Glad to have you with us for another stellar instalment of the ‘Brands…’ edition of the 10@10.
This week we have a real treat for any hardcore denim head, educated denim enthusiast or a complete new-indigo-blood as @katobrand answer those 10 familiar questions (OR at least we hope they’re familiar?) for us, and you guys. To understand KATO’ and it’s philosophy you simply have to read Hiroshi Kato’s own words…
“A garment simply completes the man. And the garment is not complete without the man wearing it.”
This highly acclaimed brand born in, where else(?), Kyoto harmoniously combines textile tradition from Japan’s oldest city with Hiroshi Kato’s vision to create Made-in-USA garments that are favourited by many. This is a real testament to this brand and to Hiroshi Kato, to whom superlatives know no bounds.
We are honoured to have Yu, on behalf of KATO’, take a seat in the 10@10 hot-seat tonight…make him feel welcome as it’s time to sit back, relax, crack open a beer and enjoy the thoughts of Yu as @katobrand answers the @clobbercalm 10@10.
MEET THE BRAND BEHIND THE MENSWEAR
NAME: Yu Fukushima
POSITION: We haven’t decided on a formal title (formerly Sales Manager), but I am in charge of all International sales outside of Japan and Marketing / Social Media.
COMPANY: KATO’ by Hiroshi Kato
ESTABLISHED: In Japan 1999, in the US we soft launched Spring 2013.
LOCATION: Kyoto (Japan) and Los Angeles (US)
SIZE OF TEAM: 20 (Japan) and 6 (US)
SPECIALITY/COMPANY FOCUS: Our designer Hiroshi Kato is a fabric expert who has worked with the likes of Ralph Lauren on the RRL project, so our specialty is innovative fabric. KATO’ in the US is our interpretation of Modern Americana with an emphasis on Comfort. What we like to say around here to describe our brand is “Vintage meets comfort”.
1. Straight forward, please tell us, how did your company KATO’ start out?
We wanted to showcase the excellence of Japanese fabrics and craftsmanship in North American and Europe by bringing quality, comfortable, vintage-inspired garments in the perfect fits at an attainable price point. It sounds like an impossible task, but we are backed by a Japanese company operating one of the biggest made in USA denim factories in LA which made everything possible. Our brand is our interpretation of Modern Americana with an emphasis on comfort. Our goal is to make the perfect garment that becomes a staple in your closet that you find yourself reaching for time after time and for years to come.
2. For the guys that may not have ready the story on your website. Where did the name KATO’ originate?
Hiroshi Kato is the name of our designer and founder hence the name KATO’.
3. What are your top 3 bestselling items? Why do you think this is?
Not in any particular order, but solid “basic” oxfords / BD shirts, 4-way stretch selvedge jeans, and seasonal prints and plaids.
Our solid-color oxfords and button downs may seem like an ordinary shirt at first glance or in a picture, but you really have to see it and touch it in person to appreciate it. We use very select Japanese fabrics from brushed 100% cotton to organic selvedge double gauze fabric (that we will be introducing as a core item starting SS17). They have very subtle details like nep or texture that you can’t see in a photograph. We also like to emphasize comfort, and for us, that means a really soft hand and feel. The double gauze fabric we are using is the softest thing you have ever felt. It is literally is like the lightest, softest and most comfortable shirting fabric that I have ever put my hands on, and it has the perfect weight to be worn throughout the year.
We developed the 4-way stretch selvedge fabric used in our core denim program directly with Kaihara (one of the best mills in Japan). Stretch has become relevant and popular in mens’ fashion and denim, but we felt like there was no “real” denim that was comfortable to wear from the start. Our 4-way stretch selvedge, not only looks the part, but also fades like a real pair of jeans should. The best part is that you can travel, bike, hike, and be active without worrying about seams busting or getting drenched in sweat. We have a new 13.75oz version of the 4-way stretch selvedge being released January of next year as well as another option for our customers.
Specifically this past spring, we did three Japanese indigo discharge print shirts (colourful floral print, two tone floral, and a polka dot) in short sleeve that we could not keep in stock. With warmer weather globally, the short sleeve shirt has become more prevalent, and especially being based in California, we will have many options, colors, and patterns for next Spring and Summer to keep you looking and feeling cool. The best part about short sleeve shirts (especially in warm weather) is that you can wear it to the office with a pair of chinos and look professional, then throw a jacket or blazer over it for a more polished look if need be without sacrificing comfort. Prints have been popular for a good two years now, and I think it will continue to gain momentum.
4. What’s your personal favourite garment when it comes to the items you manufacture?
I personally am really impressed and digging our 4-way stretch in our skinny fit called the “Needle”. [Side note – our fits slim (“pen”), skinny (“needle”), and tapered straight (“hammer”) are all named after tools we use in the factory because we feel like we are a “factory” brand since we make all of our denim and jackets in house.] When our merchandiser and designer approached me about the 4-way stretch, in all honesty, I was a little apprehensive to say the very least. Being a guy who has broken in many heavyweight raw selvedge denim, the word “stretch” even made me cringe slightly… but what I saw and felt when I first tried on the 4-way stretch selvedge jeans was very unexpected. The detailing and fabric looked like an “authentic” pair of Japanese jeans. When I put a pair of the KATO’ 4-way stretch selvedge next to a line-up of the popular “real” Japanese, American or European jeans, at first glance, I could not really tell the difference aesthetically. The only major difference came when I put them on. I felt like I was wearing sweatpants. Odd. They wouldn’t fade right? Well… five months in on my first pair, I can attest to the fact that they do fade quite nicely.
