Kapital: Past Meets Present in Japan's Iconic Cult Brand

The Japanese label’s ascent from humble denim brand to global icon.

Writer: Gregk Foley

Since the turn of the millennium, Japan has produced some of style’s most iconic streetwear, sneakers and denim using American cultural touchstones as a jumping-off point. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in the heritage revival of the late-2000s, in which fashion insiders embraced a newfound love of artisan denim, heavyweight flannels and the clothing of classic Americana. Kapital, a humble label founded in the ’80s, was among the brands leading this charge.

Founded in 1984 by Toshikiyo Hirata in Kojima, a semi-industrial prefecture on the outskirts of Okayama that’s often referred to as the Denim Capital of Japan, the brand embodies a mish-mash of these elements, blending streetwear, luxury and heritage through a distinctly Japanese lens. It’s that same daring and versatility, however, that makes Kapital so daunting to the uninitiated.

What follows is a brief history of the brand, followed by five key parts that help explain one of the weirdest and most wonderful Japanese menswear brands of all time.

Kapital's Kountry 11.5oz Denim Westerner; Kapital's Toshikiyo and Kiro Hirata; the brand's Bandana Print Nylon Keel-Weaving Vest.   
Kapital's signature abstract ’60s hippie culture references in the form of smiley faces and peace-sign kimonos.   
Known in Japan as 'ai-zome,' indigo gained popularity during the Edo period (1603-1867), a time many artisans used indigo sourced from the polygonum plant to dye their cotton garments.    
The brand's "Boost Repair" service offers garment repair to prolong the life of shoppers' pieces.   
Kapital's Sham Bomber Jacket; John Mayer pictured in the Anorak Jacke; the brand's Diamonds Patchwork Blouson Jacket.    
Bandanas have long been a fixture of various American subcultures: army movies, biker gangs, inner-city gangs and hippies, and they’re a cultural icon that has been endlessly reproduced.   
A mix of recent Kapital designs: the Ring Coat; Bandana Print Nylon Keel-Weaving Vest; Rain Smile Hoodie.