Evisu was founded in 1991 by Hidehiko Yamane. Yamane worked in one of Osaka’s most popular stores, Lapine, famous for being one of Levi’s deadstock’s biggest importers, and for the denim proposal Studio D’Artisan, the first of Osaka 5 and, together with Evisu, the main stylistic innovator Japanese denim.
Yamane then puts his brand on its feet, calls it Evis as Ebisu, god of fortune and fishermen (the depiction of the god will become the logo of the brand) but especially as Levi’s without an L, and draws on the pockets of stylized seagulls that also resemble the Levi’s bows:
“The paint was half joke. I never thought anyone would buy them.” – Hidehiko Yamane
The style, the research in fit and the quality of Evisu immediately lead the brand to be a success, so much so that Yamane adds a “u” to the name of his brand so as not to run the risk of being confused with Levi’s. Evisu’s daily production did not exceed 14 units, and the “gulls” were hand-painted by Yamane, returning all the luxury craftsmanship of the product.
The Osaka 5 are, in fact, five denim brands that formed in Osaka, creating the myth and style of Japanese denim.
Studio D’Artisan, Denime, Evisu, Fullcount and Warehouse were all born, in this order, between 1980 and the mid-1990s, collecting the legacy of Kojima Denim Street, where in the 70s, BIGJOHN and Kurabo Mills gave birth to the first Japanese denim ever, KD-8.
The imagery of the Osaka 5, however, was the one that first managed to conquer the foreign market, managing to turn the buying prospect: it was no longer the young Japanese who bought the old Levis’ Americans, now the Americans wanted at all costs jeans Japanese. The first real brand to succeed was Evisu.
W. David Marx, in his book Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style writes that Evisu was the first Japanese denim brand to sell for real to Americans and, above all, the first to convince an audience that went beyond the Japanese niche that the future of denim high-end passed from Japan. In some ways, therefore, Evisu invented – for the West – the very concept of Japanese denim.