Proper Interview: Carrie Hasegawa, Battenwear

As the perfect round off to the week, we present you with another catch up with one of our very talented mates. This time around it’s Carrie from Battenwear who appears to be coming to terms with the fact that living with a hoarder is actually a really great thing. Which is something that the team at Proper fully endorse and would encourage our respective partners to take on board Carrie’s incredibly insightful words below.

Hi Carrie, so how has lockdown been so far for you and the family? 

Surreal. What’s happening now, at least in America, feels like this weird, slow, angst-ridden unfolding of society. It’s fascinating and horrifying and too real.

Fortunately, I think our family is well suited to this kind of Wild West situation. We live in a tiny house on a big piece of land at the base of Topanga Canyon in California. The kids dug a network of dirt tunnels in our yard as soon as the schools shut down began, and are generally really great at creating projects for themselves. Our eldest has gotten super into tools, which has been semi-disastrous for all the furniture with screws and hinges in the house, but it keeps him occupied for hours. Shinya and I have our own daily “dirt tunnels.” We’ve been sorting through old inventory, making improvements to the house and studio, gardening and cleaning and reorganizing.

Figuring out how to get work done during this has been stressful. One good thing is that people get it when you say, “I have not had a moment to respond until now.” They know what you mean and that anything can happen when you mix children with adult responsibility. We are all in the same twilight zone.

Which items have proved invaluable to you whilst in isolation?

Having always been someone who moved around a lot, I try not to have a lot of stuff. I have gotten good at sparse living. So, it was a sick joke that I fell in love with a man who is, in essence, a very neat hoarder. He can’t throw anything away. He is very organized about it, but the amount of stuff he has is mind blowing to me. 

During this lockdown, I have begrudgingly started to appreciate Shinya’s enormous treasure chest. If we need something, he usually has it, somewhere—a box in our storage unit, some random bottom of a container in our garage, on a shelf at the studio. And he knows almost exactly where everything is. Even if we don’t actually need most of this stuff, I’m more welcoming of his multitudes nowadays.

Who else’s kids get to eat their daily vitamins off of Post O’alls saucers,drink their cold drinks out of a SnowPeak sake set, and sip their tea out of vintage McDonalds Fire King mugs (and Proper Mugs as always)? And the amount of clothing and rare books and magazines! And bags and hats and camping and climbing gear. So, the short answer is that my husband is the item that has proved invaluable. Infuriatingly invaluable.

How has Shinya been coping with it all?

He’s fine. He’s stressed out, but he’s surfing and hiking and playing with our kids. And he’s designing interesting things.

What effect has it had on the day to day running of Battenwear?

I have always felt like we were doing too much with too few people, and now it’s just Shinya and me on the Battenwear team. So, it’s been a next level of workload. But we’re doing surprisingly well. We work with awesome factories and vendors who were shut down for a long time but are now back up and running, at least for now . . . We have great customers, both stores and individuals, and it’s been good that everyone is staying in touch and sharing their stories.

We’ve started renovating our small design studio in the middle of Topanga Canyon, about a 15 minute drive from our house. Even before the pandemic, it was a place where social distancing was easy to achieve, so it feels safe and lets us continue our work. It will be awhile before we can get back to having a base in New York City, which has been heartbreaking.

Where’s the first place you guys are going to go once travel restrictions have been lifted?

Besides NY? Japan, probably. I’d like to go for a couple of months at least and spend time in the countryside just taking it slow, eating great food, seeing friends.

We also have a friend who just moved from LA to Margate in the UK, and we have an open invitation to visit (once travelers from the US are not considered plague carriers). We’ll come say hi to you folks at Proper once we hit the ground in the UK. That will be a long overdue visit.

As well as the pandemic we’ve also seen some horrendous events that have brought the BLM movement to the fore. It really feels like the world has been turned upside down at the moment and nowhere more so than in the US, how does it feel to be an American citizen at this moment in time?

America is such a weird, wonderful, horrifying, exciting, surprising place. It’s the kind of place that allowed systemic racism and oppression to take a really deep root while, at the same time, claiming equality and opportunity for all. It’s the kind of place where people will see extreme injustice and choose instead to focus on their own independence and personal needs (the ridiculousness of shouting “all lives matter” in response to “black lives matter” is akin to the ridiculousness of refusing to wear a mask in public in the age of covid). It’s a country that prides itself on the core value of “freedom,” without recognizing the limits of that freedom for huge swaths of its population, or the folly of using the excuse of freedom to justify racist and otherwise selfish activities.

That being said, America is also the place where people are currently risking their lives to stand up against racism and inequality. America is home to amazing activists and artists and thinkers, most of whom would not have had the opportunity to become who they are without America being what it is.

To me, being an American citizen right now feels complicated. I am so disappointed by so much of what’s happening in the States right now and what has been a huge part of the States’ history on racial equality. But I’m hopeful as well. I think an important change is underway. Americans are good at revolutions, one way or the other.

What kind of stuff can we expect to see coming from Battenwear in future collections?

In a nice turn of events, it seems that Battenwear is the perfect uniform for the current state of semi-apocalypse. We make well-constructed gear that is durable and comfortable, all without looking shlubby. You can hike in it or wear it to the beach or while backyard camping or neighborhood exploring, and still feel stylish. It has great pockets for all your new daily gear like hand sanitizers and masks. And once you are done with a long day and need to zone out, you can  wear it to flop down on the couch because it’s comfortable and has gussets where it needs to and waist adjusters and extra panels, etc.

We’ll keep doing what we’ve always done well: making things you don’t want to stop wearing.

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