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.
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…
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.
The melding of two-forms is at most times fraught with difficulty. The merging of eastern and western thought, design, culture, philosophy etc, is usually regarded with sighs. It is not a difficult thing to achieve; there needs to be a careful balance to make it beautiful.
Wayousechu is a Japanese term for the cohesion of east and west. This term is usually used in architecture but I will loosely apply the term to textile and fashion in this case. Because the term is a more modern term and solely an aesthetic term, it can be applied to objects and ideas outside of architecture. One of the earliest examples is Ryoma Sakamoto wearing boots.
Later on during the Meiji Era western clothing becomes quite common place, often mixed with kimono and Japanese clothing.
In fashion the wayousechu aesthetic would be used as a word to explain design concepts. Kapital has been playing with wayousechu in their collections for years. Some good recent examples are Century Denim, and the Suki-yaki western shirt.
The suki-yaki western shirt is a partially modified pattern, based on an over-sized denim western shirt. The collar and base garment is the familiar western shirt (pearl snaps, shoulder details etc…) but the distinct left-over-right method of wearing is hinting at kimono. The two bottom snaps create a sort of obi (belt sash) effect that loosely gathers at the waist line. It helps to hide the gut…
Suzi-Yaki Western Shirt
My Sashiko Darning
Century Denim Backside Repair
Century denim is maybe seen as a more obvious mix, but I feel it holds a more subtle suggestion of east and west. Take for instance the colors. Two traditional Japanese workwear colors of kakishibu (brown) and sumi (grey), accented with the sashiko stitches in the traditional indigo color. The sashiko not only functions to strengthen the fabric it also is integral to the color. As the indigo fades the base denim colors come out stronger. With the kakishibu (5S) version this effects the brown color slightly and creates a more reddish and warm tone. Coating these jeans with kakishibu liquid will strengthen the fabric weave and protect the fibers slightly. This was a technique used in sake brewing to lengthen the life of sakabukuro (sake mash bag).
The newest addition to the East meets West project for Kapital is the Suki-Yaki Coverall. Essentially the familiar chore jacket, but modified for function and aesthetic. The pocket layout is extremely useful. The denim is a light ounce with a soft blue color. The red flannel lining contrasts nicely and is similar to those used in Lee work jackets. There is a very similar shape to the Suki-Yaki western shirt but the coverall is more like a noragi in that it is square in shape.
It is important to note that there is a very careful design involved. The shape is clearly Japanese with the left-over-right layout but the garments still function like western workwear. This is a step in a new direction of workwear as fashion. The workwear function and construction details are present but with an interesting side step in pattern-making and silhouette. The boxy relaxed fit of the Suki-Yaki coverall and western shirt is easily coordinated with loose or slim fitting pants. The belt loops on the side add a multitude of belt arrangements. Possibly tying obijime or a braided belt around the waist would create an interesting military jacket type fit.
Wayousechu is something that has been around for a long time but slowly being revived. Maybe it is the dramatic increase in interest of Japanese products over the last decade but it may be that finally people outside of Japan are slowly accepting and appreciating the empty clean lines of Japanese traditional clothing (design) and/or the high quality construction of workwear. Maybe even fashion-minded people are willing to try new avenues with familiar fabrics. This is a very interesting development either way and I fully embrace it.
Purple is a color imbued in mystery. In certain places and times the color was solely used by the aristocracy, for others it is a religious symbol. Most people would agree, that it has a strong image and a bold color. The color purple is by no means flashy, but deep and complex.
The dyeing process for purple varies just as much as its meaning. Tyrian purple was made from ground snail shells, which much have been an exhausting process, not to mention quite expensive. Japan and China used a method to obtain the color from certain types of insect galls. Gallnuts as they are called were found to contain a high amount of tannic acid which in turn creates iron gall ink, and in ancient Japan was used by women to dye their teeth black.
This is the same dyeing method used at Tezomeya to acquire Fujinezu-iroand Ebizome-iro. The first is a more of a grayish purple so the color no as bright. Ebizome-iro (pictured below) is a color that combines the gallnut and madder root to make a familiar purple color. The color takes in name from the fruit of a grape plant called ebikazura.
Kapital created a new purple denim this year called” No. 8“. It is a combination of the purple yam (beni-imo) and indigo. The resulting color is quite brown at first, this I assume is a result of producing a dye from yams. The wabash is discharge printed, and the lighter tones are pink! I quite like this color contrast. It is definitely much more unique than indigo denim with white stripes.
Here for comparison the different shades of purple. Combining purples with medium browns and light grays is an easy way to incorporate the color into your wardrobe. Natural purples have interesting gray and blue hues, depending on the light, so depending on the purple it can also be paired with indigo, and darker colors.
Santo Domingo is one of the largest villages for the Pueblo people in New Mexico. They are known for their intricate shell jewelry. During the 1930’s to the 1950’s this village produced these interesting souvenir necklaces. During this era it appears that the artisans didn’t have money to purchase traditional materials to make jewelry. In order to make a living they collected and recycled materials to make these “Depression” necklaces. They are made from crushed up bits of turquoise, car battery casings, vinyl records, red plastic (toothbrushes, spoons), bone, and other materials. They look incredible and the resourcefulness of the crafts people and their skills definitely show through these pieces, considering the materials they were working with.
