In Conversation: Kaito Kubono
At Up There we’re always on the lookout for new brands, products and ideas which align with our values. Anyone who’s been following us for a while will know we love a good pair of slides to kick back in — comfort and practicality are huge factors in many of our style decisions!
When we started talking with Malibu about their sandals, something which stood out to us — in addition to their comfort and build quality — is their focus on ethical, considered approach to manufacturing. Comfortable, ethical and environmentally conscious — that's the ethos of Malibu Sandals. Each pair is hand-made with water friendly, PETA-Approved Vegan materials.
This approach made us think of the brand Twin Fin Adct Club — a creation of Kaito Kubono. Some of you might recognise Kaito as a member of the Up There team, he’s been with us for a little while now but he also runs Twin Fin Adct Club (TFAC) on the side. The brand itself is inspired by Kaito’s passion for surfing and love of fashion.
To launch Malibu in-store we teamed up with Kaito to create a look book, capsule collection and pop-up event in-store this coming Friday. TFAC’s focus on recycled and re-worked vintage garments inspired us to re-work deadstock Up There products with hand-embroidered detailing.
We also took a moment to sit down with Kaito and learn a little more about his journey and what brought him to start TFAC.
Join us at our 15 McKillop Street store from 4pm - 7pm to celebrate the launch of the Malibu range alongside a collaborative capsule from Twin Fin Adct Club.
UP THERE: Hey Kaito, thanks for taking some time to have a chat with us! Firstly, can you let us know a little about yourself — where you grew up and such?
I grew up in Chiba in Japan. My home is between surf beaches and Tokyo, so I was right between two very different cultures.
Surfing is quite a big deal in Japan, how did you first come across it?
My dad surfs, so he’s the one that first introduced me to it. One day I got bored when I went to the beach with him – I thought it would be cool to try myself and here we are now!
Was it surfing that brought you to Australia, or was it a happy coincidence that we also have amazing beaches?
It was just a happy coincidence!
There’s a psychological concept of ‘flow’ —a state of mind that occurs when a person is totally immersed in an activity. Is there a specific moment when you first felt that ‘flow state’ when you were surfing?
This very first time I surfed I felt it, I looked back at a wave, started paddling and I was hooked. No matter how good a session was, I always come away feeling amazing after a surf.
Can you find that same ‘flow’ in any other activities?
Yes, I think I find it in almost all the activities that I've done. Whether I’m skateboarding, snowboarding, running, breakdancing or playing soccer — I get that freedom of being fully immersed.
For those who might not know, what does the name itself “Twin Fin Adct Club” mean?
There’s no specific meaning, but is based on the fact that the ‘twin fin’ changed surfing for me.
In surfing there’s generally two different worlds: sport (competition) and art.
In the beginning I was in the sport mindset but when I first tried a board that wasn’t built for competition – one with two fins – it changed my entire perspective. I found how you can express your own style and chase a feeling of happiness in your own way. That state of flow we talked about, I found that meditative state riding a ‘twin fin’ board and it changed everything.
Since that shift, I’ve been learning so much in, and out of the water from my experiences surfing.
What inspired you to start Twin Fin Adct Club in the first place? Was there a moment where you thought “Yeah I want to make this”?
I wanted to combine my love for traditional fashion, city style perhaps with my love of surf style. I wanted to introduce people to the world which has been so helpful for me but also to bring it with a style which people might not expect.
I wasn’t sure urban and surf fashion could work on the same stage but I just figured that I should try and do it. Twin Fin Adct Club is my attempt to find a way of bringing the two worlds together.
How long did you go from thinking about TFAC to actually giving it a crack?
I think it was around a month. Once I have an idea, I can’t stop my mind from thinking about it constantly. I like to get working on things fast!
Your “TW” logo feels quite familiar — similar to the NY Mets’ iconic symbol. Are you a baseball fan as well?
I like the culture around baseball caps. They’re not just for people who are baseball fans — from NY to Tokyo and everywhere all-over the world different people have worn baseball caps in their own unique way. The way a baseball fan wears it is so different to how a rapper, skater or street fashion kids will wear it. They’re simple yet can be so unique depending on who’s wearing them.
I like that diversity and freedom from defined rules.
Baseball caps are also nostalgic for me — hip-hop is what got me into fashion initially and a baseball cap was an integral part of your outfit. I’ve been wearing caps for many years.
Recycling and repurposing seems to be a recurring theme with TFAC. You’ve done it before with football jerseys and we’ve done it together on some pieces in our collaboration. Can you speak to what that concept means to you?
Recycling and re-using is a concept at the core of TFAC. Surf can't exist without mother nature and so TFAC can’t exist if we don’t care for the environment. By reducing the raw materials and new produced items, we can be more conscientious of our impact on the planet.
It's very hard to be 100% ethical if you want to create something and live, but we shouldn't stop trying. We need to respect our Earth because there’s only one!
We recently filmed with you to launch Malibu at Up There — is there something specific about Malibu’s approach as a brand that resonates with you?
They respect nature and their product is for everyone — not only for surfers or fashion lovers. In that way Malibu wants to bring their message about caring for the planet and being more conscious in our consumption to the biggest audience they can.
Being genuine, warm and honest — that’s what I think it's important and I can feel that from Malibu.
Do you have anything specific planned for TFAC in 2023?
More recycled and hand-stitched products as well as some new products.
I also want to have more pop-ups so I can meet and chat with people who support TFAC. I love to talk with like-minded people and get to know how we can grow and improve.
I'm looking forward to meeting more people through TFAC so we can spread the love and joy!