I am a Chicagoan living and working in Osaka Japan. I have a deep respect and love for old Japanese farm textiles. My passions include, traditional dyeing techniques, antique market hunting, and discovering remarkable Japanese craftsmen.
Autumn/Winter items are slowly making their way to Kapital stores. This year’s osusume or recommended item is the Kamakura Mountain Parka. Inspired by a famous kabuki actor. The functional neck pillow is similar to the kabuki costume that it is named after. There are several ways to wear this jacket. The jacket can even be folded up into the bag attached the back and used as a pillow or conveniently stored away.
Time for the second incarnation of a Ooe-Yofukuten X Bandanna Almanac collaboration. This time around we go back in time to the pre-riveted era of jeans. The time when single-needle construction was a standard and an integral part of the craftsmanship of tailoring.
Ooe-san has made these pants before if you may recall I featured them several years ago in this post. However I always felt I would like them more in denim, and with belt loops. I feel that the design of these pants are very versatile, even if you never get full functionality out of the design they are light and very comfy. They work with a multitude of styles and gender neutral.
The denim is a selvedge 10oz Japanese “dungaree style” sanforized with unique grey weft yarn. The construction is designed for comfort and function. 5 cleverly layered pockets on the front and one on the back. Single inseam construction means there is no out seam.They are reinforced from the waist to the bottom of the knee.
A very elegant one-piece fly, and a special reinforced crotch. The fit on these is straight forward, they will be delivered pre-shrunk so there shouldn’t be a worry about how they will fit after you wash them. They are darted in the hip, and then straight down the line. Considering the summer heat… this fit and fabric should be suitable for all-year wear.
When thinking about the fabric for these and details I came up with multiple images of occupations. Starting with movie-set painters, or sign painters or what I would term occupational-artists -people with long tools to stick in their pockets.(I have actually watched a few sign painters work… they use their pants pockets for their brushes a lot actually) The function isn’t occupation-specific but more of a versatile pair of pants that have amazing details, and that could actually be used for real work in upmost comfort. “Versatility without compromise of comfort, or relying heavily on historical accuracy or specific authenticity.”
While they may not get any awards for fashion, these are as rugged and hard-wearing as they come. The buttons have been painted over with army green paint, and will age nicely. The thread is 100% cotton “hemp-color”. That has a subtle contrast but not quite the typical orange, yellow, or white on regular jeans.
The labeling does not include any obtrusive branding. I went with a retro label that is a part of Ooe-san’s family history. This is a part of the Wayo-ism I was talking about a few months ago. The crossed thread snips are my collaboration stamp and I think it blends perfectly with the label they’ve designed. The waist and length sizing are indicated on the labels.
Pricing is 36,000 JPY. Shipping extra. Depending on how quickly orders come in we may be able to have them to your door by June. You can order these through email or though my Etsy page. Limited to 30 pairs.
Wayousechu is a topic I have touched on before. I have witnessed this style increasing in scattered posts across the internet. John Mayer may possibly the most well-known for it, in a recent GQ article the writer points out John’s love of the noragi. It isn’t really a noragi… but let that slide. What is important, is silhouette, collar, unfitted sleeves and the simple structure of the garment. These details I will coin as “wayo-ism”, and the next iteration of east-meets-west style…
John isn’t the only one to be on a bender of east and west. The sheer number of people wearing indigo sashiko kendo-gi lately is astounding. I am not sure if it is for function (comfort) or for just the general fad in denim fashion. Everywhere you look these days Kapital, Visvim, Old Park, etc there is a strong presence of some type of traditional Japanese garment influence.
Kapital has really done some nice knit pieces this year utilizing this “noragi” style. Kapital calls them “kesa” which is more like a Buddhist monks sash but again it is just a naming thing. Not important.
What is important is how comfortable and just how easy these pieces are to style with. Since the structure is relatively simple and the fabric which is a wool knit in this case; it is easy to pair with patterns and many layers. The tsugihagi version is more eye-catching and complicated. The sakiami is really beautiful, and I really love the texture of this piece. Sakiami is basically rag knitting.
