Although Kapital is known today for its intricate designs and craftsmanship, the brand started out the way many post-WWII Japanese brands did: reproducing American denim. Like many of his predecessors, Toshikiyo Hirata had no formal training in design or manufacturing. While attending school in Kobe, Japan, Toshikiyo began to study karate. His newfound hobby eventually led him to the United States where he became interested in American denim. After he left America, Toshikiyo moved to Kojima, Kurashiki, also known as the “denim capital” of Japan, to study denim manufacturing. After years of studying, Toshikiyo opened a factory in 1984, followed by a store offering denim & vintage garments in 1995. In 1996, Toshikiyo released his first original denim line and simply named it after his initials: TH.
While Toshikiyo was overseeing his factory, his son Kiro Hirata also left Japan to study in America—in this case art instead of karate. When Kiro returned to Japan in 1996, he began working as an apparel designer at 45RPM, an Americana-inspired brand. At 45RPM, Kiro was able to hone his skills in the brands signature practices, including unusual dye techniques and garment construction. In 2002, Kiro joined his father to start the family business we know now as Kapital.
In the early years, the straightforward indigo dyed denim Kapital produced made up a much larger portion of the business than it does today. The most popular Kapital jeans in recent years are called “Century Denim”. The jeans are made with a 12 ounce denim, offered in indigo, persimmon and many other dyes, with an indigo dyed Sashiko stitched thread throughout. The Sashiko thread provides two services. The first being that Sashiko stitching is traditionally used as a form of reinforcement—so, in this case, the entire garment has been “pre-inforced”. The second is more for aesthetic; as the Sashiko blends in with the denim underneath, the jeans fade in a unique way. The product is called “Century Denim” because it is said that they can be worn for 100 years.
In 2010, Kapital established its Kountry line, which specializes in dying and washing techniques. In addition to this, the Kountry line also reworks older Kapital pieces to create one-of-a-kind garments. One of Kountry’s most popular items is the Bandana jacket, which takes multiple paisley bandanas and stitches them together to make a new, almost-homespun garment. In recent years, two Kapital Kountry motifs have become extremely popular: the skeleton and the smiley face. While Kapital is notorious for its extremely large collections—sometimes including over 300 pieces—the skeleton and smiley pieces attract the bulk of the hype. Though the genius of Kapital lies more in the stitching and dyeing of garments than graphic design, Smiley crewneck sweaters and Skeleton T-shirts are among Kapital’s most popular pieces of all time.
Although the brand has been around for nearly 20 years, Kapital is still relatively new to the western world. As the brand continues to reconstruct, dye and fade its way into the closets of many, check Grailed for the latest pieces from Kapital.