Battenwear is the American dream. No, literally, the latest S/S 15 collection from Shinya Hasegawa's NYC-based sportswear label is a catalog of thrive, a selection of pieces built for "the fine art of everyday leisure." The mix of surf-ready staples—Baracuta-style jackets with tropical linings, packable anoraks made from shirting fabrics, gym sweats and shorts—represents a well-deserved respite after a decade plus journey that brought the designer from Japan, educated him at the hands of Engineered Garments' own Daiki Suzuki and set him in the middle of the garment district designing his own line. If you've been reading Jon Moy for any length of time, you know Battenwear's classic American forms and hints of Japanese quirk are firmly in our lane.
To call Shinya's clothing "basics" is almost a disservice to the attention to detail present in all his garments, but there is a certain restraint in them, a maturity hinting at the fact he came late to designing. He didn't start making his own clothes until he was a fully grown ass adult. "In high school, I started collecting vintage clothing, workwear, outdoor wear, military stuff," Shinya says. "I was really into old North Face, Patagonia. But I was just a consumer, a young guy who was into clothing."
He continued on a "normal" path after high school, attending college and taking a job in sales for an international underwear company. But in 2002, in his late-20s, Shinya moved to New York to attend FIT. While in school he began working for famed vintage clothing store What Comes Around Goes Around, handling the shop's Japanese accounts. Along the way, Shinya met his wife Carrie, who now runs the brand with him, which altered his original plans to eventually return to Japan.
The owner of What Comes Around Goes Around happened to be friends with Daiki Suzuki, so when Daiki was looking for an assistant with a knack for vintage clothing, he recommended Shinya for the job. "Daiki was kind of a famous guy," Shinya says. "So I said why not?"
It turned out to be a fortuitous relationship. A year after Shinya joined the team, Daiki won GQ's inaugural Best New Menswear Designer in America award for his work with Engineered Garments and Woolrich Woolen Mills. Americana was peaking and Daiki was doing it better than anyone in the game.
Working closely with Daiki, Shinya learned how to take clothing from concept to production. "It was first time for me to actually produce something," Shinya says. "He showed me the whole process, drawing, picking out the fabric. I was always watching him."
'Making clothing is like raising a kid,' Shinya says.
Shinya worked with Daiki for four years and when Daiki's Woolrich contract was up, Shinya began thinking about his own endeavor, and Daiki encouraged him to try his own thing. He spent one more year at WWM working under Mark McNairy, who echoed Daiki's support. "I was 38, 39. I was thinking about the next step of my life," Shinya says. "I wanted to do something different. That is the reason I came to the United States."
And Battenwear is different. Though the silhouettes are familiar to classic American sportswear, the details set the line apart. From nylon camp pants with cinched cuffs to short-sleeved sweatshirts made from perfectly balanced heavy to soft terry, packable 1.1mm ripstop windbreakers, everything is built to hold up to one of Shinya's frigid Rockaway surf trips. Everything is bathed in hints of warmer weather, like S/S 15's mix of sun-faded reds and yellows reminiscent of vintage '70s and '80s surf gear.
The hands-on, overly considered approach to clothing is by design. The Battenwear office where Shinya, Carrie and a handful of employees spend their days is right in the center of the garment district. "Ninety percent of everything is made within a four block radius of here," Carrie says. "That's great, but the garment district is dying. So it's not only about what we want, but what we can get made."
Challenges aside, the company is committed to a closeness with production required for being meticulous about quality control. While visiting the showroom, Shinya showed me a tiny imperfection in the weave of one of his signature sweatshirts, tossing it in a box with other rejected samples. "Making clothing is like raising a kid," Shinya says. "At the beginning, there is nothing, start drawing from nothing. Day by day we pick a fabric, we make a sample, make production, sell. If you make it overseas, you have to give part of it up to someone. I want to see all those processes."
This obsessiveness shows up in the product, where function is key: Sweats have reinforced panels at stress points, armholes are cut generously to allow for motion and totes are built to keep wet and dry clothes separate.
Despite the praise amongst outdoor-leaning clothes nerds, Battenwear is still relatively unknown. A post on A Continuous Lean early in the brand's life helped put them on the map with savvy customers, but the majority of their accounts are in Japan, where larger retailers like United Arrows have championed and collaborated with the brand. "Middle America has yet to discover us," Carrie says.
But with the brand coming very soon to a growing number of US accounts and a strong F/W collection coming soon, featuring some of Battenwear's signature pieces done in deadstock military fabrics, it won't be long before the audience catches on.
Angelo Spagnolo is a writer living in New York. You can follow him on Twitter here.