Mehervan Sethi

Merv Sethi is a walking inspiration. Simultaneously respecting and challenging tradition, he opens the door to innovation and change, redesigning Japan’s denim industry one pair of jeans at a time. 

Make Your Mark Moments: Mehervan Sethi

The Story.

Founder of Okayama Denim, Mehervan Sethi is one-of-a-kind.

Following the Partition of India in 1952, his grandfather fled to Amagasaki, a city located just outside of Osaka, and started business as a fabric trader importing and exporting materials. With such a rich history of fabric in his roots, Mehervan (Merv) says he had been surrounded by denim from an early age. “My dad worked in the [fabric] industry, so I have the background.” 

When the Tohoku Earthquake hit Japan in March 2011, Merv felt an overwhelming urge to help and developed the Okayama Denim Project, an initiative that saw him creating and selling bracelets made from belt loop jean fabric to raise money for the Red Cross. “I wanted to have something like a bracelet, a tangible product that anyone could wear, male or female.” With a strong focus on details, right down to the red and white stitching, the “rising sun” brass buttons and characteristic chopstick inspired packaging, Merv felt the bracelets were a great way to showcase what Japan is all about. The initiative was a success with the bracelets selling out in stores worldwide, and became a gateway introduction for Merv to Kojima’s Jean Street, an iconic precinct just outside Okayama city lined with 30+ individual denim brands. With a burning desire to share the Kojima Jean Street scene on a platform that anyone in the world can access, Okayama Denim was born.

After Launching in 2011, Merv’s Focus Has Been On Creating Loyal Communities and Redefining Tradition.

From conception to present day, Merv’s appreciation for his community is unwavering. Built on mutual respect and adoration for the craft of Japanese denim, Merv makes no mistakes labeling the devoted, responsive community that stands today as something he is most grateful for. From watching how the fabrics are made to how they fade and stitch, he indulges his audience in the local experience that he has created, and emphasizes that he owes his success to this community he shares his passion with.

As a man who challenges norms himself, it is only natural that his professional environment follow suit. From yarn selection to baseline fundamentals, Merv is constantly exercising innovation and subsequently uprooting the denim industry. Having previously dyed their fabrics with the likes of matcha and turmeric, his latest initiative is 100% hemp selvage denim. With this project, Merv is leading a complete overhaul of traditional cotton denim, effectively re-establishing what denim is and what it can be; and with the entire world shifting in a sustainable direction, this project is the future of fashion.

He describes this level of innovation as his greatest satisfaction. Designing new products and fabrics, much like Okayama Denim’s proprietary frost denim and bamboo blends, is a way for him to encourage others to experience and see the world in different ways. By taking an iconic material and re-inventing its recipe, Merv strives to always challenge tradition and explore the creative side of life.   

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