanese customers always ask Nama Denim like Nama Beer? Our response is, “yes, yes, like Nama beer.” Our elk’s logo has an individual raw feel and freedom to the brand and goes well with raw jeans, enhancing the vibe.
TA: How did you first stumble upon raw denim and the denim community? What was it about denim that left such a significant impact on you?
Nama: Raw denim caught my eye when going to a local denim fair. As you might know, Bangkok has a colossal denim culture and is home to some of the best types of denim from all over the world. Everyone involved in this scene is so passionate, and the community has very positive vibrations. It’s what caught my eye.
To be honest, before starting the brand, I hadn’t experience raw denim that much. It was not until I started the brand and making prototypes that I really realized how amazing a pair of dry jeans really are. After that, it’s been denim after denim after denim.
TA: Japan and Japanese denim have become the gold standard for denim these days? What mills do you work with, and are there any secret gems hiding in your neck of the woods?
Nama: Japanese denim is definitely the gold standard when it comes to selvedge denim. It relates more to their level of detail, dedication, and practice, which is the best and most consistent in the market by far. Many other mills, including some local mills, do make good selvedge denim, but when you compare the indigo dying process, you find Japan to be ahead of the game. We work with a few mills Kurabo, Kaihara, and Kuroki, to name a few.
We have yet to work with Thai made denim, there is potential and a passion for creating a handwoven selvedge denim pair of jeans, which is extremely difficult and time consuming to make. Thailand is home to many skilled handwoven craftsmen who make beautiful, naturally dyed fabrics. We would love to one day create a 100% handwoven denim.
TA: What do you find is your most popular type of denim, and why do you think that is the case?
Nama: Our most popular ready to wear types of denim are NST124 and ND123. NST124 is a 12.5oz ombré cast dark indigo denim, which ages wonderfully with time and is sold in our straight cut. The other is our ND123 15oz Vintage Slub denim. This pair is trendy as it’s fading potential is reminiscent of vintage blue jeans of the past. We sell these in both slim tapered and straight cuts.
In terms of silhouettes, our slim tapered and straight cuts sell equally well, with our other two cuts relaxed workwear and skinny less popular.
Generally, dark indigo denim and pairs with certain slubbyness are more attractive as they offer more fades with wear. Also, the darker denim is excellent for guys wearing to work as it maintains a clean look.
TA: Nama offers both a ready to wear line as well as a new “Bespoke Denim” option. What made you choose the bespoke option? What has been your biggest challenge since offering this option?
Nama: When we launched back in 2013, we wanted to offer the bespoke option. We knew it wouldn’t be possible until we moved everything in-house. In 2015 when we moved everything in-house we created a simple customized process for customers to choose and design their own jeans. We launched that at the fall of 2015 and was a huge success and have continued to offer it since. We recently launched it on our website and have had a good response. Our turn around time is 10-14 days depending on how busy we are at that time.
The challenge with the bespoke options is initially getting the best fit for our customers. With our ‘craft, your own jeans’ offering, our customers can choose to customize their jeans based on our existing cuts or decide to enter their own measurements for a more tailored fit. Creating an individual pattern for every customer and ensuring all the details chosen are executed to perfection is definitely the most significant challenge.
TA: Thailand has a pretty gnarly denim scene and produces some fantastic fades. What sets denim heads in Thailand apart from everyone else?
Nama: Thailand has a crazy denim scene. We love anything vintage here, and it’s what drives the denim culture here. Denim heads in Thailand arguably produce some of the best fades. It’s quite simple; we sweat a lot in the heat and enjoy it. A lot of the denim heads here actually do a lot of blue-collar work in their jeans. This helps bring a lot of character to their jeans when compared to someone just doing regular activities.
The heat and sweat play a considerable role in the fades; that’s for sure. It’s normal here to wear 18-21oz jeans in 35 degrees Celsius weather. I don’t, though, a lot of our customers do enjoy it. 14oz is good enough for me in this climate.
TA: What do you find to be the most significant difference between domestic and international customers?
Nama: Difference between local and international customers is not much. Our local customers generally are after a more skinny to tapered cut with a higher OZ. While our foreign customers are more open to lighter-medium OZ options with more room across the legs. International customers were first attracted to our brand, local customers slowly followed, and today both are equally a big part of Nama.
Domestic customers in terms of design, generally like more loud pairs. Our designs are quite simple; we prefer the classic no-nonsense design with a focus on craft as we believe that’s what will be more pleasing to our eyes in the long haul.
TA: Where do you get your inspiration from? Are there any other brands you like or respect?
Nama: We love Japanese brands. I definitely draw a lot of inspiration from the popular names and also from smaller labels. Another source of inspiration is magazines we love Clutch Mag. Again Japanese style but covers many styles. Lastly, vintage inspiration from the techniques of the past. The legends of denim, Levi’s, Wrangler, Lee – we love looking at their past styles and add a modern twist to old school classics with unique denim.
TA: When we started our blog, our motivation was to bring attention to regions, markets, and brands that other people hadn’t discovered yet. How important has social media been for building up your business
Nama: Social media has played an enormous role in bringing together like-minded people who share the same interests. It’s definitely helped connect small brands like ours to a broader audience. It’s helped continue relationships with existing customers who have visited our store. They can follow and see all our work wherever they are, which is really amazing.
TA: You have done a few pop-ups. Do you have any plans to set up shop outside of Thailand? If so, where?
Nama: Setting up shop outside Bangkok has always been tempting. We were planning on doing some travel this year, but COVID-19 came along and wiped our plans out the window. In the future, when things return to normal, we plan to visit a few trade shows – Selvedge Run, Liberty Fair’s, Welcome Edition, etc. This will allow us to showcase our collections and also plan to set up pop up shop at some of the street denim events that occur throughout the year like Amsterdam Denim Days or NY Denim Days. That’s our dream.
TA: What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without washing a pair of jeans
Nama: Twelve months, but since then, I’ve generally washed them after about 100 wears, which is like 4-6 months depending on how often you wear. I feel this to be a good level of wear before the 1st wash.
TA: What’s your favorite piece from your own collection and what makes it so unique.
Nama: Many favorite pieces from our unique collection:
1880’s Triple Pleat Repro
The most favorite and unique piece, for now, has to be our Baseball Noragi. The fabric, combined with the design, makes this my personal favorite. Crafted from reversible herringbone denim and washed to light and dark blue. It provides a great balance between eastern and western cultures. Finally, it looks great on everyone!
TA: Last question: what’s next for Nama?
Nama: Plan right now is to grow our presence and operations online, see where we are in 6-8 months. Covid19 has made it difficult to plan ahead. Times are tough right now, but we love what we do and wouldn’t give up for anything. Support small businesses, everyone. Thanks to you both at The Arcuate for doing what you do in bringing the denim community together and supporting small businesses, for that we say Khob Khun Kub – Thank You in Thai.
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