Sadogashima, Denim, Farming, and Autumn Weather

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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.
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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.

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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.

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Turquoise mix with coral reds, like Navajo pawn jewelry. The concrete and sea-sprayed wood gleams silver in the fading sunlight.

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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.

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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.

 

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!

 

 

Kapital | Sailor Hakama Pants

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First off I have to thank Cory Piehowicz aka Bandit Photographer for the photos he took in Los Angeles during the Inspiration LA weekend. He has a unique style to his editing and I think he captured the essence of what I was after. Thank you

These Hakama Sailor Pants are simple, but complicated in the way they are constructed. First off, the legs are each made of one piece of fabric. That means there is no outside seam. Secondly, there are six pockets layered like origami around the hips. The pockets add incredible versatile function to these pants. Carrying heavy items in the large side pockets doesn’t pull on the waist, and everything stored in the hip pockets are easily accessible.

The 10oz. sumi (grey) and indigo hickory stripe denim means they’re soft and comfortable. The silhouette is similar to hakama: high waist and weighted around the hips. Triple chain-stitched inseams, and bar-tacks on stress points are the high-quality finishing details. These pants are a really good example of what Kapital does so well, top-notch design and build quality. A perfect blend of Japanese subtly (color and simple design) and Western work-wear functionality that makes, perfect sense.

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Kapital | Kapital World Documentary

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To some, Kapital is just another brand that makes clothes. For me, and I am sure for many others, they tell a story through documentary-style photos and unforgettable clothes. I think the prominent tool that Kapital makes great use of is the look-book. No other company around creates such unique and interesting worlds, that vary so dramatically each season. The brand has kept the secret recipe for their books rather closely guarded, until now.

Kapital World created by Hsiang Chin Moe (Kapital model and friend), goes behind the scenes of the photo shoot for the spring 2014 book:

Kiro and Eric meet up in France to shoot the Spring 2014 Kapital book, “Sailor Ninja”. Old friends return and new friends are made over five days of shooting in Paris, Souesmes and Cassis. In Paris, the Kapital crew focuses on Bohemian styles and French Ninjas. Slightly more familiar hunting themes are played with in the French countryside, of course with a twist. Finally, the entire production crew travels by train to the South of France for a nautical excursion. In addition to the details and logistics of a Kapital photo shoot, the nature of the fifteen years long friendship of Kiro and Eric is revealed.


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Kiro begins by explaining how his clothes and ideas come together like puzzle pieces with Eric’s photography style. They start with separate concepts and once they meet at the location, the Kapital world starts to take shape. There is incredible creative chemistry between these two that took many years to develop. This fellowship has fermented and matured into a name that has become a cult-like obsession not only in Japan, but across the globe.

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Pairing the clothes with the location and the props, the story begins to take shape. Shooting begins on rooftops, with Paris as the backdrop and strangers become friends. Once the camaraderie forms, people settle into a groove and everyone seems to enjoy a few laughs. I found myself counting each time I snickered along with the crew. Beyond the infinite respect they have for each other’s craft, they have this boyish playful side that I think speaks through the pictures and clothes. The honesty and unpretentious approach to their work and life is what I think people should really take note of here. Strangely, this free and unbidden attitude is so hard to find in fashion and media.

Not only is there a glimpse into the backstage preparations and off-camera antics, but also an understanding of Kiro, Nicola and Eric’s longstanding friendship. Eric goes into detail of how the unsung heroes of the shoot also help make things run smoothly. Most of this documentary is the like an amazing expanded version of the last two pages of the catalogs. At its most essential, these are two friends who inspire each other and those around them.

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The film is brief at just 60 minutes, but it left me with a lasting impression of my two friends. Seeing them in their element, with the crew, and how much fun they have creating these books deepened my respect for their work. The soundtrack adds a dream-like flow, while the editing and style of the film kept my attention. The whole production is as friendly as it looks on the screen. If you want an intimate look into the Kapital World, and see how friendship (the secret recipe) rules this brand, this film is your window. This is a story I would have shared with my father, so this is a story I will share with you…

There will be a special screening in New York City on Thursday, March 6. For information about RSVP and to find out more about the film, please visit the Kapital World website.

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Book | Katachi: Japanese Pattern and Design

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This book was published in 1963, and it is one of my favorite on Japanese design. Katachi means form: this book is a perfect collection of Japan in form. It shows a broad spectrum of traditional designs and patterns, which are as much a part of the landscape and language, as they are art. The incredibly charming photos by Takeji Iwamiya are as simple and deep as their subject. A lot of these photos remind me of my first trip to Japan and the photos I took those many years ago.

