Being near the creator. Vol. 5 Kamakura International FC Coach Kawauchi and his down coat

NEWS nanamica

Our clothes is something that is the closest to us. It acts as an intermediary between my “self” and “society,” it protects the body and soul, and at times speaks more about ourselves than words. What goes through the mind of creators in various fields when they choose their clothes?
We met with Coach Kazuma Kawauchi of the Kamakura International FC, a team that is active mainly in Kamakura, Kanagawa. We spoke to him about his work and also the nanamica long down coat.

We don’t really know much about the profession of a soccer team coach. Unless you’re a soccer fan, what comes to mind is probably the coach of the national team. You might also be able to come up with a few other coaches of local teams. But if asked what these coaches actually do in their daily work, we don’t really know. On days when there’s no match, what time do they wake up in the morning, where do they go, and what are they thinking about? It probably depends on the size and character of each team too. There’s a lot we don’t know about some professions in this world.

“You’re right. The profession of soccer team coach is kind of rare, or well, there is definitely only a few of us overall. In my case in particular, I am the coach that also does the branding for the team, so the way I work is pretty rare in the whole world. Roughly speaking, what I do is ‘make the team stronger’ and ‘enhance the brand power of the team.' I do everything that is necessary for these two objectives.”

Coach Kawauchi was born in 1992 and is currently 30 years old. To be so young and to have the title of coach and his career is indeed unique.

“I’ve been in a mentoring position in soccer since I was 21 years old, and when I was 24, I was the coach of a soccer team at university. After that, I travelled the world to countries where soccer was popular and stayed for 3 years in Argentina. I obtained the CONMEL PRO, which is the highest level coaching license of the South American Football Confederation. Currently, I am the coach of Kamakura International FC, and direct matches, plan the training, manage the team, and also do the creative direction for the team brand. Here, the Hato Stadium, is a place that we made. We got sponsors and investment, and we laid down the artificial turf ourselves.
Toshimaya, the maker of Hato sable cookies, joined the project as a naming rights partner.”

One experience that led Coach Kawauchi to his current position was the culture shock he felt during his stay in Argentina. Seeing firsthand how big the influence of soccer was on Argentinian society got him thinking about the issues of soccer in Japan. One of the things he realized was that “branding is of utmost importance when operating a football team.” This could be broken down into three components – visuals, philosophy, and function – and the brand won’t last if any one of these are missing. He has no hesitation to state that the visual appeal of a soccer team is especially important.

“For example, soccer team posters are typically full of information, and feature big photos of the players and match schedules and such, but this doesn’t show the feel of the club and its world. It doesn’t speak to anyone other than existing fans. It doesn’t fit in with the environment of the town. That’s why instead, we created posters that just shows our team logo or vision, which stands out but still looks good in the environment. We asked restaurants and shops that support us to put it up on their walls. Then if we take pictures of the posters at these places and post it on social media, it shows that the town is supporting us. We are still feeling our way forward, but I am always experimenting with ideas and feel we are making progress.”

The Kamakura International FC is indeed beloved by the people of the town. The owner of café “magali” where we are shooting is also a fan. Of course there is a team poster on the café wall, and the owner is wearing a team cap embroidered with “INTER.” We ask Coach Kawauchi whether the team is strong, and he replies that they aren’t. Is the coach himself allowed to say that the team isn’t strong?

“We are in our 5th year since the founding of the team and are in the 2nd division league of Kanagawa prefecture. In terms of being a strong team, we still have a long way to go. It is a long road to J1, the top league. I think we are a rare case to have so many supporters at this stage and to have so much value as a soccer club. This is sports so we cannot get away from the fact of winning and losing, but we don’t operate on short term thinking to just pay any highly skilled player to come play for us. We want to maintain the distinct character of our team and grow together with our local community that supports us. It takes time to create a team with a unique brand. I always try to uphold this way of thinking.”

The team slogan “CLUB WITHOUT BORDERS” means going beyond the borders of just a soccer team, going beyond the borders of nationality or ideology. It expresses the team’s wish to communicate the community’s culture and way of thinking to the broader outside world. Coach Kawauchi says that it is not just about soccer. It is about a sports team being a part of people’s broader daily lives, and to share a common philosophy. This is a culture that is still not very common in Japan.

The strength and ranking of a team is not everything. With the team philosophy at the core, to become a part of people’s lives. Nanamica is also a brand with a philosophy rooted in people’s lives, instead of just functional value. Coach Kawauchi said of the long down coat:

“With a neutral design and high functionality, I can wear it anywhere. Every detail is well thought out, and it shows respect for past design archives. I feel it is that kind of clothes. I am still pretty young for a coach, so I think about not looking too young when choosing clothes. This coat is down wear but it looks mature. The only person allowed to wear their own clothes on a soccer team is the coach, and for instance overseas, each coach has their own character and their own fashion style. The presence of the coach is a big element of a club’s branding. The clothing of nanamica is classic but functional, and really suits my personal style.”

Based in Kamakura, he reads, exercises, writes, and manages the team. The outerwear of nanamica really does suit the beach-side lifestyle of Coach Kawauchi. Lastly, we asked the coach about his plans for the future.

“Soccer, business, communication. There are specialists in each of these 3 fields comprising a soccer team. However, there isn’t a Japanese that is directing all of this as a whole. In recent times, I came to be certain that such a person is what the current soccer and sports world needs the most. In the near future, I would like to work with soccer at a layer above coach. But ultimately, I am most excited at the moment of victory. When we lose, my face looks down for some time.”

Taking charge of the direction of a ship with many people on board. To do so requires intelligence, philosophy, and excellent sensibilities. The way that Coach Kawauchi faces his work alone, upholding his unwavering philosophy and never giving up, has similarities with the independent attitude of the nanamica brand. Perhaps that is why the long down coat looks so good on him.

GORE-TEX Long Down Coat (SUBF277) $1,230.00 USD

Kazuma Kawauchi
Kamakura International FC / Head Coach / CBO

Photo: Taro Hirano