The real big deal for Kapital this year is this incredibly huge shirt. Called a “Sloppy Shirt Coat” meant to be worn big (of course) and loose and deeply layered in colder weather as a top layer. I am continuing my haramaki obsession from last year as it pairs well. I think it could be styled well with a men’s obi or a cool piece of braided fabric (obijime possibly would look good). There are a few different fabric options and two sizes available. It is very comfy and it is exactly what you would want if you want to feel like “Six Foot Baby“. Again Mr. John Mayer enjoying the wide world of wayo-ism…
Last but not least is this new for 2017, Tezomeya china-button-loop-wheel-cotton shirt. This one is my personal design and limited to 10 pieces. Fortunately you can have it dyed any color Tezomeya produces. It comes in only one size but it will fit up to a size 44 chest. The sleeves can be shortened. If interested please send an inquiry through the contact link on the Tezomeya homepage.
Things are winding down after a busy summer. Looks like the Oak Street Bookmakersindigo boots will ship soon. Looking forward to seeing the reactions… Here are the pair of Kapital Lumber pants I wore when I was dyeing the boots. I like the way the indigo stains turned out.
I also spent some time dyeing these antique French Linen night shirts. The texture, and the gradation of the color close-up is really striking. Plus some of them have the most beautiful darning on them. The fine intricate stitching is proof people tried to take good care of clothing.
I am starting to realize that indigo dyeing is sort of like a hobby that helps me meditate and reconnect with myself. It may sound a bit new-age but whether you go hiking, or bike riding or escape into nature you’re really just trying to reconnect with yourself… especially since the world we live in is generally devoid of nature.
The Kapital Century Denim 123S after a few months of wear. The pattern has really come out in the sashiko, on the front side of the jeans. They have been washed 3 or 4 times. It was also a sunny day when I took these shots so they do seem much lighter than the actual color.
I am already working on the second pair of these in the new Okagilly fit. Which is a sarouel fit… and am enjoying this new pair more because of the fit.
Also I am planning a trunk show that’ll be in November. Stopping in 3 cities: LA, SF, and Seattle.
I have just come back from dyeing indigo in the mountains of Fujino for my 5th or sixth consecutive year. It always feels great going out there and immersing myself in nature for a few days. Osaka for all of its culture is starved of nature and the outdoors. It also gives me some time to think about things and of course have incredible discussion with Bryan-san. If you didn’t know this is the year of the monkey which happens to be my year in the Chinese zodiac. The conversations this year weren’t so much on what has happened but where we are heading.
For the past few months I have been contemplating all sorts of random ideas and the thought of denim and fashion is never out of mind. The Weather Underground was a political group that took extreme actions but had fairly simple ideals. These kinds of extreme actions and simple ideas are quite apart of society at this very minute. So, that is where I developed this idea called “The Denim Underground”. Maybe it is a sort of anti-fashion anti-heritage idea, but maybe it really isn’t anti anything. I kind of like fashion in the regard it operates as the artistic expression of clothing, and what can be achieved psychologically by meditation-styling. Pairing your mood with your clothes for me at least, helps for functioning on a daily basis. Eventually someday I will iron this out and create some sort of manifesto or something…
Anyways… Damage and wear, and paint and patches. This is my jam. I love… no, I adore workwear. The function is obvious and specific. Workwear is also like this fantastic base for simple clothing. Pockets in meaningful and useful places, reinforcement points, durable fabrics. It is like the everyday persons uniform. Narita-san reworked these Kapital multi pocket pants for me. White pants with white patches and paint, for me this is bliss. It is so simple but at the same time looks fantastic. They’re not exactly dirty but they’re not exactly clean either. White is such an odd color to deal with… it’s this modern/heritage “summer” color that really looks better totally fucked up and dirty.