It is fascinating to flip through images and see shapes interact with materials, and  how the combination of those define Japan’s arts and crafts. This book is required reading if you are at all interested in seeing how the cultural and daily patterns of Japanese life surface in the crafts and everyday items.

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A Film Journey – 3 Disposable Cameras

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3 disposable cameras and a lot of miles, this is the culmination of those ingredients. No narrative this time folks.

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3 Days in San Fran – Photo Souvenirs

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During my trip back to the states in late July I stopped in San Francisco to check out Denim Bruin. These are the digital photos and as I rarely make it back to the US they are my souvenirs. Thank you to the folks I met during my trip and KI for being chauffeur and giving me a place to stay.

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Kapital | Kvatek’s Corpus

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Many of you are familiar with the Kapital clothing brand, some may even be well-versed in the anthology of catalogs they have done over the years. I asked Kvatek if he would go through and choose what he felt were the iconic shots. The ones that brought together the unique clothing and Kvatek’s story telling. Eric has a skill for taking readers on a visual journey through exotic locations, with fantastic people blended with Kiro’s incredible clothing. He captures so much in his photos and expresses a grit and aesthetic that is difficult to put into words. The images bring the clothing to life, and that is why I think Kapital has such unique and interesting creations. Enjoy.

The thing I love about Kiro is that when I presented the concept of bone wielding rebels running around the jungle and girls bound in front of a firing-squad he never flinched or hesitated.

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2005 06 Denim Monster, New York- “For the first time I shot the Kapital book, I got my friends together and we cruised around shooting in my neighborhood, the Lower East Side. This shot is at the Max Fish bar.”

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2005 09 Blue Bear, Ohio- “My motorcycles and my father on his farm. All three bikes were hand built by my father, my cousin and me.”

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2005 12 Chubirasan, Okinawa- “I was really thrilled to find this break-dancing kid. He really went all out.”

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2006 03 Hooligan Sailors, the Philippines- “I wrote a story for the catalog and each segment was fairly autobiographical. The sailors were all friends of mine and the locals were all friends that I had made over the years.”

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2006 06 Aloha Brigade, Maui- “The man in this photo is my friend Wendell. He is a legendary big wave surfer and a true Hawaiian. We rarely see each other but when we do it is as if no time has passed. Once again I wrote a story for this catalog and it was a true story about my experiences with my Native American grandfather. I tell the story of our last days together before he dies. My memory of him was with me throughout the shooting for this Kapital book. I hoped that in this way I could honor him.”

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2006 09 Hells Kitchen Angels, NYC- “I begged my friend Alan to be in a few shots and he reluctantly agreed.”

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2006 12 Freedom, Joshua Tree- “The theme of this book was after an apocalypse at the end of the world. It’s still one of my favorites.”

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2007 03 Denimism, Bangkok- “All I can say is that I loved shooting this.”

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2007 06 Legend camp, upstate New York- “In this photo you see a 300 year old stone wall. It is wondrous to me that here these Kapital guys are, and before them, British Red Coats marched, slaves traveled to freedom, and all sorts of horses were galloped and lead.”

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2007 09 Max Island, Hawaii- “The thing I love about Kiro is that when I presented the concept of bone wielding rebels running around the jungle and girls bound in front of a firing-squad he never flinched or hesitated. He just started making these crazy masks.”

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2007 12 Sea Gypsies, Thailand- “Thailand is amazing.”

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2008 05 Totem Life, Alaska- “Many people go to Alaska for seasonal work and there’s a lot of hitchhiking and meandering that goes along with that. I worked there in the early 90’s and I really wanted to capture the way it felt.”

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2008 09 Jeans for Abique, New Mexico- “This woman was one of the model’s blind mother. I begged her to be in a photo and eventually she agreed. I wish she could have seen the photos.”

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2009 01 The Earth Style, Tanzania- “This is a mix of the Maasai’s own clothing and some Kapital bags. That was a very memorable day for me.”

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2009 05 Innocent World, Iceland- “Iceland in the summer is like a beautiful nightless paradise. Lucky for me their custom agents didn’t hassle me for arriving with a duffelbag full of bones, antlers and horns.”

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2009 09 Azure Anarchy, Rio De Janeiro- “Brazil customs held the box with the men’s pants until the very last day of the shoot. As a result, we ended up shooting all the men’s pants shots the last morning in two hours. Despite this inconvenience, shooting in Rio was awesome.”

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2010 01 Deniming for Sunken Treasure, Bali- “The main inspiration for the Bali book was scuba diving. (And then there’s some skulls and bikers and fire walking mixed in.) As a certified scuba diver, I was obsessed with gathering all the vintage diving props. I really wanted it to be right.”

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2010 05 Go West, Oregon- “Thanks to Nicola our hair/make-up artist we were super hooked up in Oregon. Thanks Nicola!”

