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Grail-Level Clothing and Stunning Photography: This Japanese Brand’s Latest Book Is a Must-See

Japanese brand Kapital takes you up and down Vietnam, through the inimitable lens of its go-to photographer, Eric Kvatek.

There are few style brands with the kind of dedicated following of Kapital. The Japan-based brand has amassed a legion of fans for its left-field takes on familiar western garments. Work shirts are twisted and embroidered, five-pocket jeans are patched, beaded, ripped to shreds and reassembled. Bandanas are treated as works of art, with a healthy helping of irreverence and humor. But before the cult brand became known for its eccentric designs, it was a straight-ahead denim producer.

Founder Toshikiyo Hirata had no background in denim manufacturing when he was in college in Kobe. He first encountered denim when he traveled to America and, upon returning to Japan, eventually moved to Kojima, known as Japan’s denim capital, to soak in all that he could about the trade. He opened up his own denim factory in 1984 alongside a store which sold denim and vintage clothes. Eventually, he would produce his own jeans in 1996, recreating vintage jeans with agonizing accuracy.

Years later, Toshikiyo’s son, Kiro also visited America, to study abroad, focusing on the arts. After returning, Kiro landed a job as an apparel designer for 45RPM, a brand known for its dedication to denim and indigo. While working for 45RPM, Kiro met a young documentary photographer named Eric Kvatek, who was approached to shoot a fashion lookbook for the brand. Finally, in 2002, Kiro would join his father’s brand and infuse it with the kind of artistic, and wonderfully eccentric eye for which Kapital is known today.

The happenstance meeting with Kvatek turned into a fruitful relationship for the brand as he’s been tapped as its sole lookbook photographer for about two decades. Every season, Kapital’s lookbooks are met with hot anticipation, not only for the new season’s goods but for Kvatek’s inimitable photographic style. Each season is shot in a different location, with Kvatek shooting professional models, friends and locals in the brand’s idiocentric clothes. The results are often some of the wildest lookbooks out there, taking models through desert road trips to Las Vegas, smoking ganja in Jamaica, performing burlesque in Budapest and more.

This season’s lookbook, titled ‘Flare Star’, is set in Vietnam and moves through the country by boat, motorcycle, military jeep and surfboard, to temples, barbershops and more. The clothes are eye-catching, per usual. It’s a dizzying mix of tie-dye, militaria, denim and Asian influences all at once. Like many of Kapital’s designs, the garments touch on themes of subversion and peace, not unlike the protests against the Vietnam War. Here, Kapital continues that thread, infusing the collection with peace signs, religious figures, happy faces and a heaping dose of hippy aesthetics.

As with every lookbook, Kvatek takes us through a memorable journey, up and down the country, weaving left when you think he’ll go right. While our journeys today are mostly confined to our homes, ‘Flare Star’ is helping us get away, even for a moment.

Photos provided by Eric Kavtek.

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