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CIRCLE OF DAYZ vol.4 Setsumasa Kobayashi Part 2

In the second half of the "CIRCLE OF DAYZ" series, we take an in-depth look at some fascinating people who have strong ties to DAYZ. For vol.4, we talked with Setsumasa Kobayashi, brand director of <…RESEARCH>, about the past, present, and future.

I was just doing something stupid.

—— What are your thoughts and feelings on Tokyo?

When you're a kid, Tokyo is just the environment around you, right? But when you hear Tokyo as a word, it's like an intricate jigsaw puzzle with each piece feeling like a different but interwoven place. It's thick in some places, and thin in others. It's not the same as the isolated feeling that Asakusa had when I was a kid. The other day I went to Asakusa for the first time in a long time. Back in the day it was full of factories, but now there are none at all. When I didn’t even hear the sound of footsteps in the streets, I realized that it's a different era now. But when I am asked to talk about Tokyo, old Asakusa is what comes to my mind. I don't think I want to go back there, but when I look back on the past, something stirs in me, and I feel that I have to find something new again.

——It seems like this project was born out of the idea that it would be interesting to recreate a modern version of the past, rather than simply digging it up and reminiscing about it.

In response to the theme, "revisit your passions," I pulled out some old photo tees from the depths of my memory drawer. The motifs are all things that are normally found around us, such as gas stoves, vacuum cleaners, mattresses, and walls. When I think back to the time of making this work in 1998, I had to gather props, build a set at a studio in Ebisu, and hire professionals to shoot it. It was a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of time to make something that was just for a t-shirt. The photographer who worked so hard on this project was ABE Eichi, aka Abe-chan. It took a lot of hard work, so of course I have a lot of strong feelings and memories, but when I think back on it now, I was just doing something stupid (laughs). At the same time, I hope that the people of today can take a new look at the extreme way I put my focus on just one t-shirt. That's why, this time, everything from the tag to the familiar red ribbon, to the vacuum-packed packaging has been reprinted in its original form without any alterations. The handkerchiefs and magnet sheets, which were not part of the original lineup, are a byproduct of this reprint. I'm thankful for having been asked to work on such a wonderful project, and for being able to make it a reality.

As long as you keep going, things keep going.

——Please tell us about <…RESEARCH> and your future plans.

When I was trying to finish GENERAL RESEARCH and transition to <…RESEARCH>, which started with MOUNTAIN RESEARCH, I was thinking a lot about the rights that brands have. At GENERAL RESEARCH, we had already acquired the rights, or trademarks, but I wondered how we could get to the point where we didn't need to register our name or claim our rights, and what we could do to make that happen. MOUNTAIN for mountain living clothes, NAVAL for navy clothes, PRISONER SUIT for prisoner's clothes, RIDING EQUIPMENT for motorcycles, HUNTING JACKET for hunting, and so on. By the way, these are all the names I used in the early days, but since we were just researching what we wanted to explore, we decided to skip the registration of rights at this point and just call it <...RESEARCH> so that I don't have to deal with any form of rights registration at all. In other words, the <...> is left blank so that we can add any title we want. I didn't like the idea of being tied down by the rights to my name, and there was even a time when I thought I might even do it without a name (laughs).

When I started MOUNTAIN RESEARCH, the first thing I thought about was that it would be interesting to set a specific place behind the brand. I was really excited about the idea of clearly defining a location, and the fact that the location was a mountain in Japan was amazing to me (laughs). I thought it would be interesting to picture people like us, who like fashion and punk, amateurishly doing mountain work in funny clothes.After searching for a specific place for a few years starting in 2005, we found a place in the mountains of Nagano at an altitude of about 1,500 meters, far from the human habitation. The landscape there of Japanese cedar and birch looks like Scandinavia to me. It's a place where borderless scenery spreads out, like it's Japan but not really Japan; the ideal place. Since then, has been definitely set in Kawakami Village, Nagano Prefecture. The way of life there became the material for our stories -- the image in our minds when making clothes.That's how we started looking for the mountains, and it was just as interesting as when we launched and started making clothes. There were no teachers, which is one of the things that makes Jonio's group so interesting. There was no one to teach us how to do things like sharpen a chainsaw or chop firewood, so we just watched YouTube to figure out those kinds of things. 10 years have passed since then, and we have finally found the fun of not having a teacher. Since we were learning through trial and error, we would get injured more often, but in the end, it was more interesting that way. is a half-baked name, and we aimed for a half-baked line, but the real question is, how half-baked is it? They’re not clothes for climbing mountains, but we still say they’re mountain clothes! (laughs). In a world where the outdoor industry is defined by mountain-climbing clothes, I think the reason we were able to take such a bold stance was because the world we enjoyed was a little different from the world that had been presented to us so far.

In a way, it's the same as the story of how we built this store along the river. After more than ten years of making half-baked clothes for the mountains, I'm now involved in designing a campground, which will be completely different from a typical campground (laughs). That's just the way it turned out. I've opened a store, made clothes for the mountains, and designed a playground; I don't know if it's good or not, so I have to keep going. If it continues, that's great, and if it doesn't, then there's something wrong with it. The most important thing for me is to keep going even if I never make any money for the rest of my life. As long as you keep going, things keep going.

Interview & Text : Yu Yamaki
Photo : Yu Inohara