Kapital is a brand defined for its eccentric yet thoughtful designs, unmatched in terms of originality and uniqueness. Their aesthetic is hard to define. Their mission is not to appeal to trends but to convey personality and individuality through clothes. What makes Kapital unique is their obsession with craftsmanship, traditional methods, and innovative youthful design. This approach has allowed Kapital to remain a cult favourite and, despite its recent surge in popularity, true to its roots. But understanding what makes Kapital so compelling requires understanding the story behind the brand.
The story of Kapital began in the 1980s when Toshikiyo Hirata visited America to teach Karate. During his time in America Toshikiyo would discover a love for American denim. His newfound obsession led Toshikiyo to dedicate himself to the production of his own denim.
After returning to Japan he moved to Kojima, Kurashiki, also known as the “denim capital” of Japan, in order to study denim manufacturing. In 1984, following the completion of his studies, Toshikiyo opened a denim factory. A decade later, in 1995, he opened his first store, offering denim and vintage garments, followed by his first denim line in 1996, simply named “TH” after his initials. The brand was originally intended to supply workwear to blue-collar workers but it drastically changed once Toshikiyo’s son, Kiro, joined.
Kiro followed his father’s steps, leaving for America at the age of 18 to study art while his father was mastering making denim. Upon Kiro’s return to Japan in 1996 (the year that TH debuted), he would go on to work as a designer at 45RPM, an Americana-inspired brand known for its unusual dye techniques and garment construction. Kiro gained design experience during his tenure at 45RPM, which he would put to use in helping his father. After 6 years at 45RPM, Kiro decided to join Toshikiyo to create the label now known as Kapital.
Although it is impossible to encapsulate the brand’s essence in words, Kapital’s garments can be described as transgressive and innovative, yet familiar. Combining tradition with playful design, the brand’s catalog features innovative takes on designs and materials, often playing with proportion, constructions, and colours.
Each collection is influenced by a different place and its culture. Places that served as an inspiration for Kapital collections include Jamaica, California, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris. Despite the wide array of influences, many collections share a focus on workwear, traditional clothes, and, of course, denim. Traditional techniques like boro and Sashiko are also featured in almost every collection and are now one of Kapital’s defining aspects.
Among the wide variety of items offered by Kapital, there are a few that stand out and earned the brand international recognition. In general, these items embody the brand’s celebrated melding of tradition and innovation.
As expected, the denim masters are known for denim, and a premier garment in Kapital’s catalogue is Century Denim. “Century” references the fact they are built to last over 100 years. The pants are crafted from 12 ounce unsanforized denim with indigo-dyed Sashiko stitching throughout. The Sashiko stitching functions to reinforce the denim, offering added durability.
The combination of dyed denim and stitching allows the denim to fade in a unique way as the stitching breaks into the denim. These jeans are offered in a range of dyes, with the classic persimmon dyeing being among the most sought after. This “Century Denim” fabric is not exclusive to pants; the brand also offers “Type II Levi” jackets, “carpenter” pants, bombers, and more.
A Kapital staple, the Katsuragi Coat is one of the most recognizable pieces in all of Japanese outerwear. This coat perfectly represents the intersection between tradition and innovation, as it combines elements from military jackets, such as the M65, and traditional garments, such as the noragi coat. This unusual combination results in an elegant yet rugged and practical garment.
The Katsuragi coat features four ample-sized pockets on the front (taken directly from the M-65), various drawstrings at the hem and waist to permit adjustability, a double-breasted front with two rows of buttons on each side, and a large hood. The double-breasted design allows the wearer to style the jacket in a number of ways (as pictured). This Kapital staple has been featured in a number of lengths, colours, and materials, and continues to be one of the most intriguing and coveted Kapital designs.
The Kamakura Coat is yet another combination of traditional influence and excellent craftsmanship. In particular, this coat stands out in its innovation and versatility. Based on the Katsuragi Coat, the Kamakura Coat can be seen as an evolution of the former, as many of the same functions are preserved while some of the features are modernized.
The Kamakura employs a complex combination of snaps, zippers and velcro in place of the buttons and strings of the Katsuragi. Additionally, the Kamakura Coat offers more wearing options, as it can be worn in a number of configurations, which include the “kimono”, “double-breasted hoodie”, “neck pillow” and pillow. Ultimately, the Katsuragi and the Kamakura are testaments to the label’s ability to innovate, and reinvent themselves to adapt to the changing tides of time.
Kapital’s catalog is also defined by the use of repurposed bandanas and bandana prints. These bandanas are often recycled for new garments such as vests, bags, jackets, shirts, and even Boro patches. Along with the repurposing of vintage bandanas and the use of bandana prints, Kiro created his own bandana brand, dubbed “rat brand,” which is dedicated to creating his own bandanas.
The prevalence of the age-old garment in Kapital’s repertoire is thanks to Kiro’s personal appreciation of vintage wraps, which even led him to fund a bandana museum. The use of bandanas is now an instantly recognizable aspect of the brand.
Over the years, Kapital has garnered a cult following due to their ability to innovate and to reinvent themselves. Despite this cult following, the brand had not received international recognition until recently, as Kapital garments were hard to obtain outside of Japan. The recent surge in popularity in the West allowed the brand to gain recognition, as new fans celebrate the label for its originality and uniqueness.
Kapital's innovative takes on Americana and traditional Japanese garments continue to make them one of the most interesting brands from Japan. Thanks to the booming second hand market and the newly available stockists, now is a good time to be a Kapital fan.