At the end WW2 Japan began a journey of change. In terms of clothing and style, this journey has been a dramatic one indeed. With the post war occupation of Japan by the US Army from 1945-52, and the subsequent military bases set up to support troops during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, it's easy to see the influence this had on Japanese culture. One manufacturer was around in it's early form during this time and still exists today - Toyo Enterprises Co. Their story is an interesting one and, we think, one worth telling.
US Air Force Base at Iwakuni, Japan C1950
Starting out in the 1940's as Kosho & Co, an import and export business, Toyo Enterprises was founded in 1965 at Sumida, Tokyo, where it still has it's HQ today. Having been exposed to American culture and the growing post war textile industry with Kosho & Co, Toyo were well placed to bring this experience and knowledge into their manufacturing business during the 1960's.
Even before Toyo existed, Kosho & Co were involved in garment production. Garments such as Hawaiian Shirts and Souvenir Jackets were produced to cater for the growing market in Japanese souvenirs for US sericemen and women at markets around Ginza. These garments are incredibly important to the people at Toyo Enterprises as they are seen as the only 'Western Style' clothing to have originated in Japan. Stay tuned for a more in depth look at the Souvenir Jacket (Sukajan) next week as we prepare for our first drop of these amazing jackets in store.
Sun Surf Hawaiian Shirt
In 1965 the US Army was rapidly increasing it's intervention in Vietnam, and Toyo Enterprise Company was set up with the aim of targeting the growing numbers of US troops stationed in Japan. Toyo also took part in distribution of US Military surplus clothing to the Japanese market during this time, which further fuelled their interest and expertise in this area. Despite being a Japanese brand, Toyo developed and evolved with a strong US Military association, which is reflected to this day in the Buzz Rickon's brand we know and love here at P&P.
In 1975 the Vietnam war came to an end and the numbers of troops in Japan began to decline. This was the signal for Toyo to rethink it's strategy and become a clothing company for the Japanese domestic market. This time was the birth of the Sugar Cane brand. Specialising in work clothing and denim jeans, the American influence was obvious and they also brought a new type of Denim fabric to the industry, blending sugar cane fibres with cotton to produce a one of a kind 'Sugar Cane Denim'.
Sugar Cane Jeans
Keeping their focus firmly on authenticity and quality, Toyo have continued to grow their list of brands since the 1970's. Adding military reproduction brand Buzz Rickson, Tailor Toyo, Sun Surf, Cheswick and Lone Wolf, amongst many others. Due to their long presence in this sector of the industry, Toyo are able to use original machinery in their production. Machines such as short shuttle looms and Union Special sewing machines keep details accurate and add to the character and feel of the garments produced.
In a time where so many brands in Japan are producing high quality clothing inspired by vintage and classic American style, it's good to see that companies such as Toyo are still around and maintaining their position in a highly competitive marketplace. Perhaps it has something to do with their history; or maybe it's their passion for holding onto details commonly lost in mass production; or maybe it's their focus on quality over quantity... I could go on. More to come on Tailor Toyo and the history of the 'Sukajan' next week...