Denim Review — Studio D’ Artisan — Awa Shoai denim — D1833 — First impression

Clueless Wanderer
11 min readFeb 18, 2022

For denim, while cotton can be considered as backbone and flesh, indigo dye is the skin of it. Although synthetic indigo and rope-dye method are the norm for most of the brands now because of its economy and practicality, denim used to be dyed by hands with natural indigo (dye solution made from fermented indigofera). This is the most authentic way of dyeing which yields the “truest” shade of indigo for a pair of jeans.

This year, Studio D’ Artisan (SDA) released their Natural Indigo denim in a new cut — D1833. Besides Pure Blue Japan (PBJ) AI-019 denim, this is the second pair of true hank-dyed with natural indigo I have on hands. And it blew my mind. Let’s talk about it.

SDA D1833 — Awa Shoai 15oz denim — New high-rise tapered fit

Disclaimer: This review is for the sole purpose of providing my subjective opinions about this exciting jeans to denim-lovers community. I will use Pure Blue Japan AI-019 as a comparison to the Studio D’ Artisan D1833 jeans. This is also for the sole purpose of understanding the differences between how these brands craft their natural-indigo dyed jeans. There is no intention of pointing out which one is better than the other in terms of fabric, design, details or whatsoever.

Fabric — The star of the show

The fabric is a classic right-hand-twill, weight at 15oz, loosely-woven with indigo warp and natural weft. What makes it special is that this fabric is hank-dyed with natural indigo by the “shokunin” from Tokushima. I would not dive deeply into why natural indigo hank-dyed denim is so special since there are many articles discussing about it. You can have a look at this article provided by Okayama Denim. Instead, I will have a quick examination of the fabric texture and indigo shade.

The warp side. Left: cloudy weather, medium brightness. Right: under direct sunlight.
Closer look at the warp side.

Look at the warp, it is a slub feast. These streaky slubs run through the fabric just like a waterfall. The texture is relatively smooth in raw condition but there are definitely highs and lows on the surface. After 45-mins cold soak, it became a bit rougher. I can easily spot some little cotton mushrooms on the warp, but not too many. What I really like about this fabric is I can see different shades of indigo on a same pair of denim. It creates a “3D” effect to my eyes and an unique “organic” feeling. The number of dips for the yarns is unknown. But it is interesting to actually see, with different number of dips, we get really different shades. Reading through the review, you will see the indigo shades of the fabric change dramatically under different light settings.

I just cannot wait to see how it fades over time.

Weft side

The weft side is not too different from the norm. Let’s do something interesting. I will put SDA D1833 side by side with the PBJ AI-019 to see what the differences are. I wore this PBJ pair for 30 times, with 1 cold soak. So the fabric condition of these two pairs are relatively the same.

SDA D1833 15oz (left) — PBJ AI-019 17.5oz (right)

PBJ AI-019 has a darker and more consistent shade of indigo obviously. They are both very slubby. However, the hand-feel is considerably different. While the SDA D1833 has a rough and dry feeling, PBJ AI-019 has a smoother and more “oily” feeling when I run my hand through the surface. SDA’s fabric is a bit more hairy as well.

Clocked at 15oz, SDA-D1833 fabric feels lighter than PBJ’s of course. It is also notable that SDA’s is more flexible. After 30 wears with the PBJ, the jeans are still holding its shape quite well. Not too many creases are form. However, with the SDA, after a week of constant wearing (5 hours a day, 5 days a week), some creases at the honeycomb are form, not vividly but noticeable.

SDA D833 and PBJ AI-019 side by side. Cloudy weather.

Talking about fabric, besides the texture and dyeing, comfort is a crucial factor to consider. After the initial soak, putting the SDA on and walk around the parks or sitting in the office, I can say the fabric is comfortable. In my opinion, this fabric feels bit thicker and heavier than 15oz fabrics from other brands. The first wear was a bit stiff and irritating. But from the second wear, all the discomfort is gone and everything just gets better and better. I really love this progress of getting the fabric broken-in from raw condition.

