Kapital | Century Denim No. 123-S

Kapital Century Denim 123s

Kapital Century Denim 123s

“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…

Kapital Century Denim 123s (Post Soak)
Monkey Cisco Post Soak (Size 34)

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.

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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.

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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.

Kapital | Santo Domingo Jacket

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DSCF3546 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.

DSCF3533 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. DSCF3548

John Lofgren & Co. X The Bandanna Almanac | Kakishibu Hanpu Trousers

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Kakishibu Hanpu Trousers 4 Over the last several months John and I have been working on developing a product. Since it was our first trial together we decided to keep it simple and do a pair of pants. I found this really fantastic hanpu or sail cloth mill in Okayama a few years ago. They use vintage Belgian looms and weave an incredible canvas on them. A nice sturdy canvas with just the right softness and weight for summer. I imagine this would have been the same weight that sailors would have used to make sail cloth pants during the age of sailing ships.

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This same mill also dyed the fabric with kakishibu. This persimmon tannin does not make the fabric hard or stiff because it applied with a mixture of water and tannin. The color has a washed look to it which adds much more character to the pants.

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The pants are finished off with simple metal buttons. The entire pants are sewn with 100% cotton thread. They come true to size and are available in 30,32,34, and 36 inch waists. The silhouette is wide with a slight taper to it, with a normal rise.

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John Lofgren’s products are made in Japan and to the highest quality standards. The color and fabric combination have a nice mix of Japanese and Western style to them.

Please purchase a pair here

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The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum

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The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum is finally open. It has been a short journey, but a long time in the making. The current collection on display is of roughly 250 bandannas. The collection and museum is a product of Kiro Hirata’s passion and love of bandannas. I helped fill in the history, curate the bandannas, and added a few interesting pieces.

The age of the collection ranges from the 1850’s to the 1980’s; over 100 years of history. The collection starts with the beginning of the American bandannas coming from Scotland. From there, the navy and red bandannas from Davis & Catterall (Elephant Brand) tell the story of how the simple cambric discharged fabric was used as utility and then slowly became a part of fashion.

There are two floors full of bandannas. The first floor features non-branded RN# pieces, rodeo bandannas, and rare navy workwear brands. The second floor is all trunk up and trunk down elephant logo bandannas, a few rare other FAST COLOR brands, and 19th century Turkey Red bandannas. As Davis and Catterall was an OEM company there are many examples on both floors, of their work. The Museum is located next to the Kapital Soho store in Kojima, Okayama Japan.

As any other museum the collection is constantly improving. We are always open to accepting rare and interesting pieces to add to the collection.

The bandanna is an icon of America with a long and meandering history. Originating in India as the word for “tie-dyeing”, the colors and prints were embraced by the west. The Glasgow “Turkey red” cotton printing industry mass-produced the first bandannas we recognize today. It wasn’t until the 1900’s when a small company in New York City put an elephant brand on their product did the bandanna become truly American. The designs, colors, and prints have then since become a staple of Americana. There are innumerable designs, but the Elephant Brand has become synonymous with authentic American bandannas.

So if you find yourself in Okayama, please stop by Kojima (児島) and check out the museum.

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Lobby and elephant

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The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 3 (1)
The collection on paper
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Partitions during setting up.
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History room
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“How-to-enjoy” the museum in Japanese.
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Selection of uncut bandannas leading the way to the 2nd floor.
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Trunk Up
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Trunk Down

 

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During the set-up phase
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The first floor showcase area

 

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Kapital | Century Denim Jacket

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Century Denim Jacket 1

In the new Spring 2014 Kapital book Sailor Ninja, the Century Denim jacket has been revealed. It was an inevitability that it would be made, but fans could only guess which form and pattern it would take.

It is almost identical to the Lee 101J. The lines in the sashiko and the stitching lines on the chest flow well. The Century Denim jacket comes in Long and Regular. The long is a more modern slim fit, while the regular is a shorter boxier fit.

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I had the opportunity to experiment with one early, and I tried a new kakishibu application technique. Persimmon tannin paste is a difficult substance to work with, but it creates a very interesting leathery finish. I wanted to try to recreate that oil/wax coated style jacket so common in the English countryside, but with a traditional Japanese method.

12/24/2013 was the release date for the jacket in both fits and both colors, there were special persimmon tannin events at the Kobe, Ebisu, and Nagoya locations.

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As you can see the coating dried and is a bit shiny, but this will subside once I have a chance to apply the last few finishing touches.Century Denim Jacket 3

The guys at Kapital Kountry have been experimenting with a spray kakishibu and I quite like how smooth the sprayed effect is.Century Denim Jacket and Soho Store 1 Century Denim Jacket and Soho Store 2

Eric Kvatek sent me a few images to add from the new book. Both pictured below is the 7S and 5S respectively set in the French countryside. Kvatek_03_1347 Kvatek_03_5092 Kvatek_03_5110 Kvatek_03_5135

Kapital | Kojima Soho Store – Everything but the clothes

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Within the past few months a new Kapital store opened up in their hometown of Kojima, Okayama. The store was the local library and takes its name from the buildings original soho “赭” ocher color exterior. Welcome to Kojima SOHO.