*The reason I mentioned our “NEEDLE” / SKINNY fit is because I prefer my jeans to be on the skinnier side (I think there is a fine balance between being slim / skinny to jeggings and I prefer it right in the middle between the two). With other traditional raw selvedge jeans, I found the material to be too tough and rigid to be worn comfortably in the silhouette that I wanted. I’d want to wear them because they looked great, but they were not ideal for commuting or traveling.
5. What are your thoughts on the rise of Instagram fashion and the chaps that post their clothing on there to help spread the word of their fave brands?
I think Instagram and fashion is a harmonious marriage. It’s just really simple to use. Who doesn’t like looking at pictures to get new outfit ideas? For our brand, I can’t think of a better way than Instagram to express and get a brand image across to the end user. I think back to when fashion was more geared toward “Blogging” and the exchange of information and ideas was slow, but now with the advent of Instagram, we can see in real time countless expressions and ideas from all walks of life at the touch of a screen.
6. Has it made an impact on your business at all, do you think?
We started our Instagram account a while back, but didn’t really “take it seriously” until about four months ago. We realized how much hard work there is into maintaining a quality Instagram account and uploading relevant content, so I really appreciate what style influencers like you do on a daily basis. We have definitely seen results from international accounts that we couldn’t see or who wouldn’t see our brand otherwise, and also individuals that have taken an interest in our brand outside of the US / North America. We are able to preview upcoming items as well as promote in-season goods and provide the public more detailed item descriptions (especially about the unique fabrics that we utilize), so it is a fantastic business tool for our direct customers, stockists, and our brand.
7. Is there any feeds on IG that you particularly like to check-in on regular. What brands are you fond of on there? What menswear feeds to you like to peruse?
As far as brands go, I think FILSON does an outstanding work in terms of content and conveying their brand image through photographs.
We like to work with a variety of influencers as our brands transcends boundaries. We don’t want to be tied down to one category like “AMERICANA” or “CONTEMPORARY”, and the diversity of people we work with reflects our our goal which is to make long-lasting, comfortable garments that is easy to coordinate and that any person can look good in.
8. A quick one about you. Other than the business, what passions do you have in life? What flicks your switch and helps you relax?
The ocean and travel is my other passion. On the weekends, you can find me on a boat somewhere off the Southern California Coast trying to catch dinner. During my vacations, I travel to remote destinations to spearfish with my buddies. I used to surf a lot in my younger days, and now I am have been hooked on spearfishing for the last five years, so most of my weekdays after work are consumed by tinkering with gear and the weekends on the water fishing.
I’m a huge movie buff, but lately with Netflix, Amazon Fire Stick, and the internet, I find myself binging on a lot of dramas. One that I’m looking forward to coming out in the next week is NARCOS on Netflix. Most recently, I watched Shameless (the US version) and I’m also watching The League right now.
9. What do you consider to be the best thing about your business and why?
My favorite part about my job is building friendship. I’ve met a lot of great people from other brands as well as customers that started off as business relationships and turned into friendships. Although the constant travel and tradeshows can be challenging, being able to catch up with people that we work with that have become “friends” over a beer is always a pleasant experience in my book.
10. And Lucky Last, You’re going to be stranded on a desert island and you can take 1 outfit (4 items) only with you. And 1 choice of drink.
What would they be? And Why?
I’d probably bring 1) Hurley Hybrid Boardshorts in black (I practically live in them if I am not at work) because I’m assuming / hoping it will be a tropical island and we will be surrounded by the ocean 2) Jungmaven white T-shirt because I live in a t-shirt and boardshorts when I’m not at work and I found this to be one of the best combination of fit and quality 3) Ray Ban Wayfarers in black… I’ve been wearing these for as long as I can remember and wear them all year (figure sun protection will come in handy on a stranded island) 4) Surf-fur Original Water Parka (http://www.surf-fur.com/), a brand based out of SoCal that makes this oversized / long fleece waterproof two sided parka that will protect me from the elements and keep me dry and warm
What a fantastic read Yu! A real pleasure having you with us this week and thoroughly enjoyed your write-up. After you stating that the ocean is one of the things that flick your switch I imagine you’d be right at home on “the island” and with the spearfishing experience I’m sure the other guys would be glad to have you on there too 🙌 Also, love the reasoning behind the names of your fits and it goes to show that YOU DO learn something new every day…although, with this read I’ve learnt enough for THE WHOLE week! Cheer brother.
Going to keep this short and sweet but on Thursday we have @sennah0j as the ‘Men…’ feature for this week. Johannes has a feed popping with denim, boots, indigo & naturals aka all the good stuff a grown man may need! We’ve featured a couple of Scandinavian blue bloods the past couple of weeks’ that haven’t disappointed and Johanne’s time-to-shine Thursday at 10pm will be no different…make sure you tune in.
Have a tip top week folks and stay close, below is a few thing listed FYI…
1). There are new products on the CLOBBERCALM STORE. Take a look, the independent craftsmen & woman that make our product are the real deal.
2). @threads.and.fades.2017 has hit the ground running so bob over and check it out.