Milestone Basement interview: a conversation with Yuki Nagaoka

Milestone Basement interview

Japanese denim brand Milestone Basement is a new addition to our tightly curated roster at Those That Know. We’re the first store to offer the products made by this amazing brand outside of Japan, so we spent some time chatting to owner Yuki Nagaoka about looking forward rather than backwards, Zen and Japanese hip hop.

How did you get started with the Milestone Basement brand?

Before starting the Milestone Basement brand I had worked in the Japanese denim industry for 15 years. There’s no doubt that the technical skill and quality of the denim industry of Japan is some of the finest in the world, but I found the jeans I encountered from other countries contained a lot of creativity. I found them more free and challenging.

I decided that I wanted to make new Japanese jeans that incorporated various other cultures. So, with this in mind, we launched Milestone Basement with an aim to explore the possibilities of Japanese jeans.

Many Japanese denim brands focus their efforts on the reproduction and vintage-inspired market, and do a great job of it. Why did you decide to look to the future rather than the past with Milestone Basement?

Milestone Basement products are also vintage-inspired to an extent. For me, it’s a point of view. It’s like rock’n’roll and hip hop, they’re both music, you know?

Deliberate fading and ageing of jeans for style and beauty kills the original beauty of denim.

Vintage jeans are beautiful because they bear traces of over half a century of somebody’s everyday life. No one ever wore these jeans solely for the purpose of ageing them. They were washed when they needed to be washed and simply worn as part of a daily routine. That’s why their jeans are so beautiful.

We also firmly believe that our jeans should be treated the same way.

Milestone Basement jeans come pre-washed and sun-dried. Why do you choose to do this rather than using raw denim in your jeans?

What is important to us is that it is possible to wear our jeans from the moment you buy them with no stress, shrinkage or hardness. The idea behind Milestone Basement products is that they are items to be worn every day; they’re not luxury pieces to be worn now and again.

There is no need to wash them for months or years or create unnatural wrinkles. We just want you to wear them for a long, long time. To strive for this goal, we incorporate the best quality, technology and ingenuity.

Just by wearing them in your everyday life, you will see the true beauty of our denim shine through.

We work with a reliable craftsman who does the washing and drying process for each pair of jeans we make.

Simplicity is a big part of your design ethos. What inspires this?

We believe that there is real beauty in simplicity. This is deeply inspired by the idea of Zen. For us, a modern approach to making jeans and denim jackets does not mean adding more features or functions.

We see our design process as the aesthetic of subtraction.

Milestone Basement presentation box
Milestone Basement presentation box

The Milestone Basement product line is comprised of two pairs of jeans and one denim jacket (plus a couple of t-shirts to wear with them). What was behind the decision to not produce seasonal collections and to focus on these three products?

It is our hope that Milestone Basement products are worn every day by their owners. We don’t want them to be products that are just kept. In this case, three is enough, isn’t it?

Rather than making multiple products, we wanted to focus on making pieces that are essential to their wearer’s lives.

In the future, as the brand grows, we will make new products.

Tell us about the denim you use across the collection. Where is it made and what made you choose it?

The denim we use in Milestone Basement products is created in cooperation with a trusted partner of ours, which is a denim factory located in the Ibara area of Okayama prefecture.

When choosing the weight of the denim, we wanted the right balance of comfort and durability. We arrived at 12.5oz as the perfect weight for our products.

We use white selvedge, not red. This pure white line that extends straight on the blue plain is the pride of the material, it is a symbol of our identity.

The craftsmen are moving multiple looms at the same time to concentrate all their nerves on the movements and sounds of each shuttle and make fine adjustments in real-time. Relying on denim, relying solely on your own skills and experience, is just as tense and delicate as a jazz session.

We don’t use machines for mass production in the production of our soul denim, just use analogue old-fashioned weaving machines. Because there is beauty that can be produced by only that method.

How does being located in Okayama, with its rich denim industry history, inspire you?

It’s true that my home town, Okayama, is known as denim town. This made it possible to find skilled craftsmen here to work with Milestone Basement.

I would also say that I am inspired by other cultures, with Tokyo and New York being particularly strong inspirations.

The blog on your website talks a lot about Japanese jazz and hip hop. Being record collectors ourselves, this interests us a lot. Can you tell us a bit more about the scene in Japan?

The Japanese music scene has become much more diverse in recent years. Both hip hop and jazz were very minor scenes in Japan, but now more and more people like them, particularly hip hop culture, which has become very popular in recent years.

Can you recommend some music for us to check out?

There are many wonderful artists in Japan. To name just a few, I would say Ovall, toe, RITTO, and dengaryu. I’m inspired but a lot of music, regardless of genre.

YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video

Hikaru Utada is also an artist who has had a great influence on me.

And how about recommendations of music shops and parties in Okayama and Tokyo?

Waltz in Nakameguro, Tokyo is my favourite shop. It’s a very rare shop that specialises in cassette tapes, which are all neatly organised. You can spend a whole day there.

Waltz has been featured in the journal on our website.

What do you have planned for the future of Milestone Basement?

Our aim to for more people to know about the Milestone Basement brand and, of course, launch some new products. I want to offer the wonderful culture of Japan to the world.

To see more of Milestone Basement, head over to their brand page on our website. If you have questions or would like more information about the brand and its products, get in touch with us at [email protected].