Breathability is around medium-high side. The low-tension fabric helps it a lot I believe. Walking in a hot day in Australia, I will not say it is not hot wearing this jeans but it is bearable and I was not sweating in my pants LOL. So, in my collection, this SDA D1833 at the moment does not have the most comfortable fabric, but it is on the very good side of the scale. More wears and washes will soften the fabric. I believe if you get one-wash version, it will be very comfortable straight out from the box.

Construction & Details — Tradition and elegance

This part is pretty straight forward. I will use a lot of photos here so everything can be seen easily. Construction is solid, this is what I expected from SDA. We have chainstitches run through most part of the jeans. Then we also have lockstitches, single-stitches. There are two colours of the stitches: burnt orange and lemon yellow. The sewing is executed neatly. Overall, the sewing looks simple and solid.

Classic 5 riveted pockets. 5 fly buttons (the last one was buttoned up). Most of the stitching on this jeans is chainstitch.
Inside — front. Chainstitches and single-stitches at the waistband. Lockstitch at the fly.
Inside — back. Chainstitches again, running through the jeans. Back pockets rivets.
Closer look at the fly.
Stitching at the crotch. Double stitches for reinforcement. Belt-loop stitching.
Inseam lockstitch and chainstitch. Hem classic chainstitch.

That’s pretty much it about the construction. Next is the details. I love what SDA did with all these to grab wearers’ attention of how special this product is. It deserves it, indeed.

Flasher with special design for a special product! Top left is “Special Product”, Top right is 15oz, The center is “Awa Shoai”, which is hank-dyed with natural indigo. The iconic pigs with shuttle looms, the indigoferas, the colour, the positioning, everything is just right.
I don’t mind getting extra special printed graphic on the herringbone pocket cloth LOL. Back pockets are classic, half-lined. One thing to note is these pockets are deeeeeeep and the opening is wide. I can even put my whole hand in the front pocket LOL So, there is no problems with putting smartphones or wallets. Very large capacity.
With a large pocket opening, it leads to a minor issue, 2 front belt loops are quite close together (around 8cm) This belt buckle here is 3.5cm and it fit quite right (the belt is Hawkmoth Leather Pubjab belt). My other belt with 5cm wide buckle and a holder next to it will not fit into these 2 loops. This photo is taken under direct sunlight.
Painted fly button with classic V-stitch. Button-hole sewing. Branded flat-head rivets. All these photos are taken under cool light from my office.
Last but not least, slanted back belt loop.

Fit & Style — Relaxing vibe

The cut is “High-rise tapered”. This is one variation of the popular “Relaxed tapered” cut out there in the market. I was considering between size 36 and 38 RAW. My calves are relatively big and I prefer wearing boots with jeans. With the cut having aggressive taper, even if it fits me, I will not be able to move around with comfort. Look at the size chart, I can guess the tapering is not that harsh. It would be better to get one-wash version. But I enjoyed the soaking and shrinkage process. After a short consulting with Ryo from Okayama for shrinkage estimation, I decided to go with size 36 RAW.

I put the SDA and PBJ together to compare the fit here.

Same concept of the “Relaxed Tapered” cut but fairly different in actual pattern.

Both jeans were size 36, after soak. We can clearly see that the tapering in the PBJ is more aggressive than the SDA. The top block is pretty much the same but from the crotch down to the hem, the pattern is significantly different.

Below is measurements (in inches) of the jeans before and after the initial cool soak (45 minutes).

— — — — — — — -RAW — SOAKED

Waist — — — — — 37.6 — -36.5

Front Rise — — — -12.4 — -12

Back Rise — — —- 17.5 — -17.2

Thigh — — — — — -13.8 — — 13.8

Knee — — — — — 10.2 — — -9.7

Leg opening —— -7.9 — — -7.5

Inseam — — — — -36 — — -33.5

I took the photos of myself wearing the jeans pre-soak but my files got problems so I have only the photos of post-soak here. I am 176cm and 95kg and I can say I am happy with the fit.

Front
Back
Side

Before the soak, I can fit one finger into the waist. Post-soak, it hugs my waist but after 3 wears, it fits just right. Top block, thighs and knees are all comfortable. We can see that I still have generous space left in the top block. After further soaks or washes in the future, I think it will shrink a bit more and has a better fit. The tapering is actually gentle, not aggressive. I can feel it hugs my calves a bit but it’s absolutely fine. I have no problems with walking, sitting, even squatting down. Totally happy with it. If there is something I would do to make the fit better, I will hem it to the ideal length so the cuffs are not too thick and large.

