I have already written about J.S.ART for a Japanese magazine, but I thought it was long overdue an introduction in English. The concept of the brand is simple, but genius in and of itself and sure to pull at the heartstrings of any man who grew up watching old samurai films – Japanese armor crossed with leather jackets. It is a unbelievable that no-one has thought of it before given that pretty much all obvious possibilities of Western biker and military jackets have been long played out, and yet no-one has brought the unique shapes, panels and leather techniques of arguably Japan’s most iconic item of male clothing to the modern age, that is until now.
The designer Takayuki Kato had cut his teeth in retail over at the high-end boutique Royal Flash in Ueno while studying design at fashion school, but frustrated with the distinct lack of Japanese spirit as he termed it in Japanese menswear – it being either led by Dior Homme or Japanese takes on American streetwear like Roen, Roar and Mastermind Japan at the time, he decided to enroll at the legendary Kagoshima armorers Marutake after graduation.
From there he has learnt from and worked closely with the centuries of knowledge of Japanese armor that Marutake can lay claim to, working on the cutting and planning techniques, materials, leather treatments and so on, until he was ready to bring that over to Japanese streetwear as it stands today. The references are fulfilling with aficionados of Japanese artisanal techniques likely pleased to spot Tokushima water snakeskin, acid washed brass and silver hardware using the same process as metal netsuke, and the overall form being packed with obvious and not so obvious design elements derived from traditional armor design.
At this point you are likely to be worrying that either the cost is too high (it isn’t – the price is in line with other high end domestic brands like Julius) or that it is a little too geeky or something of a costume to be worn. Well, that is something you are going to have to decide for yourself, there are plenty of jackets with only one or two samurai armor references, but I thought we would take a good look at one that packs them in:
Check out the details below:
Now if that doesn’t make your inner Japanophile sing then there is something wrong with you. For the record the workmanship is to the level you would expect from Marutake with the same silks and leathers used as they would in armor construction, and it goes without saying that these are all made in Japan from Japanese leather – the only exception being the crocodile that has to be imported.
Here you can see the aforementioned crocodile in all its glory in the two finishes J.S.ART offer – I love how the scales reference Japanese armor completely effortlessly all by themselves.
If you can’t stretch to a whole jacket, then there are a good range of accessories to chose from to add a bit of samurai flair to any outfit.
The designer admiring his work.
We are going to be having a look at the other side of this brand soon with a bit more of the context for the armor elements of the designs that will hopefully complete the picture nicely. Till then, rest assured that it is going to be worth waiting for.