The “impossible” 400 thread is finally here.
Delicate, ultrafine 400 count thread is hard to come by.
In an age of price wars and knock-off products,
we are committed to making breakthroughs.
In our pursuit of the very best, we found everything we needed in Japan.
We rediscovered traditional techniques that were on the verge of being lost forever.
Spinning, weaving, processing, sewing.
Japanese factories and Kamakura Shirts have joined forces to create an all-Japanese product.
To create this fine 400 count thread,
we needed extraordinary technologies and materials.
Unitika’s special spinning technology is what made it possible.
The fabric is made with four twisted threads of 400 count yarn,
woven little by little, ensuring the thread does not bend or sag.
Cotton is produced in 90 countries around the world. Only 8% can be called luxury cotton. Suvin Gold is the name given to the highest quality cotton from India.
It is even rarer, at just 0.003% of the gross cotton production.
The cotton used for our Suvin Gold shirts are extra-long staple* suvin, carefully nurtured and hand-graded in South India. Since the cotton is handpicked, it reaches the Japanese cotton mill soft and undamaged. The title “Gold” is only given to the first and second picking. Feel the radiance and touch that this illusory cotton promises. It is something we’ve been searching for years.
We invite you to enjoy the radiance and softness of this long-sought-after cotton.
*Extra-long staple cotton ⇒ Cotton where fibers have a staple length of 3.5 cm or more. The longer the staple, the higher the grade of the cotton.
In the textile industry, the higher the number, the finer the thread. Kamakura Shirts has made high yarn count 150, 200 and 300 thread shirts in the past. The next challenge was the 400 count shirt, making full use of a world-first in textile technology.
The development of this fine thread was based on the joint efforts of Kamakura Shirts and Unitika. At the Unitika Tokiwa factory in Okayama, there were many prototypes before creating the 400 thread yarn was born. Over one hundred years of hard work have gone into Unitika’s advanced spinning technology that was used to create this 400 count yarn.
We asked Unitika for the whole story from thread development to shirt completion.
- The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry selected the Unitika × Kamakura Shirts initiative as part of a governmental project to invest in. What were your thoughts behind the project to create an all-Japanese dress shirt?
Unitika has been at the forefront of spinning for over one hundred years. Although spinning was once a major industry in Japan, it has often been overlooked. This project has created an opportunity to demonstrate to everyone the hard work and technology that we have accumulated.
Like the 150 shirt created in 2017, 400 also uses SUVIN GOLD cotton. For this project, we decided to create something that did Japan hadn’t seen before by specializing in this top quality, extremely rare, super-long cotton.
- What is it that makes this 400 shirt so special?
Perhaps it’s that this project has resulted in a final product, the completed shirt, which so many people have had a hand in creating.
It’s the birth of a dress shirt with “Japan Quality”, a fine silkiness and delicate texture, made possible with the softness and comfort unique to Indian cotton.
- Developing this project must have involved many challenges and hardships. What was the biggest challenge?
The thinner the thread, the harder it is to spin. The delicacy of 400 thread means it sometimes gets torn in the process of making it. It also requires a reliable manufacturing process, but it took some time to stabilize our supply chain.
We suffered many setbacks from prototype to completion. The important thing was not to give up when things went wrong. The development team were determined not to quit until we had a finished product, which ultimately ensured success.
- This project created the ultimate Japanese-made shirt. From spinning, weaving, processing and sewing, the 400 shirt is completely made in Japan. This important first step is all thanks to the Tokiwa factory of Unitika. What do you think is best about domestic production?
Since Unitika have been masters in spinning fine thread counts for a long time, that itself gives an advantage to domestic production. It was Unitika who handled the raw cotton of SUVIN when it was first imported thirty years ago, and this cotton has given us the ability to make fine thread for many years. However, the true strength of domestic production is the direct connection with our customers. I think that the advantage of domestic production is that we can adapt to the needs of the factory next in the chain and to the needs of the end-customer. And we’re delighted to be involved in the manufacture of goods with our fellow Japanese textile enthusiasts.
- If shirts were food, we at Kamakura Shirts would be like chefs who study “recipes” or designs to bring out the best of our “ingredients” to make something beautiful. Since Unitika Tokiwa factory helped with the “ingredients” part, what do you think the future holds for the “ingredients” in the apparel industry?
At Unitika we have accumulated experience in creating products other than clothing, so in my opinion we have a wider range of materials to make use of. Also, having now created 400 thread fabrics, we are keen to improve the quality of clothes by specializing in high-yarn counts in the future. However, if we want to increase production, it will be necessary to remodel the machinery itself. We must continue developing this technology, and I’m excited to push forward the science of clothing. The material still has untapped potential in producing clothes that are a joy to wear.
- Creating the “ideal” shirt is a costly endeavor, and there are always limits to what we can do. If you had unlimited funding, what kind of things would you invest in?
We would like to focus on improving Unitika’s strengths in making fine threads – like 400 and 150 yarn – more efficiently and easily. Spinning fine thread requires a lot of floor space. In addition, the length of the fabric that can be woven in a day is also limited – we can only make 15 m of the 400 count fabric each day. In terms of shirts, that can only make ten. With higher productivity you can make more shirts.
We also all feel the urgency to pass on to the next generation the spinning technology that we have cultivated over so many years. We want to standardize our manufacturing technology so that future generations can inherit that.
- Do you have any future hopes for collaborations with Kamakura Shirts?
We have created a new beginning by developing something never seen before. We were fortunate to have these 400 shirts selected as a product, following the 150 count shirt. We hope that the development of new products by Kamakura Shirts carries on, so that this wonderful collaboration can continue and create a roadmap for quality shirts. And we hope that Kamakura Shirts can come up with projects that involve us. There is meaning not only in starting new things, but also in continuing them, so we would love it if Unitika were involved in the creation of further exciting shirts.
- What would you like to say to people buying this shirt?
Because most people aren’t familiar with the process of spinning cotton into yarn, it’s hard for them to imagine how it is done. We’d like it if people thought about the work that goes into making the thread. Recently, we have been opening up factories and technologies to people who are interested in the spinning process, so we hope that the process itself will become more familiar. Until now, European fabrics were considered the best, but quality products are now coming out of Japan too. It would be great if customers who wear this 400 count shirt could share the comfort, quality, and soul of Unitika with other people. Unitika ‘s old corporate motto was “Unitika creates life’s necessities.” We believe that clothes are a big part of that. We will continue to use Unitika’s technology to create new things. Thank you.