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2010 09 Farmy, Ohio- “If shooting in my dad’s backyard once wasn’t enough, we decided to do it again. Anousha, one of our models came all the way from Germany. She ended up falling in love with this local Ohio guy sitting inside the tire. They ended up spending the next year together in Germany and Africa. You never know what’s going to happen. I like that about the Kapital shoots, and I guess life in general.”

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2011 01 Blue Men, Morocco- “I brought a few people I know to Morocco but all the locals were street cast. So we had a stunt man, a kid that worked at a pharmacy, a hot tub salesman, a few students. I don’t think any of them had any experience but they all really nailed it.”

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2011 05 Colorado Hippies, Colorado- “Running around in the snow with this crew and a giant husky at 10,000 feet pretty much was amazing. Nobody could breath. Well, the dog could breath.”

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2011 09 Surf Cowboys, Australia- “Kiro and I were talking and we both said at the same time it would be cool to shoot some denim mermaids. I forgot about that idea but then 2 months later he showed up in Australia with these denim mermaid tails.”

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2012 01 Indigo Indio, Mexico- “We went to Mexico at a time when many people were avoiding it. It was one of my favorite shoots ever.”

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2012 05 Kapital City, Budapest and Vienna- “One of my grandfathers is from Hungary, so it was really cool for me to shoot there. Budapest is incredible.”

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2012 09 Hooligan Ivy, Scotland- “Kiro made up this concept, Hooligan Ivy. So I cast this Glasgow beat cop as a model. He would work all night enforcing the law and then show up at our shoot and work another 10 hours.”

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2013 01 Diamonds in the Rough, Oahu- “So Kiro had this idea to bring our father’s together. I love this photo.”

Thanks again to Eric Kvatek for the insight, comments, and photos.

Kagoshima, Japan | Kura “Green”

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The old name for this area is Satsuma. Kagoshima is a large prefecture with rugged verdant mountains. We recently paid a visit to our family’s property at the edge of the bay. Ash constantly billows out of Sakurajima, the local active volcano in the center of the bay. It is a rugged landscape with many interesting crafts and buildings. The nature and environment inspire and are a part of the regional crafts.

Inspired by this song.

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Large earthenware jars containing a local specialty, black vinegar. The grass and trees fill the lacunas of empty streets and houses. The air is redolent of early spring, and ponkan blossoms.

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A narrow foot path that leads to the local graveyard. The over-growing plants are enchanting.

Okinawa, Japan | Part 3: Colors and Nature of Naha

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The natural rustic charm, unintentional refinement: these are what give Okinawa its unique aesthetic. In part 1 and part 2 of this series I wanted to share the unique elements of Naha through its subtleness and weathered spirit. In both posts there is one element essential that has been quietly overlooked: the colors of this unique region.

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While walking through the streets one can’t help but feel the folk art seeping into the structures. The spirit of the people in this region is quite different from mainland Japan. I see it in the street art, and in the casual maintenance of buildings and vehicles. The colors are sometimes vivid and tropical and at others a deep refined beauty. The surroundings of the artists inspire patterns on pottery, the feeling is rough and warm. While surprising reds burst out from hidden passages. The local nature is in the city, and in the folk art.

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Kapital | Summer 2013 – Diamonds in the Rough

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Summer for Kapital is a hazy Aloha-spirited trip around Ohau. From verdant coastline and palm tree-lined streets to, a military airport and a temple garden. There is also a surprise all-star baseball game between “The Bleaches” and “The Rigids”. As for the looks and styles Kapital stays with its roots of denim, but isn’t shy with their fun playful prints.

Diamonds in the Rough has a core that can be found in manji banana aloha-prints, Union Special baseball jerseys, palm tree prints, and a camo western shirt. Yes!!! The colors are kept refined and simple, plenty of indigo items, and more kakishibu elements. For the Kountry fans, expect a variety of interesting repairs and patchwork, plus pocket alterations, and some of beni and indigo pairing.
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Kapital | Muffler Journey – Travelogue with Kapital Scarves 2012

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Kapital gets a lot of their influence from outside of Japan. The people they meet when they shoot the books, and their fans and followers also influence their products and designs. It is fantastic to see these mufflers or scarves on the road and on people.

Scarves are not always worn around the neck, but they are worn as the wearer sees fit. Sometimes as a shawl, or a head-wrap and other times as an accessory. The variety of designs and colors accent the personality of the wearer as well.

This book captures the flavor and a Kapital can savor the style that is “Kapital”. The individual brings out the best of the design and the design exposes a little more of individual and their tastes. The scarf is such a simple piece of fabric but Kapital puts so much of their heart into each one. That emotion definitely permeates into the wearer and becomes a sort of talisman of joy.