Fit ok with boots but will be better if I hem it up.

Ok, so that’s all I would say about the fit. Next thing is, how this SDA D1833 goes along with my other garments. Firstly, the fit gives a relaxing, athletic vibe. It is not as flattering as PBJ’s 019 cut with aggressive tapering below the knee. Secondly, this fabric is majestic. I feel it just stands out with whatever I put on. Hence, I believe it would be best to be paired with something that create a playful, relaxing vibes or something that is very Japanese. Semi-formal would not be very appropriate in my opinion. Anyway, I put the photos of the outfits I tried here. Please excuse me if you think the quality of the photos are not what this pair deserves. I am not a professional photographer by any means T___T

Casual and playful vibe with t-shirt, Hawaiian shirt, derby shoes and sneakers.
I even tried military and “ranchman” inspired outfits here.
This is the very “Japanese” outfit that I talked about. Sorry my phone could not catch all the beauty from these garments.

Look at these outfits, I think this SDA D1833 goes quite well with all of them. However, as I mentioned, it goes best with something playful or Japanese. But it does not mean that it is not versatile. Actually it is. I can wear them for many occasions, just not for formal setting, and of course, not for hiking LOL I tried it walking in the park, going downtown to the pubs, hanging out with friends. It was all fantastic.

Thoughts

When I came across this SDA Awa Shoai denim, my eye-balls stopped for few seconds, literally. I have seen quite a few natural indigo products from big Japanese denim brands, whether it is 100% natural indigo or combination with synthetic, nothing grabbed my attention like this. Just looking at the indigo shades of the warp yarns and how they are changed under different light setting is a pleasure. There is no way the photos here can capture the depth of the indigo-shade spectrum presented on this fabric. Not to mentioned the unique hand feeling brought by the slubs galore. The fabric itself is an art, period.

The painstaking hank-dyed method has produced the “truest” natural indigo dyed denim, the real Awa Shoai.

After creating a majestic fabric, SDA did not stop there but elevated the overall appearance with solid construction and elegant details. The sewing was clean and strong to hold the jeans for the years coming. The details are not lousy but special enough to bring the whole thing to the next level. I can absolutely feel the Japanese spirit and tradition presence within this pair.

Extra thick leather patch with super cool design. This is how SDA impresses me with a leather patch. Traditional and playful at the same time.
Left: double stitching for reinforcement. Center: iconic arc. Right: painted fly buttons, raised belt loops and branded flat-head rivet.

The brand also did a great job to make the jeans not only beautiful to look at, but also comfortable to put on. From raw condition, it took only a soak and couples of wear to make the fabric soft enough for me to do my activities with ease. The new “High-rise tapered” cut is also the key for comfort and versality. It works well with my body build and provide great mobility. The top block is still a bit baggy now but with further wears and washes, I strongly believe it will shrink a bit further and fit much better. I can wear it for most occasions and feel very happy with it. Just keep it out of the semi-formal occasions and it will be all good.

Left: Relaxing look. Right: SDA at full swing.

Thinking about Studio D’ Artisan, it usually comes to my mind with something fashionable, playful or even wild. Sometimes, I just forget the fact that SDA is one of the Osaka 5 who laid the foundation of Japanese denim industry. With this release of the D1833 model, SDA has proved to me again that Japanese tradition is always preserved and nurtured in their heart. It’s been a while that I was so excited to get a new pair of Natural Indigo dyed denim. SDA definitely pulled off a product that has balance between fashion and tradition, playfulness and elegance. They never cease to amaze me!

My score for this beauty?

Fabric: 10/5 (I’m not joking)

Construction & Details: 5/5

Comfortable & Functionality: 4.5/5 (just for now, not fully broken-in yet LOL)

Fit & Versatility: 4/5

Affordability: 3/5

This pair is highly-recommended for any denimheads who appreciate or want to try the top level of Japanese selvedge denim. I am so happy to have a pair on my hands and just cannot wait to see its evolution in the coming years.

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Clueless Wanderer

I write short stories, reviews, and opinions. Interested in reading, cashew and denim. A content writer for Tanimex-LA.