So this kind of balance between fashion (damage, distressing, whatever-you-want-to-call-it) and simple everyday workwear is the aim of The Denim Underground. Wash and wear. Patch and darn -and re-dye…
Re-dyeing is the ultimate fun part. Once you wear the hell out of your clothes, repair them, the opportunity of re-dyeing presents itself. You can dye with this curious red stuff called madder, this comes from the roots of an insignificant evergreen. Green, the green leaves of the indigo plant Persicaria tinctoria. As the leaves of the indigo plant dry the release the most heavenly of fragrances and the gradually change from green to a very unusual dark blue. Recently I have started experimenting with over-dyeing some antique french linen night gowns and random garments. They come out looking fantastic after a few dips in indigo. The color is consistent and the texture is really lovely. Madder and indigo; the two most important dyes in terms of everyday clothing from ancient times to now. Think of red and blue bandannas. In many ethnic and folk communities all-over the world you can find these two dyes and colors blended together in any number of techniques.
From my own research into the history of bandannas, the importance of madder dye is noted again and again. From India to Scotland, the color was the base for most of the textiles. Especially hard wearing ones such as rugs and wraps. It wasn’t until the invention of fastcolor (synthetic dyes) did people stop re-dyeing their clothing.
So here is a pic of the second year of doing Oak Street Bookmakers indigo rough-out trench boots. I learned an impressive amount last year dyeing them. These are them after they have been dyed, and rinsed. They are still wet and look much darker than usual. This project has been incredibly interesting working on. The variations in the hides, brings out the individual uniqueness in each pair. Sometimes the pairs don’t even come out matched completely, which I think makes these boots very personal and very interesting. Definitely something I would include to be apart of the philosophy of The Denim Underground.
But before I nod off, I want to explain this amazing piece of clothing. It comes from Albania, it is from the 1800’s its made from yaks wool and there are apparently only two of these in existence currently. This is one of them. The other is in a museum somewhere. It is a piece of folk clothing made in one small village somewhere in Albania. It really blows my mind that there is still stuff like this out there. Sitting in some cedar chest… You can see it is hand-spun and hand-woven which equates to an extraordinary amount of time. Not only in actually making it, but learning the skills to make it. It is simply pure function, every part has been designed around functionality and durability. Also the silhouette and structure is similar to Japanese fishermans work jackets with the shorter sleeves, mid-length and massive weight. Very interesting…
“We don’t have a theology. We don’t have an ideology. We dance.” -Power of Myth
Well, the wait is over… the cat is out of the bag. The new Century Denim is here and boy oh boy it is something. Starting with the fabric, I am sure most of you are aware that this is 100% original fabric for Kapital. The process includes 4 different, non-related factories. One thread spinning factory, one indigo rope dyeing factory, one weaving factory (on one loom… yes one loom), and finally a finishing factory.
Each of the threads are spun differently to create a specific texture and tension for this very special denim. This is an industry first for triple indigo denim. For the diehard indigo fanatics, this is your denim…
The threads are rope-dyed using 3 different indigo dyes. Kapital’s No. 1 (American Indigo), No. 2 (Japanese Indigo), and No. 3 (Hon-ai or natural indigo), are woven together to create this new Century Denim, hence the 123s. The first thing that may come to mind is the kendo-gi. But this is so much different, so much more elegant. The denim twill weave, mixed with sashiko thread is indigo heaven. The dye method and weaving technique are different and much more complicated.
For protective purposes, neither the dyeing factory or weaving factory would allow photographs. I will try to describe though words, the process.
The threads are rope-dyed in their three respective indigos. Rope dyeing allows the center of each thread to have a white core or in Japanese nakashiro. Over time and with regular wearing and washing the indigo little by little falls off and the white core is slowly revealed. In comparison to cheese, or hank-dyed items, rope-dyeing reveals much more thread texture and color gradation desirable for denim.
The fabric is woven on a specialized weaving machine, all of the Century Denim fabric is woven on this one single machine. The weave is more dense than previous versions of Century Denim, and the shrinkage is more consistent. The texture is also slightly rougher after washing, and the hand of the fabric is more comfortable. If the topic of weaving peaks some interest, and if you happen to be in Japan, have a visit to the Toyota Industrial Museum.
