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In 1976 Marmot introduced the first ever Gore-Tex sleeping bag, and the brand has been a staple among outdoor enthusiasts since. Though the company's history precedes even that innovation—in 1971 two UC Santa Cruz students named Eric Reynolds and David Huntley founded the Marmot Club for intrepid students who were more interested in climbing mountains than sitting through lectures. That same spirit spurred them to start Marmot Mountain Works, and to make products using novel materials and tech (like Gore-Tex). Fast forward to present day, and Marmot is taking another unconventional risk with the launch of Marmot Capital, a sub-brand under the creative direction of Kikuno Kiki that merges archive-inspired aesthetics with modern, urban-tinged style.
The debut, Japan-only collection from Marmot Capital is made up of outerwear essentials including puffer vests, fleece jackets, pullovers, technical pants, shell jackets, and headwear. Old classics like the Mammoth Parka, originally released in 1982, make a return with updated fits. The entire line is rooted in Marmot's heritage but remains dedicated to newness; cropped shell jackets and technical pants have looser, baggier silhouettes that are less common in technical outdoor gear but right at home in modern gorpcore.
"Kikuno Kiki's designs embody the vision of 'new vintage,' reimagining past aesthetics for the modern consumer."
The old-meets-cutting-edge approach is one of Kikuno's primary concerns. "Marmot Capital has the perfect balance," she tells Field Mag. "Or I’m at least trying to create that." It's also a direct result of Kikuno's own history, which traces back to her teenage years when she devoured vintage and contemporary fashion magazines, which set the tone for the creative work to come later in life. Her love of archives and a tactile approach to design research would later serve her well in reimagining Marmot for a contemporary, style-conscious crowd.
Well before signing on to usher in this new line for Marmot, Kikuno got her start in the design world with graphic tees and sweats, eventually studying design in Japan, San Francisco, and London. In 2015, after returning to Japan, Kikuno launched her own label, PURPLE THINGS. The brand was inspired by street, skate, and hip-hop culture, all influences that have carried forward into her most recent creations. The launch and subsequent success of PURPLE THINGS marked a pivotal moment for Kikuno, where she fully embraced her identity as a designer.
"Marmot Capital is an opportunity to blend past and present into a fresh, elevated narrative that challenges preconceived notions about the outdoor gear maker's identity and audience."
For Kikuno, Marmot's rich, 50-year legacy serves as a treasure trove to fuel her creativity. "At first it was a little overwhelming for me to direct a brand with a long history," Kikuno says. Marmot's archives span decades of silhouettes and styles, and provide critical references to draw from while exploring new directions.
In some form, her new role at Marmot is a return to her roots exploring vintage magazines and channeling heritage looks, and her designs embody the vision of "new vintage," reimagining past aesthetics for the modern consumer. Marmot Capital is by no means a blank slate; instead, it's an opportunity to blend past and present into a fresh, elevated narrative that challenges preconceived notions about the outdoor gear maker's identity and audience.
In a world where more people are embracing the outdoors than ever before and the gorpcore trend continues on with full momentum, Marmot's attempt to reach beyond hardcore outdoor enthusiasts to engage fashion and streetwear consumers might seem long-anticipated and even a little late—if not for the careful attention Kikuno has applied to it. The awaited and welcome result: a collection of products that achieve fashion and function; that are playful, yet perform; that build on heritage while exploring new horizons.
Although there are currently no plans for a U.S. launch, Kikuno hints at more to come from Marmot Capital, including potential collaborations that will offer global fans something to eagerly await.
The A/W 23 Collection is available as of 22 September 2023 at United Arrows in Japan.