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CIRCLE OF DAYZ vol.3 Yosuke Aizawa

In the third installment of the Circle of DAYZ series, we take an in-depth look at some fascinating people who have strong ties to DAYZ. We spoke with AIZAWA Yosuke, brand director of White Mountaineering, and he talked about Tokyo and making clothes.

Logical manufacturing that does not rely on the senses

——Now that DAYZ has started doing business with White Mountaineering, I was wondering if you could tell us more about the brand and yourself.

The White Mountaineering brand was launched in 2006 and is now in its 15th year. I used to work for COMME des GARÇONS, which was more in the fashion world, but my original hobby was the outdoors, and ever since I was a child, I really liked camping and fishing. That's why I started this brand, thinking that I wanted to create something new by combining my past experiences with what I’m into now.

——When you started White Mountaineering, what was the first thing you made?

The first thing I made was GORE-TEX fabric, which probably isn’t even possible to do now. I knew the person in charge at my previous job, and even though I didn't have a brand, style, or financing, I asked him to make me a wool/tweed GORE-TEX fabric knowing that "I can't start a brand without it”. In 2006, the world of fashion was dominated by Hedi Slimane, Tom Ford, and sexy male rockstars. However, from our point of view, it was also the time when people our age, the next generation, came out with many different Ura-Harajuku brands.

——Mennon, Boon, Cool Trance, and many other street brands were appearing in magazines.

I think that most of the brands were launched with the idea of the shared culture of the so-called “same generation”. It's a concept based on a mood or a feeling. However, I like to think logically, so the concept of "isn’t this really nice for everyone?” is still taboo in my mind. I think it's unique to create something that can't be explained to others.

——Fashion is usually talked about on an emotional level. How did you go about designing logically?

It's very much derived from what I wanted to create. I was an art student, and unlike art styles like Jackson Pollock where things are expressed in the abstract, I was more suited to lines drawn with a ruler. I like to know exactly how a process is going to work when I do it, just like when I’m cooking, I like to understand how much seasoning I put into a dish, how much I need to make it taste good. I think that thinking logically is both good and bad for me; at times both an advantage and a disadvantage.

——There are some jobs that can only be done by people like you, like the one not long ago when you designed the amazing new uniform for Kuroneko Yamato.

Of course, a big job like that is a competition, but when I heard about it, I knew I definitely wanted to do it. What makes me really happy is that I passed three people on my way from Meguro, where I live, to Daikanyama today who were wearing my designs. It's not every day that you meet someone wearing your clothes three times in 15 minutes, but it happened in Hokkaido and Okinawa as well.

——You mentioned that you thought about how to fit in with the environmental design of the city.

The message of Kuroneko Yamato is one that blends in with everything without feeling out of place. It is not a particularly strong design, but the message is there, and we need to make it fit into the city and make it stand out as an environmentalist design. This is what I presented to them. The greenery was the main focus, but every part has a meaning.

——Indeed, come to think of it, the previous uniforms were beige.

Most work clothes are beige. The same kind of atmosphere would not be appropriate as an icon for Yamato Transport, a large company with tens of thousands of employees. In terms of actual function, that color would make stains more apparent. I wanted to look into the disadvantages of green, and also find out which companies around the world use green in their icons, like Starbucks, Sprite, and so on. I made a color chart of what colors are used around the world, and gave a presentation.

——That is totally logical.

If you are talking to people of the same generation, people who like the same culture and fashion, you can have a conversation in a certain relaxed and understanding atmosphere. We have a common language. But when you’re talking to the executives at Yamato Transport, the people who actually work there, and the people at the advertising agency, they won't understand unless you explain it rationally. You can't just say, "nah, these kinds of stripes are kinda cool, right?” It's not going to work at all. It's the same for me. I happened to have worked for a transportation company, so I understood the feelings and motivations of the people I was working for. But since I wasn't actually working at Kuroneko, I wanted to take their opinions seriously and understand their concerns. So, I think I was able to embody the logical thinking that I have always tried to be conscious of.

Shibuya is a town where people of all generations can engage in friendly competition

——“Tokyo” and “culture” are the keywords for DAYZ. I feel that the inclusion of will change the way we see DAYZ, and I'm looking forward to it.

In terms of the Tokyo Street scene, I'm not really good at making friends (laughs). I've always been the type of person who can go a week without seeing anyone (laughs). I'm 43 years old now, but I was a huge B-boy in 1995 and the early days of hip-hop (in Japan). There was only one row of Japanese hip-hop at Tower Records in Ikebukuro. Muro-san was running a store called Still Diggin’ in Udagawacho, and I used to go there when I was in high school. I bought my first GORE-TEX jacket there. That’s why all these years later I asked Muro-san to write a song for the White Mountaineering collection.

——So you two had that kind of a connection.

Yeah, actually. The reason why we don't have an obvious cultural flavor as a brand is because I'm not really good at that kind of thing. As a fashion and culture leader, there are a lot of really cool people out there, but I feel like I'm different in some way. I wanted to get into making things, so I went to art school. I wanted to be a contemporary artist, so I drew pictures and made three-dimensional works. I didn't make clothes yet, but this was when I started making things. My university was in the mountains of Hachioji, so if you were to ask me to describe the Tokyo Street culture of that time, I would say that my knowledge ends once I got through third year of high school (laughs).

——So, how does Shibuya look to you now?

I do a lot of work overseas, in London, Paris, Milan, New York, and before the corona crisis, I often have to go somewhere once a month. Compared to other cities around the world, the most interesting thing about Tokyo is its pace. Shibuya has been a cultural icon for me since I was in high school. But it has become something completely different. My daughter is in the second year of junior high school now. She goes into anime stores and hangs out at cafés, which was definitely not the case when we were in junior high school. Seeing this, I realize that Tokyo has the greatest potential in the world for young people to create a new culture. Whether it's cool or not depends on each individual, though. After all, when a city changes, it means creating a new cycle. Even if you don't follow the game plan of the previous generation, I think the possibilities for expression increase as the city and the people change.

——If you think about it, you can say that this is an era of opportunities for young people.

I think it's interesting how many different things can be created by the combination of the city, the time period, and the generation in Tokyo. In the end, if things don't change, there will be no room for new things to be born. Of course, if something is not good, it will be weeded out; the same goes for our generation. In fact, there are people of my generation who have quit the clothing business. If we become conservative, we may not be able to withstand new waves. In that sense, I think this is a town where young people and our generation can engage in friendly competition.

——Last but not least, I would like to have you collaborate on T-shirts at DAYZ with the aim of you bringing out more of the brand’s features.

I am working on a prototype, and I am thinking of making a series of leather products. And you can look forward to some outdoor goods. We want to get the younger generation to appreciate our products by putting them at DAYZ. It's not that we want to pander to them, but we have to challenge the younger generation so that they will choose our products and come to respect the way we think. In that sense, Shibuya is not the kind of town where you can say, "Let's only think about things within our generation”.

Interview : Yu Yamaki
Text & Edit : Shu Nissen
Photo : Ryutaro Izaki