And… there! Welcome back to another Waistcoat Wednesday, and given how it’s the season finale, I’ve saved a right corker for this weeks expedition into the world of armless attire. Fellow followers of the waistcoat scene are well aware of its global nature, and how one may have to look around for the most singular specimens. So far my revered rack of great waistcoats here at the mansion include pieces from quite far-reaching places, but nothing from the Far East (by design, if not manufacture, at least).
This was due to change when I happened upon the offerings from Kapital, a little known Japanese company. I think most of us probably have a mental scorecard when we evaluate garments, and Kapital tick a number of boxes on my checklist. They are far away, very exotic, remarkably unavailable in the West, and almost everything they make is quite unlike anything else.
Their AW14 lookbook is a good example of this, photographed in Mongolia, it puts their latest wares in a desert nomad setting, mixing actual Kapital garments with authentic nomadic wear (and Kapital are often so quirky it can be very difficult to know which is which).
Getting on with business though, the specimen I’m taking a look at today is part of their limited-edition Kountry line and a distinctive piece it is indeed. I’ll admit I have a fondness for both tweed and patchwork, so the front of this one is very much my sort of thing.
The tweed used is a soft, cotton tweed,, with some silk and cashmere content. Very unlike the thick wool variants I normally go for, but very nice. It is nicely assembled in a traditional 4-pocket style. The bottom pockets are large enough to contain a smartphone lying on it’s side, and the top large enough to contain the same standing up. Yet, this misses the point with regards to this one.
As while the front is a cheeky patchwork of fantastic tweeds, it’s round the back where things get really serious. The Japanese word “boro” can be translated as “the art of mending” and is often seen in the form of much-repaired and used old garments. Patched, repaired and stitched, and used some more. This is part of the idea that has been created on the back.
The other style used is the characteristic “sashiko” stitching, the hand-sewn, quite coarse-threaded white stitched. Together they create a style that can only be described as singular. Or “like something you found in the garbage”, to quote WDG, who obviously does not get “it”!
Of course, this isn’t genuinely old and repaired fabric, though the craftsmen at Kapital have used the techniques to stunning effect and created what appears to be a unique fabric. This is a serious display of traditional Japanese craft and even more interesting than the tweed on the front.
While the front is made up on 5 different tweed patterns, the rear is made up of around 30 patches, of at least 8 different cotton fabrics. All carefully assembled and covered with a cotton gauze and attached by vertical sashiko stitching. It looks like nothing else.
Not missing a trick, the buttons are polished horn buttons, with a leather piece on the back to ensure they don’t rip the fabric. No spare buttons are included, mind you.
The only real problem with the waistcoat is the rear cinch. I know, I’m on a bit of a crusade when it comes to this, but seriously it shouldn’t be that difficult to do right. What might the problem be this time? Well, it looks a bit sloppy, what with it being a very long cinch that is only fastened at either extremity. Unless tightened up fully, it droops down. The hardware is a good though, so not a total failure!
All in all, a very distinctive and special waistcoat.
A word about sizing: Kapital appears to cater primarly for the skinny man. This waistcoat is a size 4 and is their largest size. Size 4 is XL in their sizing, and while I’m a reliable size medium,this one is on the tight side for me. Not really a huge problem for me, as I wear waistcoats open more than closed, but it does indicate that most of what Kapital produce is in tiny sizes. A shame, as their design and quality is great.
Another word about the availability of Kapital: Looking at the Kapital webstore it’s obvious they produce a huge range, but the webstore is Japan only. They didn’t even reply to my emails. I was lucky to find a new friend who was willing to do some fieldwork for me and scored the last waistcoat available in size 4. There are a few places around the world that carry some Kapital wares, but as far as I can tell rarely a very large or interesting selection.