I deal with 2 factory brands in Japan for our knits products.
The first one is a brand called UTO
They are specialized in cashmere, and we offer basic V-neck, Crew-neck, Turtleneck, Cardigan in made-to-order service where you get to choose the color, change the length of the sleeves and the body length.
When you deal with wool materials, not only quality of how the products are made, but the quality of the raw materials is extremely important as well.
UTO is very particular about their material, and this is what they say about their cashmere.
For cashmere to become a final product, it has to go through many processes, people, and companies. Since cashmere hair cannot be harvested in Japan, raw material importers conduct inspections every time containers arrive from abroad. If someone were to mix any foreign materials, it could be done only when the cashmere was still in the “fleece” state. The exporter also makes sure other articles are not included. Even with such thorough examination, it could happen that a tiny piece of fiber from the rope tying the cashmere falls into a container and makes the whole lot 99.9% cashmere. However, it is impossible to have less than 99% purity unless it is intentional. The law in Japan allows for error up to 3%, but when cashmere is sourced from a trustworthy seller, a 3% difference will never occur.
There was a big news story in Japan in 2008 that some “100% cashmere” tags were misleading. Because cashmere is expensive, some people are just tempted to lie about its purity. We also heard that there are cases in which the samples sent were pure cashmere, but the actual products were not. We can never be too careful about purity inspection.
In the past, UTO had a product presentation event with Mitsukoshi (one of the oldest and largest department stores in Japan) to introduce Alashan Cashmere products. With Mitsukoshi buyers, we made a trip to Inner Mongolia and visited a family who owns cashmere goats so we could better confirm traceability. On top of that, we had the cashmere inspected again when it was delivered to Japan, and we obtained a cashmere authenticity certificate.
Then of course, the importance of how it is made.
I have emphasized in the past, that our knits are made in [Liking] process. This is how they explain about [Linking].
When putting on your turtleneck pullover, you may wonder, “Isn’t the neck-hole too small?” But usually, the neck-hole of knitwear is made to expand and contract so you have no problem putting your head through it. To make it flexible while at the same time keeping its shape, linking is the key. Linking is a method of seaming/attaching pieces of a garment together after the pieces have been knitted. In the linking process, each stitch of the knitted parts to be connected is hooked onto a needle one by one. A stitch can easily be missed, and the result can be disappointing. What’s worse, the mistake is almost impossible to undo. Therefore, the linking process requires a high level of craftsmanship.
There are two types of linking machines: machine-driven and hand-driven. UTO uses both types. The hand-driven model is named “Yasumi,” after its Japanese inventor. This machine is light, compact, and works without electricity, so it was suitable for Japan’s smaller manufacturers in the past, and it still works great today.
When a sweater is knitted, the body is knitted from the bottom and the sleeves from the cuff.
For example, the front body of a woman’s sweater is knitted with a double stockinette stitch for the hem and then changed to a plain stitch. The waist is shaped, so the number of stitches is carefully decreased to create a curve. The angle of the curve is adjusted, carefully reducing one stitch per five rows or six rows, etc.
The back of the body is knitted similarly, except the shoulder line needs to be angled. Sometimes you don’t know which side is the front of your turtleneck sweater, but if you find a line on the shoulder, it’s the back.
The line is set not on the top of the shoulder, but near the shoulder blade so that the shoulder line will not be bumpy when you wear a jacket over it.
One Mistake, Redo the Whole Thing
If there are any mistakes in the stitches, theoretically that part could be undone, but the hem and cuffs are difficult to fix. If the sleeve or body length has to be changed, then it has to be knitted all over again. Also, it has to go through the fulling process. Fulling makes yarn loose and therefore fluffier, but it makes it more vulnerable to pulling. Once the yarn is fulled, replacing or adding parts is almost impossible.
Each part of fully fashioned knitwear is made of a single thread, and there is no waste (so nothing is cut off). Since the cashmere yarn is ten times more expensive than regular wool, we do not want to produce any excess. It is also eco-friendly that we do not waste any resources.
Many people alter their woven clothing, such as suits. They shorten the sleeves or let out the waist half an inch or so. Knitwear is relatively flexible and stretchy; that may make up for a small size difference. However, if the size is off by more than an inch, it will not look good.
The second one is a brand called 911 Japan by Sato-Seni
They also are very particular about their materials, and this is what they say about their materials.
This is the original business of SATOSENI
At the end of the 19th Century, the main industry in this area was the agriculture, however the Silk Cultivation was replaced in the winter time because of the deep snow environment.
There was a big change of outfits in the early 1900’s. People started wearing European style clothing.
In response to this, Japanese government pursued spinning wool yarn as the national project
In the same period, farmers in Yamagata started farming a few sheep at home.
The first generation of SATO SENI, Chonosuke Sato sheared sheep wool and spun the hand knitting yarn.
By the hand spinning machine.
This is the beginning of SATO SENI.
Today, SATO SENI has the strongest relationship with local motivated farmers in Australia, Africa and other countries with huge respect for them and natural materials.
Main products used to be worsted wool or other animal fiber yarn. In addition, special shaped yarn, ultra-fine mohair yarn are also well-known in the luxury world market after staffing a booth at International trade fairs.
Lately, the new developments of plant fiber materials are also focused on.
Sato-Seni also does [Linking], but their specialty is more about using different raw materials, like Wool, Linen, Angola, Alpaca etc.
Products I choose are all about the value within achievable price points. If it’s unrealistically expensive, no matter how good the product is I don’t think it is worth it.
You may think my products are slightly more expensive than other brands, but the quality and the value are there to prove it.