The crocking on these is unreal. Most contact in the raw state will leave blue stains on almost everything. Your legs will be temporarily dyed blue as will your socks, underwear, shoes, shirt, and jacket. That said, it creates its own very unique aesthetic. Two soaks will alleviate most of the crocking issues. I would recommend avoid tossing these in the washing machine for a while, to avoid marbling and uneven indigo loss.
There is no wear sample available, so how they will fade and evolve over time is the fun part. The Century Denim 123s will be available for a limited time from February 2016 (Update: Monkey Cisco Century Denim 123S will be available in limited quantities in May) in the Monkey Cisco fit. Which is a new iteration of the Cisco fit. Being the year of the monkey this year… The changes are somewhat significant, the rise is deeper, and the seat is roomier. That means the thighs are more comfortable and there is a slight taper from the knee. The leg opening and taper are still just wide enough to wear Pecos boots (my personal favorite). The full line will be released in August with the 2016 AW collection. For the time being keep an eye on the instagram hashtag #centurydenim123s and this blog for further updates.
The chilly weather has arrived… The outerwear has come out, and it is time to start layering again. This year I have primarily focused on dark indigo and deep reds. Combining the two to make a nice foundation for the next several months of personal styling. Kapital last year (and this year), made a very simple double indigo denim fabric (meaning warp and weft are indigo dyed). It all started with Ringo Man Pants, and this riders jacket (rigid). Starting off dark, the indigo quickly starts to get that shininess to it that is so irresistible. After a few washes the denim texture comes out.
Tora-san from the series “Otoko wa tsurai yo” wears one of my favorite styles. The tummy-wrap or haramaki has a slovenly image in Japan, but more recently some fashion houses have picked up on this vibe. The mamorior talisman hanging around his neck is the finishing touch. To make it a more modern Wayousechu vibe; replace the check blazer for a riders jacket, and change the lid to a knit cap or open-crown cowboy hat. The tummy wraps are available just about anywhere in Japan, but I opted to get a 100% wool one, that has a dirty-old-man vibe.
I found this piece of saki-ori fabric earlier this year and it has been my working color pallet. It almost looks like the cloud layers of Jupiter… Most of everything I buy will be color-based and fit-based from one piece of fabric, photo or theme. I usually incorporate form and items from a variety of sources. These Egyptian split toe socks are the perfect red. It is no secret I love Japanese movies… but more than ever I have been re-re-watching Ozu Yasujiro movies, the colors and shots in Floating Weeds are some of my favorites. You can also get some idea where Wes Anderson got inspiration from…
This KapitalJuban Shirt is the ultimate layering piece. With a mid-deep collar, light distressing and details it has been in frequent rotation. It is a great east-meets-west piece and not only comfortable, but also looks great with almost anything. As the name suggests the premise is that of a layer shirt, although an actual juban layer doesn’t have buttons.
Here is my own personal haramaki styling. One a heavy indigo, with a contrasting golden brown haramaki. Tezomeya indigo henley-neck t, and Mittan silk/cotton jacket. The second one here is the that hybrid Japanese-American style with a riders jacket and Kapital Nouvelle pants, that have a thick rib-knit waist band that kinda has that tummy wrap vibe. With a sarrouel fit they are slouchy, comfy, and just the right amount of modern…
Off on another adventure into unknown territory. This time to Sadogashima, off the coast of Niigata prefecture. Accessible by ferry or hydrofoil it is the exile island of Japan. I felt very much at home in this environment. Consisting of beautiful coastal towns buried between the sea and the mountains, it is a picture-postcard image of Japan. The fishing village, and farming town rolled into one. Although I am not much of a biker, I can imagine how fantastic it would be to ride motorcycles around the island for a week. Stopping in little towns doing a little farm work in exchange for food and drink.
