Benny Seki is not your average old man. This 50-something Hong Kong-based vet (he would not reveal his age and insisted on being 28) is the proud owner of Take5 Jeans. A pioneer of raw and selvedge denim in Hong Kong as well as the sole distributor for Evisu, Dry Bone, Gardener, and Pherrow brands there over the course of 14 years, the man has managed to expand his reaches to Bangkok, Shanghai, and Taipei. JUICE sits down with this denim sifu and talk to him about his passion and why would someone pay for a RM1000+ pair of jeans.
He tells us of how initially he was in the electronics business, buying products from Japan and selling them back in Hong Kong and China. It was through this line of work that he got to know several denim brand owners in Japan and became close to them. “Even though I’ve always liked jeans, I have no deep knowledge of denim, these guys thought me about denim and the entire Japanese denim culture,” explains Benny.
It was during the ‘90s when the recession hit and Benny’s electrical business suffered that he decided to take a daring step, and changed his business direction by getting into the denim game. “I saw a lot of potential for this to bloom in Hong Kong. This trade has lasted decades and will definitely continue for long. At that time, Hong Kong was like how Japan was 10 years before, which means there was a lot of room to grow,” elaborates the seasoned denim expert. He then informs us that starting out was not easy as he had to go through tough times where there wasn’t even enough money for lunch nor dinner.
“Every night, my wife and I would argue as she didn’t see the sense in my passion for denim, but I knew if I persevered, I would succeed.”
And sure enough he did. Now with several branches outside Hong Kong, he can very well smile as he tells us that back then he would have to call up people for interviews to gain recognition and promotion. “Nowadays, all these magazines call me up asking about Take5 and me,” he says while laughing at how things have turned out for him.
Benny prides Take5 as a very personal store where the experiences between customer and retailer is one to one: “I talk to them and share with my customers my knowledge. I want them to really know the product before purchasing anything. If you don’t like it, please don’t buy.”
But of course, why the hell would you pay a grand for a pair of old blues? Benny explains, “Most Japanese denims are selvedge. Selvedge denim is made from shuttle looms from the ‘50s, which only makes limited quantities. It also takes a lot of skill to handle these machines. Using these old looms gives the fabric a rougher hair texture, which is unique.” He continues on to say the dye is important. Normal generic brands are dyed maybe several times while Japanese denim is dyed 18 to 20 times, giving it very interesting fades once worn in properly. “Also, the thread used in Japanese denim is cotton, which gives tiny little fade marks while generic brands uses polyester… which is sh!t because it’s easier and faster,” he adds. But most important of all, these Japanese denims are all handmade.
Benny tells us that among all, his favourite cut for his jeans would be from the ‘60s era where it was not so slim yet fitting to his body. As for preferred brands, the wizened businessman aptly answers, “All the brands I carry at Take5 are my favourite because each is unique and special.”
Finding the right jeans is not easy, but once you get the right fit and colour, you will realise how great it is to have a pair of awesome jeans. In the axiomatic words of the man himself: “The fact that the fades of the denim will come with time and is unique only to you due to how you wear it, makes it the only one in the world that looks like that. It’s amazing.”
More on Benny Seki’s store at www.take5jeans.com.