Indigo Late Summer Blues

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Things are winding down after a busy summer. Looks like the Oak Street Bookmakers indigo 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.

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The Denim Underground

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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…

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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 tinctoriaAs 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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

Haramaki, Double Indigo Denim, and Slovenly Style

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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.

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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 mamori or 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…

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This Kapital Juban 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.

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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…

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The Allure of Black

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black
adj. 1. lacking hue and brightness; absorbing light without reflecting any of the rays composing it.

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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…

Gold Rivet Black Century Denim

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

Knee sashiko repair detail Century Denim

Faded creases behind the knees didn’t take the dye very well, but left a nice subtle “Chashin” look.

Back of the knee fade Black Century Denim

The gradual transformation of these jeans can be followed in Metamorphosis and Metamorphosis II

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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.

Black Straight Yarn Denim

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… punk functionalist… maybe… And one last idea of black, definitely read or watch Under the Skin

Full Front Black Denim Patch

Kapital | A/W 2015 Runway Preview

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Words by Me

Photos by Eric Kvatek

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.

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The styles have a sort of perfect balance of Wayousechu. Kind of like a samurai with a mohawk. Nothing poetic about it…

 

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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…

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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.

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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.

和洋折衷 “Wayousechu” Blending Japan and The West

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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.

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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…

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).

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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.

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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.

Murasaki – The Sweetness of Purple

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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.

Purple berries

This is the same dyeing method used at Tezomeya to acquire Fujinezu-iro and 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.

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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.
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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.

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The Infallible Blanket Lining

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This year has been a remarkable year for the humble blanket lining. That warmth providing pal that lines the inside of your favorite denim jackets and coveralls. The colors and textures vary from brand to brand, but they all have amazing texture and usually look just as good as the denim shell.

The blanket liner is what I call “American Boro”. A lot of vintage jackets that have liners, usually end up getting repaired countless times and the liners end up in shreds. Those red, grey, blue, and yellow stripes are unmistakably American vintage.

These lining leftovers could easily be used to patch socks, jeans, jackets, even wool blankets. The threads could even be unwoven and used for darning.

Kapital has incorporated the lining into several items this year. The first is this Kountry patchwork shirt.

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Mixing with indigo, the depth of color and texture is a perfect over-shirt for autumn and winter.

My personal favorite is this fleecy beach tool jacket. It is super warm and cozy. The fabric is a clever idea of making the blanket lining into warmer fabric by utilizing this knit fabric that looks like a blanket liner. The blue, red, and grey combined create a very rugged look, but softened by the knit beach cloth.

I especially like how it looks with a sukiyaki denim shirt as an underlay to keep the denim jacket in context. The pockets are an added bonus. Plenty of places to quickly stow small carry items or even a paperback.

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Of the 3 other items using this fabric this season I preferred this jacket. The sleeves aren’t too wide, and the length and width of the body are perfect. The rounded Browns Beach inspired pockets are cute.

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Narita-san and I have been busy this year collecting amongst other things lined denim chore jackets and turning them into half & 1/2 jackets. DSCF3648

Available on the Etsy site they are simple and honest vintage items that we have creatively modified. Please note the variation of denim and blanket, and left and right and back and front halves. We have jokingly called these “Hobo Camo”.

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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

Kapital | Osaka Store (Hankyu Men’s)

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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.

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The Santo Domingo Jacket series comprises of special items available only at the Osaka store for early purchase. Kapital Osaka Hankyu Men's 14The 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. Kapital Osaka Hankyu Men's 13 Kapital Osaka Hankyu Men's 7

There are also some limited Osaka-only items from Kountry. A bag or two, and several clothing items as well.Kapital Osaka Hankyu Men's 5

The Santo Domingo coverall and 5 pocket pants are also available exclusively at this store. Make sure to check these out when stopping by. Kapital Osaka Hankyu Men's 1

Kapital | “Peace Pilgrim” Autumn – Winter 2014

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Despite the fact that my cameras and gear were now full of sand I could not help but smile… This was really Mongolia!

Peace Pilgrim is a journey that takes place in Mongolia. The Kapital collection and the location culminate into an extraordinary story. The new collection contains some interesting “rain tweed”, blanket liner jackets, recycled wool-felt accents, ethnic patterns, and as always amazing denim. Expect to see a plethora of new scarves and outer-wear, and some interesting new uses of Century Denim. The colors feel genuine and natural, and the beauty of Asia is what gels this collection together.

The pilgrimage migrates across desserts and plains, through dust devils and torrential rain. All the while, birds of prey fly over-head. Eric Kvatek gives a first-hand narration of the Mongolian experience.

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I have always fantasized about shooting in Mongolia but it always seemed so remote, so otherworldly that I never really expected it to happen. But when Kiro told me that his inspiration for the current collection was the historic Silk Road there was only one place to shoot and that was Mongolia. Kiro and I agreed that the shoot should really be about Asian beauty and power and the historical significance of the region. 

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During my time in Mongolia I was witnessing all the glories of Spring. All around there were horses, camels and goats giving birth. I saw streams form overnight as giant rain clouds moved through. Barren areas that I scouted suddenly were green by the time we were shooting. I cast herders and cowboys to be models but two days later they were gone along with their families, their homes and their goats and horses. Fortunately new people moved through and they were happy to get involved. 

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To get to our location we had a five hour drive in old Russian four wheel drive vans. Part of the drive was on a paved highway. However, the pavement would abruptly end and we would spend 30 minutes on impromptu dirt roads. We arrived at the location by noon and prepared for shooting. When I started shooting it was sunny with clear blue skies. By the time I finished the first model the sky was getting darker and a strange sensation was in the air. I looked towards the mountain to see a massive sand storm headed towards us. The wind picked up, I looked behind me to see a swirling dust devil, something like a small tornado. I suppose some photographers would have sought shelter but with the cooperation of the tough Mongolian models we just kept shooting. Then a lightning storm rolled in and it started hailing. Finally, I told the models they could run for the trucks and the gers and we sat out the hail storm.
Despite the fact that my cameras and gear were now full of sand I could not help but smile… This was really Mongolia!
Over the course of the next three days there were no storms, but the mid day temperature was over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The entire crew was really challenged to keep working, especially the models as they had to wear layers of Kapital denim and wool. By ten o’clock the sun would set and finally we were all able to relax in a ger, eat mutton and drink local Mongolian beer together. Despite some language barriers we all managed to have some laughs and no one was eager to actually sleep despite the fact that the whole process would start over at 5am. I never worry about sleeping on a shoot as I would rather savor the location!

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Something that was really special on the shoot were the amazingly close proximity of eagles, hawks and vultures. To see these giant birds of prey in flight and then have them perched on your arm is just breathtaking. One of the times shooting with the eagle a local hawk decided to pick a fight with the eagle and fortunately I caught it with my camera!

 

 

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 1

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.

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 2
Lobby and elephant

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 1

 

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 3 (1)
The collection on paper
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 2
Partitions during setting up.
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 6
History room
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 5
“How-to-enjoy” the museum in Japanese.
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 3
Selection of uncut bandannas leading the way to the 2nd floor.
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 2 (1)
Trunk Up
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 1 (1)
Trunk Down

 

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 1
During the set-up phase
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 4
The first floor showcase area

 

TBAphoto