The Adventures of Kaptain Sunshine

25 October 2022

Kaptain Sunshine is designer Shinsuke Kojima’s journey into an atmospheric world of Americana, drawing on workwear, technical gear, and vintage tailoring. For many years, Japanese makers have won worldwide fans by recreating and perfecting everything from heritage denim to ivy style tailoring.

But while it draws inspiration from history, Kaptain Sunshine is not in the business of making reproductions but reimagining the classics. It’s the work of a traveller in search of delight. Kojima combines tradition with innovation, playing with proportions and silhouette to create new versions of the old with humour and panache. 

Kojima grew up in a ski resort, and credits a childhood spent outdoors for his love of durable, adventurous clothing and his preference for a natural colour palette. Kaptain Sunshine designs come out of the archive, but also from memories of old coats in heavy wool, vintage furniture, and old camping gear.

After an early career as an editor at a menswear magazine, Kojima turned to fashion design, launching Kaptain Sunshine in 2013, as well as going on to produce designs for Goldwin, a technical skiwear brand he grew up wearing.

The genius of Kaptain Sunshine is in subtle interpretation of vintage pieces, keeping the shape and soul of old clothes while adapting them for a life in which garment technology, like everything else, has become more sophisticated. The method, Kojima has said, is to keep the same ingredients but learn to do new things with them. It’s not easy to take a heavy old winter coat and know just how much weight to take out, just how much to alter the proportions, in order to make something that’s modern and comfortable yet retains the sense of adventure and occasion that makes vintage attractive in the first place. When it’s executed correctly, the result is something that has all the appeal of a unique vintage piece with the convenience and performance of a modern garment.

There’s no better example of the brand’s ethos than the Traveller Coat. It’s a generously proportioned heavy wool coat which extends below the knee and past the wrists to give genuine protection from the elements (a mid-century standard that’s harder to find now). It’s made with a raglan shoulder, a high collar, and chunky patch pockets with flaps.

Where a vintage piece of this sort would require kilos of rough wool, Kaptain Sunshine’s is rebuilt in 16.5 micron, super 140s double-woven twill, making it tough, dense, warm, and far lighter than its spiritual ancestors. It’s soft, but not too soft, luxurious but hardy. With a touch of dramatic flair and plentiful character from the enlarged pockets and stand-up collar, it looks superb with a simple casual outfit of denim and a sweater, but it’s serious enough to stand guard over a suit.

Kaptain Sunshine Trousers

As well as offering the iconic Traveller Coat, this season Trunk is stocking a selection of distinctive Kaptain Sunshine items. The Stand Collar shirt is a versatile, easy fitting cotton shirt with a band collar. Worn untucked, it’s a workwear classic with just a touch of the artist’s smock about it. True to form, Kaptain Sunshine has taken a pattern traditionally made as a hard-wearing Oxford cloth and reimagined it in sleek, high density 140/2 Finx cotton, allowing it to drape and flow.

The brand’s garment dyed cotton trouser also plays with proportion, texture and drape, using a satin cotton with an irregular weave to create a generously cut trouser with a smooth finish. Made using an unusual pattern without side seams, and finished with vintage details including side adjusters tucked away under belt loops, it’s substantial without being overly serious.

Finally, the brand’s Helmet Bag makes a perfect travelling accessory: a practical design with high performance materials, with plenty of vintage character for good measure.

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