Photo: Undercover Aoyama
As I’ve learned more about fashion, my personal tastes have gravitated towards many labels based in Japan. To me many Japanese brands appeal due to the quality of product, but also due to the unique perspectives that designers from there provide. Many Japanese labels have had little opportunity (or in some cases interest) in expanding past the island’s borders. An article published yesterday on the Business of Fashion explores the phenomenon of ‘madoguchi’ who are essentially the gatekeepers of business in Japan to the international market. As I post many Japanese lines here, I think this article helps explain some basic issues that are unique to the fashion business there.
The excerpt from the article below does a good job of summarizing the role of madoguchi in the fashion marketplace.
In Japanese business culture, the ‘madoguchi’ (literally, ‘window opening’) was traditionally someone who sat as the designated contact person funnelling all dialogue between two companies. Over time, it has also come to refer to a host of independent specialists who – to varying degrees – act as scout, market researcher, mediator, cultural ambassador, interpreter and deal broker between Japanese and international markets. As in most other sectors, they are usually bicultural and bilingual but ‘fashion hunters’, as they’re sometimes playfully cast in our industry, are an especially diverse, valuable and enigmatic bunch.
“There are so many Japanese brands at the moment. They come and go, so it may be difficult to understand what’s relevant and what’s not, if your ‘madoguchi’ isn’t based here in Tokyo,” says Hidetaka Furuya, chief editor of The Fashion Post, a rare online source of fashion and lifestyle news published both in English and Japanese.
Furuya himself has operated as a ‘madoguchi’ – or “Japanese ambassador” as he prefers to call it – for LN-CC, an East London concept store which has since become one of the few places outside Japan to buy cult labels like SASQUATCHfabrix, Blackmeans, Nonnative, Unused and Sunsea.
“The thing is, I sometimes get the impression that Tokyo streetwear brands are consciously trying to be less visible on the scene [while others ] are not as visible as they should be because they’re shy, anti-mainstream or too-cool-for-school,” he continues. “Their attitude kind of reminds me of this Japanese proverb that means ‘a skilled hawk hides its talons.’ They often say they’re just making what they want to wear, producing really well-made things in Japan. They present their collections when they are ready; not during the Japan Fashion Week period. However, all this makes it difficult for foreign buyers to visit Tokyo to buy good Japanese labels.”
Read the entire article by Robb Young on “The Gatekeepers Who Hold the Keys to Japanese Fashion
Image – Slate Magazine feature ’15 Things You Didn’t Know About Supreme’
Image – Print Supreme Ad, circa 1994
Those who know me, know that Supreme has long-been one of my favorite brands. The brand is one of the few that I’ve maintained interest in through the years. Since I bought my first Supreme t-shirt in 2005, I have witnessed the brand grow into a true global phenomenon. The popularity of Supreme is seemingly higher than it has ever been with an army of resellers, hypebeasts, Tyler fanboys, tastemakers, and the tasteless chomping at the bit to buy every last item off their digital and physical shelves.
Part of the appeal of Supreme has always been the ambiguous place they held within the fashion community. Supreme was a strange amalgamation of high fashion and your local skateshop. The brand frequently chooses collaborators from popular culture as well as the weirdo underground. Since it’s inception Supreme has always made reference to subversive cultural movements of the past and present and incorporated them into a line of men’s utilitarian basics.
In that way it is a brand that is both nostalgic and unapologetically modern; acutely self-aware and apathetically ‘cool’. The ultimate longevity of Supreme is that it has continued to just be without stopping to explain, define, or prove itself to anyone.
Today I came across the part one of an article entitled ‘Inside Supreme: Anatomy of a Global Streetwear Cult’ on the Business of Fashion. This article was written by Alex Hawgood and was first published by 032c.
A short excerpt below
‘There are so few examples of stories about Supreme that Jebbia finds successful, he treats the chosen pieces like scripture that he is eager to share. The holy writ includes an interview with Glenn O’Brien from Interview magazine from 2009, a 1995 article from Vogue comparing the persnickety shopping habits of the uppity uptown women who peruse the racks at Chanel’s boutique on East 57th Street and the baggy-pants, bed-head boys who wait in line for hours at a time to shop at Supreme in SoHo; and of course, the 300-page retrospective of the brand released by Rizzoli last year (of which Mr. O’Brien wrote the introduction, and in which the Vogue article was reproduced in full.)
The message is clear: Supreme is sacred, and it’s sacrilegious to get the story wrong.
“The fashion industry doesn’t understand Supreme,” says the stylist Andrew Richardson, who has helped facilitate several projects with the label, including a calendar with Larry Clark. “And that doesn’t bother James one bit. They want James out and about, paying for dinners and hosting parties. But he’s not. Fashion people want something that is uncomplicated and easy to digest – those are the opposite things James embraces. But really, at the end of the day, James doesn’t care. Why should he?”’
Read the entire piece online at BoF and lookout for an upcoming post of old Supreme magazine scans and ads from my personal archive.