Evisu was formally born in Osaka, Japan in 1991, although the research and planning to reproduce the perfect pair of vintage jeans had been going on for several years prior to this.
The founder is Hidehiko Yamane. Yamane-san was trained as a tailor but his love for vintage jeans and his disappointment with the mass-produced modern versions led him firstly to the vintage clothing import business and then, revolutionary, to start putting together the elements required reproducing vintage-style jeans. This needed the gathering together of all the various bits of machinery, none of which had been produced for the last 40 years, which are required to make authentic vintage jeans.
The initial production line allowed about 14 jeans a day to be produced and each of them was lovingly hand-painted the now famous seagull logo by Yamane-san himself. Evisu (also written as Evis or Ebisu) is the name of the Japanese folk god of money who is usually portrayed with a fish and a fishing rod. His name was selected for the new venture as money and fishing are two of Yamane-san’s five favorite things (the others being beer, women and golf – in no particular order).
Although initially Evisu was more a labor of love than an commercial venture, Evisu jeans captured the imagination of the detail-obsessed Japanese fashion crowd, spurring a revival of interest in vintage denim, which has now spread around the world. In the early nineties Yamane-san introduced a tailoring line, followed by a fishing range and a golf range. In 1999 he introduced a ladies fashion line called Evisu Donna to complete the development of Evisu as a full-fashion range going far beyond a jeans brand. Evisu now has more than 65 shops in Japan.
In 1994 Yamane-san was visited by Peter Caplowe who became an immediate convert to the Evisu ethos. Peter Caplowe’ company began working closely with Yamane to develop Evisu outside Japan which now spans the globe, selling in over one thousand of the world’s best boutiques and department stores. The jeans became an instant hit with the western world’s trend-spotters, movers and shakers. The now ubiquitous logo became a status symbol, a byword for a product that was virtually unavailable and cost the earth (it was unknown for a pair of jeans to cost $400, when Levi’s were retailing at around $50 market). The success marked a new ear in denim culture and companies like Levi’s and Wrangler raised their game too and sparked a whole plethora of new labels such as True Religion and Seven. All of a sudden denim became acceptable in the workplace because jeans were now expensive, beautifully crafted and a weekday rather than a weekend staple.
The Evisu Store on Savile Row in London, September 2005 heralded a new ear not only for Evisu but for the entire premium denim market itself. It marked the beginning of unusual yet highly successful partnership of high-end denim with traditional English bespoke tailoring. The opening of the concession in the Selfridges store is a stepping-stone for Caplowes long-term strategy for Evisu, which paved the way for two Hong Kong stores, a store in Dubai, Shanghai and Shenzhen. A beautiful flagship opened in Copenhagen in 2007 and more shops and corners are about to open across the globe.
Despite this phenomenal growth Evisu still remains true to its artisan roots with a fanatical devolution to quality and authenticity while maintaining those two other vital ingredients of the Evisu magic potion – humor and irreverence.