by Jason Owusu-Frimpong
6 min
Kapital ©

The Japanese brand Kapital is central to the new wave of fashion that relies on limitless creativity and boundless expression.

Our new normal has meant that there’s been so many more unconventional ways of discovering new brands, aside from the catwalk. Now – more than ever – places like football team car parks, and basketball pre-game arena entrances have become new runways. Especially the latter. Trailblazing basketball players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma are taking advantage of their 5 min walk-in, sidestepping the rigid rules and regulations of the NBA to express themselves. With a ton of Instagram pages dedicated to these playoffs and finals fits, these players are once again establishing and influencing fashion culture globally.

Kapital offset
Offset ©

No doubt, one brand that’s slowly cementing itself as a staple for this fun shift is the niche (yet almost mainstream) Japanese label, Kapital. From pants to haori inspired bandana shirts, almost every b-ball team member and their entourage have a piece from the brand. But what is it about their designs that has made it central to the wardrobes and dress sense of basketball players’ and all creatives alike? 

Well, the brand prides itself on it’s eclectic and creative approach. The vibe is switched up every  collection, with Kapital’s only consistent theme being creative freedom. There’s no limits to their designs; from an array of colors, to materials, textiles, loose fits and flared hems. Plus, there’s a novelty about their designs too; it makes drip checks and fit pics all the more fun, when the seriousness of life is at all-time highs through the liberal inclusion of smiley-face patches. Or take the Okabilly jeans from their KOUNTRY line: khaki denim with skeletal motif applique stitching on the side of each leg. The reasoning behind the design? Who knows. But it just makes sense in this day and age of no-holds barred fashion. 

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Another superpower the brand possesses is its craftsmanship. Their dedication to roughly cut, boro patchwork, exposed stitching and seam finishes, tie & dye and homely damaged knitwear styles all give off a handmade, art piece feel. That’s as opposed to the usual fashion-is-a-discipline, luxury design approach we’re used to. Seeing Kapital’s psychedelic graphic patches stitched on top of bandana print, by flowery and velvet pieces will never get old. No two designs are the same. Their fabrics aren’t cheap either, most of these materials are unheard of, hybrid sourced strands and eco friendly in-house creations. It makes sense, since the brand’s workshop sits right in the middle of Kojima, Okayama, the home to Japan’s highest grade of denim, a famed capital in its own right! 

The origins of Kapital are a prime example of greatness coming out of creative inspiration, initiative, and a do it yourself attitude. 

Having spent some time overseas in the 1980s – learning how to make it in America – founder Toshikiyo Hirata realised his own love for raw American denim. This was enough for him to create & produce his own, upon his return to Japan. He opened his own factory in 1984, then came stores in places like Kojima; the rest is history. Statement pieces like the 12oz Century Denim were – and still are – well received in the West – for its durability that leaves a favourable fade. Also, its ancient Japanese sashiko-style stitching doesn’t go unnoticed. 

His son, Kiro soon followed suit: leaving his successful design career at Japanese brand 45RPM in 2002, to help cultivate the family business. Who wouldn’t do the same? Especially with unlimited, quality trademarked denim to play with. Kiro brings the creative & unorthodox experimentation to the table, alongside his obsession with storytelling bandanas. His father brings the wealth of expertise on both American and Japanese denimwear, along with the storytelling of rugged and distressed workwear.  

Today with its rich history, Kapital is still at top of the game, recognised as one of Japan’s heritage brands, taking inspiration from all the cities their stores serve. Now, it’s influence is clearly trickling over into US ‘pop culture’ and ‘top culture’ too. 

Kapital ©

It definitely helps to have star-power backing from the likes of Kanye West and Travis Scott too. In the last few years, both artists always have at least one Kapital item on deck in their rotation. Without fail. For Kanye, it’s the militant, workwear looks: take the 8OZ Denim army flight vest (Journey remake), Corduroy Neem pants, Eco waffle crew sweatshirts, the Shaggy Melton CPO Slappie shirt or their signature bandana print puffer. For Travis, his support for the brand is by way of a variety of their distressed, appliqued jeans – of which he has more than a few.

There’s a sustainable timelessness about all the pieces from the brand also. Their staggered-and-relaxed approach to drops & releasing designs (like their Vol 1. and Vol. 2 2021 Winter collections) means you’re bound to mix & match from old and new collections – and it doesn’t matter. There’s no judgement and no pressure from this brand. Kapital’s casting down the age-old fast fashion gates that locked out those with a love for grails and vintage. Bi-annual collections that have no regard for the future could be losing their cool. Meanwhile, Kapital’s a keeper.

Kapital ©

Don’t get it twisted: Kapital isn’t just for your high level dunkers and rap stars. That is just one example of how Kapital is becoming central to this era’s desire for rule-breaking fashion. From their latest graphic bowling shirts to smiley face tees and hankies – the brands accessibility means if anything it’s for we the people. Kapital is tapping into creative freedom and fun that we all desire – from students to Travis Scott and the NBA.

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