Earlier this year Polo Ralph Lauren released a varsity jacket with striking similarities to a January 2014 design by Kapital’s Kountry sub-label. Dubbed the Snap-Front Baseball Sweater, the garment features a traditional varsity jacket design with raglan sleeves, a rib-knit baseball collar, two front welt pockets and a snapped placket. That, in and of itself, wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but the pattern and finishing are too similar to Kapital’s jacket to be ignored.
The Kapital Kountry varsity jacket was designed for a January 2014 collection called “College of Navajo.” The design highlights a Pendleton Sioux Star design on the woven torso with two large distressed numerals across the chest. While Polo didn’t use the exact same design, it utilized a Beacon-esque blanket pattern for the knit torso. It placed numerals — ’67 for the year Lauren founded his company — on the chest in the same placement as on the Kapital jacket. Instead of fully-distressing the numbers, Polo cut them from a camo-patterned knit that gives the appearance of heavy wear.
Although the fashion industry is rife with imitations and reproductions, when mega-brands rip off the designs of small labels, they should be called out. Garments designed as an homage should be credited as such. Styles that riff on a source should disclose that. No brand has an issue saying their field jacket was influenced by the classic M-65 design, but many won’t credit smaller, independent sources.
Kapital is a family-run business founded in 1984 by Toshikiyo Hirata in Okayama, Japan. Initially dedicated to producing jeans for larger Japanese brands like Studio D’artisan, Denime and 45rpm, the brand began producing its own line of clothing in the mid-90s. Hirata was joined by his son Kiro, who now heads design, in 2001 and the company has since gained a loyal following of customers across the globe.
The brand’s unique mix of men’s and women’s clothing showcases the craftsmen behind each product. And, the younger Hirata’s designs — a juxtaposition of various cultures and ideas — are made in a few different factories owned by the brand. For example, the brand’s Kountry wash-house, which was founded in 2010 outside Kojima, produces pre-distressed, dyed and mended garments that look like they’ve been worn and loved for decades.
If you want to purchase the original Kapital Kountry varsity jacket from 2014, you’re in luck. One just popped up on a Yahoo Auction with an initial bid of $57. To bid on the auction, use the proxy site Zenmarket which charges a service fee of around $3. Currently, there is one bid on the jacket and over five days left which means you could pick this up for quite the deal — perhaps even less than the $498 Polo jacket — if you act fast.