The release of the Kapital Autumn Winter 17 catalogue, “Blue High Ways” is an epic milestone (literally) for our friends designer Kiro Hirata and photographer Eric Kvatek. The book is a 6000 mile feat of organisation, friendship and letting-loose in the vast landscape that we know as the United States of America. The cast and crew bar-hopped, bull-rode, line-danced and mood-walked their way across the country from Texas to Los Angeles, passing through some of the most iconic landscape the world has fallen in love with through film, photography and music through time.
Having had the dream and vision of doing the romantic road trip for years, Kapital’s designer Kiro breathed life into a road-trip scrap book , with his strange twists and poetic sways on every piece of nostalgia from the wild west. A sweet mix of parched denims, patchworked stars and stripes, souvenir patches, weed fanny packs, boy scout uniform down jackets, a denim Madonna cone bra, mexican embroidery, and Navajo weaves were brought to life in their natural habitat.
Blue High Ways is a bow to the boundless landscape, and sublime weather, with some of the most heart throbbing landscapes of the Wild West, with the most vivid colours, somehow mimicking the collection, as if certain pieces were made to be worn amongst it. We chat to photographer Eric Kvatek about the remarkable experience as he guides us from one stop to the next, across the desert and into the ocean.
First stop, Bandera, Texas.
How far back was the theme decided on? do you think Kiro decided on the road trip theme while he was designing the collection?
Eric: While Kiro has yearned for a road trip photo shoot for several years, I believe, ya, he had the road trip in mind when he designed the clothing. So when he brought it up again it really made sense to go for it. Seeing the result I can only say it was meant to be.
All the models look so at home and comfortable in their own skin – it looks like everyone’s genuinely having a blast. Is it safe to say this was one of the smoothest Kapital catalogues to shoot?
Eric: It was smooth in the sense of that there were so many things that could have gone wrong in 6,000 miles that didn’t. But you know there were issues, somebody missed their flight, another person was habitually tardy, somebody else got “lost” another guy got heat stroke. So it wasn’t really so smooth but it was well planned and for the most part everybody chipped in and helped out. There was definitely a camaraderie that developed so it was like “all for one and one for all”. When I choose people to join us it’s because it’s somebody I want to spend that time with, and I know they’re cool and easy going. The girls are all my favorite bartenders from Brooklyn, and Emmelie my muse from Australia – they all really bonded. So when it looks like they’re having fun in the shots they really are. Everybody was really having a good time, I don’t think anybody was happy to go home.
Then onto Marfa, Texas.
Eric: All of the hotels were booked a month or more before being there so imagining the route and estimating the miles and time almost drove me insane. We actually were able to stick to my plan so that was kinda incredible. Then there was just the physicality of driving so many miles while shooting and plotting in my mind the next step, the next meal while monitoring the weather and fitting in random snack and potty breaks. We lost one model along the way so suddenly I was calling ahead and asking for new unexpected guys at various destinations. The heat was another problem as it was a winter catalog and the daily temperature was like 100 to 110 Fahrenheit [37-43 Celsius]. But really just sticking to the timetable was so important. A five minute delay here and there can really just screw things up. That was one of my only requests to the crew… Just be on time.
Who was working behind the scenes?
Eric: One thing that made this adventure feasible was my buddy Kyle. He drove his own truck with his motorcycle and vintage boot collection in the back. He joined me part way for the scouting and as we bought bicycles and other random props he just chucked it into the back of his pickup. He ended up being our main guy model as well. The third truck was driven by our pal Mikko from Sweden [owner of Pancho And Lefty store]. Several locations had local coordinators helped us out… Russell in Bandera, Joe in Las Vegas, Susan in Joshua Tree and Greg in LA. Nicola who has been with us for many years and traveled with us all over the world did the hair & makeup.
Third stop, New Mexico.
Including initial scouting and planning, how long did the job take you?
Eric: The reverse scouting and the shoot was three weeks. But if you count my 6 weeks of planning the route, booking hotels, arranging airplane tickets for each expected stop both directions then it was more like 9 weeks. And then the 3 weeks of editing and retouching so it was 12 weeks of my time!!!???
Any classic ‘Kiro moments’ on set?
Eric: In Las Vegas Kyle and Veejay sat down at a slot machine for some photos and while we were shooting, Kiro was playing the machines. He won several hundred dollars in 15 minutes.
Favourite stop on the road?
Eric: I think the favorite shooting spot has to be the Longhorns at Cross T Ranch in Bandera, Texas… But we had a very brief pool party at lunch between locations in Las Vegas. It was one of the only times we actually got to hang out in the middle of the day in the sun. And there was one night in Gallup, New Mexico that basically we all opted to stay out all night at a dive bar rather than sleep. I think there was some dancing involved, Summer and I made a hand drawn tarot card deck on the back of lottery tickets. But driving or modeling after 3 hours of sleep is a pretty wretched reality the next morning.
Never say never in Nevada.
Eric: My fondest memory is also one of my worst. We were hauling ass for 600 miles to get to this little ghost town in New Mexico before sunset and for some reason there was this rampant tardiness the whole day. So we’re getting closer and closer and almost there I realize we’re just not gonna make it. I pull off onto this dirt road at the ghost town swearing and cursing. We caught just the last glimpse of the sunlight but the girls and my buddy Ken did a great job of just busting out some shots. Jumping around and laughing. Maybe we were there for all of 5 minutes. The remainder of that night sucked, but those 5 minutes were special.
Viva Los Vegas.
Eric: Well ya know theres a lot of fried food to be had on the road in the States. I made every effort humanly possible to find good unique local restaurants but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and eat french fries for ten meals in a row!!! My absolute favorite meal was the raw oysters at The Boat Bar & Grill in Kerreville, Texas. The bartender is this cowgirl that sings karaoke while making drinks. Really amazing place. But knowing that we were roughing it a bit, Kiro treated us to Nobu Sushi in Las Vegas. Twelve people at Nobu… the math is staggering. In Los Angeles we ate our final group meal at one of my all time favorite Thai restaurants Toi on Sunset.
Joshua Tree, California.
Give us a rundown of your gear set-up for the shoot (camera / non-camera gear)
Despite my immense love of “stuff” I’m kinda an anti-gear photographer. My main camera is a Canon 1Dx with just two or three lenses. I have some scrims and reflectors that I almost never use. I can look at the light and set my camera with out a meter so the one I have is usually in a drawer back home. My travel bags are Porta Brace and Patagonia Black Hole Duffels. My knees got damaged so I never shoot without a pair of genuine USMC combat knee pads. I almost always carry a SureFire flashlight and a Leatherman Wave multi-tool. My boots for the entire journey were vintage Red Wing Pecos. I have to say, part of what made the 6,000 miles tolerable was the rental truck, a brand new GMC Yukon XL. It was just phenomenal. The size, the power and comfort was more than I could have hoped for.
Final stop, Venice Beach, California.
Images from the Kapital AW17 catalogue, “Blue High Way”
Shot by Eric Kvatek
Hair and Makeup Nicola Corl
Styling by Kiro Hirata, assisted by Kohei Manabe
Models, Emmelie Sparkes, Danielle Surbaugh, Indira Cruz, Summer Brown, Brad Caulkins, Dan Collins, Johnny Cardenas, Ken Ito, Kyle Bitters, Leroy Singh, Vj Kesh.
Local production Greg Wooten, Joe Liuzzi, Russel Tiner, Susan Burnett.