Crops from the mountains hanging next to the ship launch, the atmosphere is visual and aesthetically mixed of mountain and sea. The colors and textures for the photographer and textile hunter are everywhere, almost like a natural gallery. If you have been watching my Instagram you might have seen me getting my hands and jeans dirty with some rice farming. I have been giving my Kapital indigo x indigo jeans a hearty workout.
The colors of fisherman ropes, net markers, weights, floats, and boats is almost overwhelming. The tones are mostly subtle from sun-bleaching and weather. The reds are rusty, and faded. The desirable dirty-bene-iro is everywhere. Synthetic blue braided ropes, and grays hail to the sea.
Turquoise mix with coral reds, like Navajo pawn jewelry. The concrete and sea-sprayed wood gleams silver in the fading sunlight.
Textures in pottery are constantly in flux. As the cold smooth clay is formed, the shavings fall like blades of grass, and the cup as it takes its culture form hardens to a crisp cylinder. The cushion, the wood… everything near the bengara (red iron oxide) is dusted-dyed vermillion.
Rusted metal among abandoned, and demolished buildings. Textures that only the sea can provide from years of wind and salty ocean spray wearing away the metal and cement. And when sunset hits you better watch out because the emotion is overwhelming. Those dull colors that have been hiding all day start to bloom and my camera lens can’t keep up with the sunset.
adj. 1. lackinghueandbrightness;absorbinglightwithoutreflecting any of the rayscomposingit.
Black has an extensive history in textiles. Considering it is quite difficult to achieve the darkest black possible. Recently scientists invented Vantablack which is the blackest black every created by humans, it is made of carbon nanotubes. Interesting stuff… As far as regular dyeing goes… In general, before the introduction of logwood into textile dyeing, there were only two common ways to achieve black. One: taking a brown component like persimmon tannin and getting it as dark as possible by exposing it to extended periods of direct sunlight. Once achieving the desired hue an additional dip in iron mordant solution creates a very nice natural black. Two: dyeing it a dark blue or green (green being the more common) and then adding an iron mordant. Both of these processes create the two black colors that Tezomeya has available.
My Sumi 7S Century Denim recently underwent this process. I worked on the idea of dyeing these black a few years ago, but the texture had to be just right first. The result is wondrous. The brown peeking out from behind the black, and the indigo threads shedding their black covering looks incredible. Since we are on the topic of “black” I might as well mention how interesting this Blackfeet creation myth is…
The horizontal sashiko stitching brings out a very rough texture which adds some visual weight. Maybe I have been inspired a bit by the dark side of life…
Faded creases behind the knees didn’t take the dye very well, but left a nice subtle “Chashin” look.
Kapital made an interesting black jean for summer 2015. This version is a black warp and white weft, and given a nice distressed wash; it comes in this ashy color.
14 oz denim with nice contrasting stitching, finished with a rough-out patch. The new Okagilly fit is based around the old Sarrouel one. I really enjoy the irregularity of the fabric, with the dark color that is synonymous with the 80’s. Maybe this is a prelude of a new experimental style for me… punkfunctionalist… maybe… And one last idea of black, definitely read or watch Under the Skin
For about the last year or so George at Oak Street Bookmakers and I have been kicking around the idea of indigo-dyed leather. I had my concerns and decided to consult a few local indigo professionals and decided on doing them entirely in fermented indigo. This is the real deal… You can order them here.
I did all the dyeing myself at my friend’s house in Fujino, just outside of Tokyo. We tried dyeing the sewn uppers first, and also individual pieces.
Of course with leather, there isn’t much more you can do than dip them and rinse them and dip and rinse many times. Rinsing the leather was a key step in getting the color just right. You can read more on the process at Bryan’s blog.
