While a student at New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology, Battenwear designer Shinya Hasegawa liked nothing better than to walk up and down Manhattan Island, making a mental map of the neighborhoods. Upper West Side, Garment District, Chelsea, SoHo, Lower East Side. They all had such distinct fashion styles, building shapes, and types of energy in the crowds.
As his graduation from FIT approached, Shinya kept a stack of resumes in his bag while he walked the City. That must seem funny to the younger among you: paper resumes physically handed to the owners of cool looking stores! But that's how we used to do it, and it was on Elizabeth Street in Nolita that Shinya handed out the resume that set in motion, ultimately, the birth of Battenwear.
It was late afternoon in the spring of 2003, and Satoshi Suzuki was standing outside of his store, Marchand de Legume, leaning against the bricks, his arms crossed and his legs angled out. He was wearing an Izod Lacoste shirt tucked into zebra stripe pants with a big metal belt buckle. His facial expression was as it often is: arched as though he had something really funny to say but had decided to save the joke for another day. Shinya saw him and took in his general vibe, and he thought, wow, this is SOMEONE. Someone different, someone to stop and chat with, someone to give a resume to.
It took some time, and a fair amount of sly jokes at Shinya's expense, but Satoshi took him under his wing. He gave Shinya a job at Marchand de Legume and taught him about design and craftsmanship and sales. He introduced Shinya to Daiki Suzuki leading to his apprenticeship on the Woolrich Woolen Mills project. He helped us think through the initial launch of Battenwear and gave advice as we met challenges. He has come to virtually all Battenwear parties, collection showrooms, and other events to show his support. He and his lovely family have joined us at our wedding, our baby shower, and too many holiday gatherings to count.
That's who he is to us, but maybe you'll be more interested in why we're doing this collaboration project with him through OTAKARA NYC. Satoshi has too long and storied a history for a short newsletter, but if you know nothing else about Satoshi, at least know that he has excellent taste. The way he creates outfits and chooses jewelry, the food he finds, the vintage design elements he obsesses over. He's a master of the unexpected, a combiner of un-combinable things. He's picky, but when he makes his pick, it is always worth the wait.
OTAKARA NYC started when, one day, Satoshi suddenly and irrevocably fell back in love with hippie style clothing with hand-embroidery and crafted embellishments. We still wonder what the actual trigger was for this new, brilliant obsession. He blames it on having too much time during the pandemic, but we think it was probably more than that. Same as the indefinable quality that pulled Shinya into introducing himself to Satoshi that day on Elizabeth, Satoshi saw something in this bygone style of hand-crafted clothing and knew that there was something to be explored.
He started by trying to collect vintage examples of hand-embroidered hippie fashion, but this did not somehow scratch the itch. Many of the items weren't well constructed, and therefore were hard to cherish, or were so rare as to be prohibitively expensive (easy to cherish but not suitable for everyday wear). So, he decided to try to create his own hand-crafted wearable treasures. He started with his own chambray shirts, and then he started doing little projects decorating his friends' brands, like Engineered Garments and now Battenwear!
Do you want a Battenwear x Otakara wearable treasure? Each is one of a kind and, at least for now, only for sale in person at the Nepenthes NY Store as part of our 10th Anniversary Pop Up event thru end of May. Happy treasure hunting, friends!
And, thanks for all your support, Satoshi!