Kapital’s design team was inspired by this clever idea, and as always created something truly impressive. The Santo Domingo jacket is the what they came up with. The jacket, and the coverall have a similar central theme. Starting with the chest area, which is inspired by the designs found on Navajo and other southwestern tribes. The “star” (it looks like a star to me) continues on the elbows, and similarly onto the shoulders. The blending of the standard denim jacket and the hunting jacket is apparent in the pocket design and button details. The chest pocket is large enough to accommodate a newspaper plus most every day carry items. Combining function and simplicity together. The complex nature of the pattern though, means this jacket is technically quite tough to sew. Also note the hand-set rivets. The jacket denim is sanforized so there is little shrinkage after washing. The coverall is a light oz. denim that comes one-wash. What I think is most impressive with this jacket is how Kapital can wield a simple denim fabric to make such an impressive design. Not only to make an interesting look, but also utilize the denim fabric’s strengths. Similar to how the Pueblo people utilized the materials they had at hand to make simple and beautiful jewelry.
Just an hour or so out of Osaka there is the city (prefecture of the same name) of Wakayama. Just outside the city I had the esteemed pleasure of visiting the Kanekichi knitting factory. Founded in 1920 they are one of the few remaining “tsuri-ami-ki” or loop-wheel knitting machine factories still around. They use old European and Japanese made loop-wheel, double knit and circle knitting machines. My eye was on the loop-wheel knitting machines, as these are the knitting machines that Tezomeya products are made on.
The first thing upon entering the factory floor was the amount of cotton dust floating around. It is very fine and accumulates like snow on anything sitting still. The noise is completely different from a denim factory or weaving factory, the sound is almost like a gathering of innumerable crickets.
The products are incredible, and the sheer amount of variety of fabrics that can be made on these knitting machines is astounding. The most popular being reverse knit (sweatshirts), and loop-wheel t-shirt knits.
There are several aspects to these machines that allow them to turn out superb fabric. The first are the “bearded” needles, and they allow the yarn to be knit under virtually no tension by not pulling on the thread. There are more than 1000 needles on each of these machines. Each and every needle is placed by hand, exactly spaced by the craftsman’s eyes. A completely analog process…
The second aspect is that only one or two threads are being knit at a time. This process is slow, but the end result is a much fluffier material. The third is that the fabric falls onto a carriage that rotates with the machine. The fabric falls naturally and is not pulled, rolled, or put under tension.
The machines spin around under the top knitting mechanism, and is quite mesmerizing to watch. Since these are not modern machines they require a more craftsman approach to operating, and need more arduous attention. There were several factory staff constantly checking each running machine. After walking around and seeing the other machines I came to realize what makes the fabric that comes off of these superior to circle “sinker” type knitting machines. That, there is nothing lost in the process. If you put pure organic cotton thread on these machines the quality of that cotton comes out in the knit fabric. The only way to achieve this level of quality is through loop-wheel knitting machines.
Finally Osaka has a Kapital store. It is the 17th store for Kapital, and the 3rd store in the Kansai area. The layout is centered on the Denim Bar, and has many similarities to the Soho store in Kojima. The various types of patchwork wood around the bar and the carved wood adds warmth and texture to the atmosphere. The seats around the denim bar are entirely made from bicycle parts. The store is on the 5th Floor of the Hankyu Men’s Department Store.
The Santo Domingo Jacket series comprises of special items available only at the Osaka store for early purchase. The store encompasses many themes from many different eras. The bulk of the items are in men’s sizes and geared towards male customers but there are of course smaller sizes available for women as well.
There are also some limited Osaka-only items from Kountry. A bag or two, and several clothing items as well.
The Santo Domingo coverall and 5 pocket pants are also available exclusively at this store. Make sure to check these out when stopping by.
Mitsuru Vintage store is a little place mostly unknown outside of Nagoya and Japanese vintage maniacs. They don’t have a website and they probably won’t sell you these if you don’t live in Japan. Sorry to disappoint…
Ooe-san masterminded the design of these overalls, and let me get it right to the point -they’re nothing short of amazing.
However it is important to point how the vast details, and construction methods presented here that culminate into an actual high quality garment. Products labeled as “high quality” often times are just made in small batches or contain expensive materials (labeled: selvedge, quality, hand-made, etc.). These overalls are for the most part single-needle stitched, with no overlock stitching or filigree. Modeled after pants from the early 1900’s, there are no belt loops, or rivets. The design is entirely original with details borrowed from some of the best work-wear construction methods. This type of quality takes time, especially in design, sewing, and material choice. The minimal, unobtrusive labeling seals the deal.
These pants are really simple as the stitching blends perfectly with the fabric. The subtle construction adds function and doesn’t add bulk. The fabric is the perfect weight for summer, even in Japan. They are made from dead-stock linen and cotton blend canvas. It is light and comfortable, with just the right about of weight. The little cotton husk-flecks in the yarn give it a nice ecru tinge. Also this non-selvedge fabric is a good example of why selvedge doesn’t always mean “good-quality”.
Starting with the complex pockets that are also a part of the double-knee construction. There are no side seams as the legs are made from one piece of material and flat felled on the inseam. The continuous fly is a great feature and also adds to the quality of the construction. All the pockets are double-stitched beautifully and the subtle black hardware (steel) doesn’t add any distraction. The reinforced quadruple stitched crotch is the final detail that really finishes it all up. These pants are well thought-out, hopefully we will see a denim version and maybe future variations of this pattern.