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The interior is inspired by sacred Native American forests. The use of conifer wood and broadleaf wood was mixed together to create a harmonious forest-like space. The space stays to this wood theme, so even the metal bits used in the store are shaped to look like wood. Soho Store 7

The use of pages of this flower arrangement book became the shade for a lamp in the book store. The bookstore is a simple wooden space focusing and featuring many interesting books.Soho Store 11

The three kamidana that are in the main room have 3 different themes for their separate spirits. One for “blue sky” another for “star” and one for “clouds”. Soho Store 10

The clothes pins are also made out of wood and keep the theme and also create a sort of cloud space for the spirit in this space.Soho Store 9

It is a fabulous space, and Kiro took the time to show me around and point out the really special spots in the store. If you are in town please check out this wonderful space. Soho Store 14

Okayama | 三村珈琲

Rustic beauty

I imagine I am a 1920’s writer. Walking down an ancient highway, seeing the occasional motorized vehicle pass me on the road. It is sweltering summer out – mid August, and I need a place to rest. This cafe is like a time capsule. Serendipitously taking me from now and delivering me in the past. A sanctuary of old.

Owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Mimura this small soft-spoken road-side treasure is rural recreation. One could spend hours just slowing walking around the space and admiring all the history.

The slow life. Coffee passionately made, cakes and treats that compliment the aromatic roasts so well. I wish I could tell you how to get there but it is just one of those places where you just stumble upon.

Ibara, Okayama | Nihon Menpu – Factory Tour

Selvedge Stacks

There are some names are that are the forefront of fashion and textiles and others that sit quietly in the back. Nihon Menpu is one of those companies in the back, but the back bone of so many big names. Odds are if you are wearing something “Made in Japan” then probably that fabric was made by these folks.

Located in the mountains of Okayama, Nihon Menpu is a company with a long history. Stretching back over 90 years they have their roots in dougi fabrics, and traditional Japanese textiles.

Today, they are synonymous with denim, and the highest quality cotton textiles. I had the chance this summer to visit and got a special peek into the work behind the scenes.

Kapital Kountry | Washing and Sewing Factory

Kapital Kountry | Washing and Sewing Factory

Words and Square Photos by Me.

(Non-square) Photos by L Squared Photography.

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The gracious fellows at Kapital and Kountry allowed me an exclusive look into their washing and sewing factory. The raccoon stands for their ability to wash anything, just like a frisky raccoon can eat anything. We were given a walk-through of the Kountry racoon’s adytum, and we witnessed the operose work that goes into their products.

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Tumbling, and squeezing machines.

The Kountry line of Kapital is a washing wonderland. Their numinous-like products come from their technique, supplies, inventive design, and years of experience.

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Washing machines

The various machines give each garment unique details. From stone-washing to softening to dyeing. They do it all.

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Soft-washing machine.

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The over-dyeing machine. Steam, pressure, and loads of interesting outcomes.

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The workman’s gloves.

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A look inside the drying machine

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Clothes waiting their turn for detail work.

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Rubber balls to soften fabrics

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Taking out the laundry.

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Inflation device for distressing denim.

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The blue hands craftsmen at work. Every garment is finished by worker’s hands, and each piece has its own unique detail.

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The craftsman applying chemicals to the fabric, and me taking a picture.

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Samples waiting their turn.

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Future project?

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Measuring the stitch spacing.

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Making patchwork.

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Samples and items ready to go.

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Buttons, rivets, snaps, all aged in-house, and fired in a kiln.

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Indigo knits, with hand-stitching.

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Past work. Future productions.

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Work in-progress.

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Bengara-color fabric hanging in the light.

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Sewing room. Careful piece-by-piece sewing production all done on-site.

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Pegasus serger.

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Threads.

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Company president hard at work.

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Up coming products awaiting final approval.

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Buttons, aged in a kiln on-site.

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The Kountry design team. Thanks again for the unforgettable opportunity guys!

One day, Three stores | Kapital Okayama | Back Yard Day

The small port town of Kojima in Okayama prefecture is the home and birthplace of Kapital.  I came down to visit the monthly “Back Yard Day”. The atmosphere is very much more laid back than the stores in the bigger cities. The interiors have a more countryside feel to them, cobblestone floors, tatami mats, wooden walls. Like a Japanese farmhouse, or even a kura

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The Kapital bus at the Kojima store rolling for Christmas spirit.

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Various items on sale, defects, and samples.

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Indigo dipped tops and jackets.

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Kountry Samples

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Sample shoes.

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Sample bleach jacket.

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Staff working hard in the cold.

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Couple display sporting the new fleece vests and jackets.

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Socks display looks really nice!

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A giant pair of jeans. Even an enormous bandana.

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The blue room.

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Boots display.

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Kountry flannel shirt.

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Kids clothing, adorable.

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Sample accessories, parts and pieces.

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Buttons.

 

 

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Kapital Blue Hands shop. Close to the Kojima store, my most favorite shopping experience hidden in a small Japanese house. I love it so much I won’t show any interior shots, please have a look first-hand yourself. 

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The hands are the craftsman’s hands that go into every Kapital product. The garden, the tranquility of it all turns shopping into a meditative experience. During summer you can sit on the engawa and just enjoy the surroundings.

 

 

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The renovated store in Okayama city, called the “Treehouse” shop. The character is really fun, it is like something out of Neverland. Just an unbelievable amount of detail in every corner of this place. There is even a place for live music and a yard for everyone to gather.

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My friends showing me around.

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The exterior is like the Kojima store but with a slightly different character. But the interior…

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Treehouse long cardigan.

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Wooden walls stone tiles, and scarves.

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Kountry apron, stamped and painted.

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Reclaimed and reused wood. 

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Kountry display on the upper level.

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Looking down.

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Outstanding red tsugi-hagi jacket.

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Recycled glass tiles, and plaster.

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Skeleton in Kountry. What a great idea!

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The register counter, with denim zabuton Japanese cushions on them. The blue and white tiles, the log stools, the tungsten lighting, wonderful. The atmosphere feels incredibly playful and really sweet.

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Found foot stool. I snickered out loud at the sense of humor.