Shinya Hasegawa of Battenwear
The Fall/Winter ‘18 Battenwear collection has just arrived instore and online at Always in Colour, modern improvisations on classic outdoor and adventure clothing. High quality, high function and high design, drawing from a wide pool of influences both inside and outside of fashion. As they explain; “Battenwear customers are informed by years of experience understanding what they like and what suits them best. They are connoisseurs of the authentic.” Marking the arrival of the Fall/Winter ‘18 collection, we got in touch with Battenwear designer and co-founder Shinya Hasegawa to talk about the new season and the journey so far.
Always in Colour: You don't have to tell us, but what was it about the name 'Battenwear' that resonated with you?
Shinya Hasegawa: Batten is my wife's maiden name. When we married, she took my last name. When I started the company, I took her last name for the company and the brand.
AiC: I understand that the majority of your clothing is made within close proximity to your NYC office. Tell us about those relationships and community?
SH: Yes! When we started the brand, we made virtually everything in our neighborhood in Manhattan's Garment District. We still have our main office in that neighborhood and we still make as much as we can at our longstanding factories there.
AiC: How has that neighborhood developed and evolved over the last seven or eight years?
SH: The neighborhood has changed a lot. It used to be all factories and now there are also a lot of hotels and condos. The rent prices have gone up and many of the factories have moved or closed. So, we've found other factories to work with, mostly near where our design office is in Topanga, California. Each factory has different strengths and a different character. So, it's fun to pick which item will be made at which factory. Some of our Battenwear garments are really complicated in terms of construction so when we bring them to the factory head, he or she flat out refuses . . . but then another factory head thinks it's a fun item to work on.
AiC: Do you feel like you have a good community around you in NYC?
SH: We have a great community in NYC, from fabric and trim suppliers, to factories, to friends who also have brands based in the neighborhood. I go to NYC at least once a month (I live in Topanga now) and every time I'm there, I'm really happy to see everyone. The neighborhood is small and it's hard not to run into people just walking around. In Topanga, where we've only been for a year and a half or so, it's a totally different scene. But we're starting to get to know the community really well and it's been a lot of fun. It's a much MUCH more laidback vibe and people are more focused on nature, which is satisfying. We do a lot of hiking and I get to surf in some of the prettiest places in the world.
AiC: You are a self-described "lifelong vintage clothing hound", what is your particular area of weakness? Do you have cupboards and cupboards of sneakers or a shipping container of selvage denim?
SH: I collect vintage mountain parkas and anoraks and old outdoor clothing and gear catalogs. When we lived in Brooklyn, we had a small half-bedroom that was basically my surfboard, shoes, parkas, and backpacks room. Then we had our children and I had to get a storage unit. Now, in Topanga, we have a bit more room, which is dangerous I guess.
AiC: What are your earliest memories of clothing? Has that affected your own design process over the years?
SH: When I was in second or third grade in elementary school, I had to do a public singing performance with my class. My mother really wanted me to wear a jacket and pleated slacks for the performance. But at the moment, I was really into this pair of jeans I'd gotten from the old Japanese denim brand, Big John. Big John was strongly influenced by Levi's and 501's so there was an open seam visible, maybe even with selvage, when I rolled up the cuff. I was super proud of that detail and really interested in it. So I fought with my mom about it and eventually I won and got to wear my jeans. That was a moment that taught me something important about myself, although it's hard to define it. But I think stubborn attention to detail is a good description of my design process.
AiC: I loved the Battenmania tee, are you a WWF(E) head or did you just dig the logo?
SH: I have been a wrestling fanatic since I can remember. I grew up watching wrestlers from all over the world, not just WWF. I really liked some UK wrestlers. Since I moved to the US, I've been hiding my hobby a bit. People here seem to think it's weird when adults are into wrestling. But after I started Battenwear, I started thinking about how I could incorporate wrestling into my designs. I try to do it kind of low key. The people who get it, get it. The people who don't can still enjoy the designs.
AiC: I have read you talking about the "forward-moving energy" of the late 1960's through the early 1980's. Do you think that was a reaction to the times that preceded it?
SH: I think that the big changes that started showing up in every aspect of culture and art starting in the 1960s had not only to do with major cultural historical events but also because of the advent of new materials like plastics. Suddenly, people were able to make things they never could before, because technology was changing so rapidly. A lot of crappy stuff came into existence, but from out of all that crap, there were some lastingly great new inventions too. You can see this in clothing (Gore-tex, etc), surfboards (polyurethane foam), and many other arenas. Plastics changed what kinds of products were available to people . . . and this in turn changed how people used the products. And how they used the products cemented the products' place in history.
AiC: Are we due another renaissance? What do you think is going to spearhead that?
SH: Now I think the real revolution is in the fact that technology is available to everyone and just about anyone can make something if they want to. There's 3-D printing, there's open sourcing of everything on the internet, there's crowd funding, etc As a result, there's a LOT of crap being made. But I think, like in the 60s's through the 80's, we're bound to have some really amazing, lastingly great stuff show up too. It'll be cool a couple of decades from now to look back at what is happening now and see what stood up to the test of time.
AiC: Bringing it back closer to our home, how about English and British culture. Which brands are you impressed by? What styles feel distinctly "British" as someone looking on in?
SH: I have a brother who is 6 years older than me. When I was little, he was really into British rock like the Yardbirds, and he also liked Bay City Rollers. So, some of my strongest memories from childhood have British music as the soundtrack. I feel a natural link to the British culture or at least that it has had a strong influence on me.
British brands that impress me include Barbour, Bellstaff, & Gloverall. These are brands I've been wearing since I started getting interested in fashion. And when I first started working in an office as a young man in Tokyo, I was wearing Paul Smith suits. I feel like British fashion is the origin of all modern clothing. The way British clothing is constructed and tailored is very different from American clothing, and I really enjoy the difference in silhouette.
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