What Happens When You Mix a Japanese Brand and a Reggae Legend?

Insight from photographer Eric Kvatek.

When Japanese clothing brand Kapital released a collection with the family of Bob Marley in February, fashion industry heavyweights took notice. The current clothing market is saturated with collaborations and notable brands release multiple co-branded collections each year, but this was an anomaly for Kapital. Though the brand produced intricate boro fabric for the spring 2013 Louis Vuitton collection, the collaboration with Marley was its first notable outward-facing partnership.

The brand is known for referencing proponents of peace in its wildly creative designs. T-shirts, caps, bags and bandanas have featured the likeness of Mahatma Gandhi and another range of t-shirts was emblazoned with the phrase “Peace Pilgrim” in a font used by the American spiritual teacher of the same name. So Marley, who focused on nonviolence and revolution through music, provided intuitive inspiration for Kapital.

We set forth to cast travelers and locals that embodied the spirit of strength, perseverance and victory.

Designer Kiro Hirata teamed up with the family of Marley to produce the Bob Marley Talkin’ Blues Champion Sound collection, a selection of denim jackets, jeans, tees and other pieces. And while the Marley family appeared at the launch of the collaboration at H.Lorenzo in Hollywood, they did not appear in the collection’s book, Yardie Blues, shot in Jamaica by photographer Eric Kvatek.

“Yardie is Jamaican slang for a local gang or group, kind of like a merry band of ruffians,” Kvatek said. “There’s a definition of Yardie from Urban Dictionary that I particularly loved: ‘Usually violent and easily lured into losing their monies through misadventure.’ In a strange way, this sums up a theme that has run through all 15 years of my Kapital photography.”

Kvatek shot books featuring unconventional models for Kapital in far-flung locales; past locations have included Mongolia, Lappland and Nepal. “On the one hand we have created this world of happy go lucky travelers, but in the shadows, we have often included references to more nefarious behavior,” he said. “Kiro and I both love the idea of wandering hooligans, it just so happens that our gang of trouble makers are fully decked out in some of the most unique and sought after fashion designs on the planet. It’s with great pride that once again, I can document and share their misadventures.”

Marley not only inspired Hirata’s clothing for the collection, but he also spired Kvatek’s choice of models. “Something I learned about Bob Marley while in Kingston is that he survived an attack by assassins,” he said. “His wife Rita was shot in the head and Bob was shot twice, in the chest and the arm. Despite this, Bob honored his commitment to perform live two days later. The idea that a man or woman would put aside great personal pain to fulfill an obligation struck me deeply.”

“In that spirit, we set forth to cast travelers and locals that embodied the spirit of strength, perseverance and victory,” he said. “Our models include an Olympic gymnast, a kickboxer and a social worker. Each and every model we cast has faced challenges, endured pain and they have the scars to prove it.”

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