From acrobatic performances and documentaries, to famously throwing cakes into crowds, Grammy-winner DJ and producer Steve Aoki’s creative outlets are unique and unexpected. And it’s those two qualities that also make his streetwear brand Dim Mak’s first collaboration a stand-out in the denim world.
Aoki and Candiani Denim owner Alberto Candiani teamed up to make the Dim Mak x Candiani EC-01, a limited-edition, 5-pocket straight-fit jean with a distressed laser finish and hand-painted artwork by Aoki and his team of artisans in Las Vegas. The jean launches Friday on the Dim Mak website and app, and retails for $150.
The collaboration was a hands-on experience both sides. Working at the Candiani Design Center in Los Angeles, Aoki chose hardware and learned about denim treatments and processes before adding another very personal touch to each pair—wearable art.
“We work with a handful of talented artists all over the world,” Aoki told Rivet. “They each have their own style and I personally work with them individually to create pieces based on what is happening around the world and in pop culture.”
For the Dim Mak x Candiani EC-01, Aoki chose a design that features Yōkai, the Japanese demons including the misunderstood Rokurokubi, the mischievous Karakasa kozō, and monstrous Gashadokuro.
“I have always been inspired by Japanese culture and these Japanese demons, called Yōkai, have some fun myths tied to them,” he said. “The Yōkai painted on these EC-01 jeans actually came from one of my favorite Aoki 1of1 jeans that I wanted to share with a broader audience.”
The foundation for the jean is Candiani’s ITMA-award winning ReGen fabric, an exclusive denim fabric composed of equal parts recycled cotton, made from the mill’s own production waste, and Lenzing’s Refibra technology. By using no virgin fibers, each pair of jeans made with ReGen saves approximately 2,565 liters of water.
Though Aoki’s brand has been based on upcycling clothing into one-of-a-kind wearable art, seeing how Candiani makes denim made him a firm believer in sustainable fashion.
During a visit to the mill, Aoki said Candiani showed him how the company reuses waste to make new jeans. “I was inspired by their conscientiousness toward the earth and wanted to bring that mindset into Dim Mak with our first collaboration,” he said.
“It was amazing to learn about all the stages behind a perfect pair of jeans,” he continued. “Most people don’t realize what goes into something basic everyone has in their closets. What Candiani has done to reduce the amount of waste in energy, raw materials, and water to benefit the environment while producing an even better-quality product was the most surprising and exciting part of the process.”
The collaboration was born from the long-time friendship between Candiani and Aoki and their shared passion for music—they’ve even performed together in the past at electronic music festivals.
Music has always been a subplot in Candiani’s story. Along with performing as a DJ, he created Candiani Denim Symphonie, a “neo-futurist” project in 2014 that combined the creation process of denim with the creation process of music. The Denim Symphonie composed music around the sound of a weaving loom, elevating the process of weaving denim to musical entertainment and performing at events like Bread & Butter and Milan Fashion Week.
For Candiani, Aoki’s personality and style provided all the inspiration his company needed to actualize the collaboration.
“We simply had to carry his vibe into the development and execution,” Candiani told Rivet. “We started from something true and authentic, our friendship. We characterized it with some alternative creativity but sticking to sustainable innovation and techniques. That’s who Steve truly is—a true person with very innate creative skills who really cares about sustainability and the planet.”
Collaborations—as “alternative and special” as this one with Dim Mak is—are also vital for the future of sustainable fashion and sustainable storytelling, he added.
“It is so important for sustainable innovation to be perceived as a ‘cool thing,’ especially in the fashion industry as we try to bring this [mindset] to a new generation,” Candiani said.
Moreover, Candiani believes partnerships with creatives from outside the denim space are necessary. The entire denim industry, he said, should take lessons from the music industry and especially Aoki, who throughout his career has been an innovator by blending music, lifestyle and fashion.
“Denim needs individual input to enact change below the skin,” Candiani said. “Especially for us crazy denim lovers, things can suddenly become a little boring. We need new thinking and jolts of energy.”