Normally in Tokyo we rent an apartment and stay for a week. This time, though, we got a whole house. The neighborhood it was in—Ebisu—is home to one of our favorite shops, Kapital. The clothes they sell are new but appear to have been previously worn, perhaps by someone who was shot or stabbed and then thrown off a boat. Everything looks as if it had been pulled from the evidence rack at a murder trial. I don’t know how they do it. Most distressed clothing looks fake, but not theirs, for some reason. Do they put it in a dryer with broken glass and rusty steak knives? Do they drag it behind a tank over a still-smoldering battlefield? How do they get the cuts and stains so . . . right?
If I had to use one word to describe Kapital’s clothing, I’d be torn between “wrong” and “tragic.” A shirt might look normal enough until you try it on, and discover that the armholes have been moved, and are no longer level with your shoulders, like a capital “T,” but farther down your torso, like a lowercase one.
Jackets with patches on them might senselessly bunch at your left hip, or maybe they poof out at the small of your back, where for no good reason there’s a pocket. I’ve yet to see a pair of Kapital trousers with a single leg hole, but that doesn’t mean the designers haven’t already done it. Their motto seems to be “Why not?”
Most people would answer, “I’ll tell you why not!” But I like Kapital’s philosophy. I like their clothing as well, though I can’t say that it always likes me in return. I’m not narrow enough in the chest for most of their jackets, but what was to stop me, on this most recent trip, from buying a flannel shirt made of five differently patterned flannel shirts ripped apart and then stitched together into a kind of doleful Frankentop? I got hats as well, three of them, which I like to wear stacked up, all at the same time, partly just to get it over with but mainly because I think they look good as a tower.
I draw the line at clothing with writing on it, but numbers don’t bother me, so I also bought a tattered long-sleeved T-shirt with “99” cut from white fabric and stitched onto the front before being half burned off. It’s as though a football team’s plane had gone down and this was all that was left. Finally, I bought what might be called a tunic, made of denim and patched at the neck with defeated scraps of corduroy. When buttoned, the front flares out, making me look like I have a potbelly. These are clothes that absolutely refuse to flatter you, that go out of their way to insult you, really, and still my sisters and I can’t get enough.