We're so excited to share this Sunroom Q+A with the ever-inspiring Noriko Machida, founder and designer behind cult favorite denim line Chimala. From Japan and currently based in NY, Chimala was founded in 2005 and focuses on small-batch denim with hand-finish detailing to evoke a nostalgic timelessness. See our interview with Machida, below...
Chimala’s modern interpretation of mid-century workwear draws from both Americana and Japanese aesthetic lineages. What components do you seek to emphasize from each aesthetic?
We collect vintage items for both personal interests and design resources. We are mostly inspired from American and European vintage collections, ranging from the 1930s-60s. We try to apply all the essence and authenticity of the beauty of vintage clothing to our collection (the worn-in feel and unique distressing and damages). The fabrics we use are made in Japan and all of the production is done in Japan. Any distinctly Japanese aesthetic seen on our collection is due to the quality of the fabric and the specific production and wash techniques that are indicative of the Japanese process, that can only be done entirely in Japan.
Wide Tapered Cut denim style from Chimala, available at Sunroom.
Each piece is a work of art...With a true worn-in feel and authentic, distressed detailing, it's a subtlety that reigns. What is your design process like from start to finish?
We mainly source design and inspiration from vintage collections, but we also get ideas from old movies and photo books. It’s very interesting to see how people dressed back then. We often choose a couple of vintage pieces out of our collection as a guiding style, one of the most important steps in the design process. We then choose the most suitable denim out of several originals for the style, considering firs the wash; how it’s been faded, and what type of navy or blue it is. From there, we add or reduce some damages, paint marks, stains or other details to it. Then we decide which style best goes with what wash, and finally we choose the stitching, accessories, and specifications.
Chimala Denim Shirt.
How does your fabrication process inform your creative process and vice/versa?
We use selvedge denim made in Japan, especially for 5-pocket jeans. To create a true, authentic vintage look, we use selvedge denim and exclusively vintage shuttle looms that only pre-war era models can produce. The denim that is woven creates such a unique texture of uneven asperity like older fabrics, which the modern looms can never make. This texture is very important in order to create a vintage wash.
Chimala filters the nostalgia of the Americana aesthetic through a Japanese lens. In one word, object, color, song or sound, feeling, what embodies Chimala?
Love and respect to the vintage – not only the clothes but items that have histories and stories...
Narrow Tapered Cut denim style from Chimala, available at Sunroom.
Can you share more about your resource collection – the pieces you source as inspiration for your denim styles? Is there a particular piece or a moment from your research that stays with you or has a rich history?
We currently own about 500 vintage pieces in our personal collection. Each piece has it’s own history and story; how those holes were made, why the chest pockets and back pockets are partially so distressed or faded. You can sometimes find pieces with very unique, really adorable repairs that allow you to really imagine the past. Sometimes we are so thrilled to find really rare, hard-to-find pieces, especially from the World War II era (or older!) when there may only be a handful pieces available like it in the world!
Chambray Work Shirt from Chimala, available at Sunroom.
For denim lovers, finding a unique yet complementary “perfect fit” takes time. What do you recommend one considers when fitting for vintage or vintage-inspired garments?
It’s important to know what you feel good in, but try as many styles as you can to find what you like. Don’t be afraid to experiment and go up a size. Choose the fit by how you feel in a piece now. Play with it and see how it creates you.