The texture on the rough-out really brings out a nice color. The color isn’t a greenish indigo but a more denim blue hue. One that looks particularly good with the natural sole. I am curious to see how they will evolve over time…
Last month I attended the first (and probably only) runway preview (it felt more like tameshigiri) for Kapital Autumn/Winter 2015. Needless to say in Kapital’s signature “Ee jya nai ka” (Ah, who cares…Fuck it) attitude -it was spectacular. The preview contained most of the 2015 A/W collection and as to some it may seem chaotic and all-over-the-place, but for me there was an underlying theme. That theme for me was okonomiyaki… basically a mixed-up mash of ingredients that can be deliciously assembled to form a personal-enlightenment-food moment. This is a rather big step for Kapital… as the use of textile, design, pattern, and style have converged for once into a sort of “satori” or self-understanding.
The styles have a sort of perfect balance of Wayousechu. Kind of like a samurai with a mohawk. Nothing poetic about it…
First is the small bits of grunge, and punk fashion mixed with MA-1’s and butterflies. The women’s items are strong, and flowing, something I like to see is fluffy girly fabrics mixed with a leather biker jacket. It is cool, as cool can be. I mean look at the whole slew of brands trying to get every detail to exact replicas and for what? It ends up looking boring and forgettable. Or all the women wearing menswear… I mean enough of it already…
The styles have a sort of perfect balance of Wayousechu. Kind of like a samurai with a mohawk. Nothing poetic about it…
Then there is the vintage and modern mixed so casually and expertly it looks effortless. Something that most of the denim world in general doesn’t understand. Effortless is a key ingredient here; meaning so true and honest it wears well without effort. Most people are so concerned about fit, and dimensions that they forget none of that matters when you put a coat on, or when you are in a dark bar with minimal lighting. They will remember that Santo Domingo Thunderbird Cowichan Cardigan though…
Third thing to note here is the lack of a consistent trend, or trendy items. Because, readers should be aware of that, there are no fashion trends anymore. As recently (re)pointed out in a New York Times article. The fantastic artistry that goes into the Kapital Kountry items and washed fabrics and denim is savory. There definitely won’t be any instructions from Kapital on how to get that double indigo mountain parka to fade, or how to age a denim quilted jacket.
Kapital’s image as a brand has transcended in a way in the last few years (often being labeled as a “denim cult-brand” or “cowboy-hippie-brand”) from internet mediocrity, to a sophisticated gigantic denim-clad fashion killing robot. They may offend, and confuse most… but in the end there is something about the Kapital culture that keeps surprising people and creating an ever-growing fan base. As a contributor to this cult (family), I can only but be appreciative of being involved in some little way.
Maybe it was an early exposure to Oscar the Grouch growing up… junk has an ever-increasing appeal.
Junk: vintage items, that have either been remade or repaired using old or worn materials.
The Depression era Thunderbird necklaces from Santo Domingo really worked up a storm of ideas about saving and reusing materials to make new things. Take for instance this Depression era bolo tie, using wire to string a pair of turquoise nuggets on a piece of leather cord. The entirely hand made appearance is really neat. Also using an old thunderbird earring strung on old trade beads looks cute! This also connected some new dots to boro, denim repair, and Japanese aesthetics.
Interestingly enough it would be nice to dwell more on the idea of nature-worshiping societies (Native Americans and Shinto for example) generally regarding leftovers as material, not trash. Definitely something more to consider there…
Anyways back on topic. Junk. For the sake of avoiding confusion Junk is not a negative word in this context. It is just the state in which the object exists. The state of Junk. The majority of junk is overlooked by pickers and vintage collectors, there is an abundance of it out there and it is really up to the individual to find their preferred junk.
Take for instance denim repair.
A combination here of machine stitched repairs and hand stitching creates a sort of folk/junk art that has a personality. It isn’t clean or precise, but there is a beauty to it.
I assume from looking and observing denim repair photos on the net and instagram that there is a preference for “clean” repairs. The word clean here suggests that the stitching is not seen and the repair is almost invisible. This is the opposite of Junk. Junk has to have character, it really has to be unique.
Friend and constant source of inspiration John Dennis, of Sam Roberts LA understands the Junk aesthetic well. He constantly incorporates miscellaneous items into his products. Old coins, trade beads, and 19th century calico fabric just to name a few. They’re beautiful, and especially easy to arrange into an individual style.