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CIRCLE OF DAYZ vol.5 Nobuhiko Kitamura

In this fifth installment of the "Circle of Dayz" series, we take an in-depth look at some fascinating people who have strong ties to DAYZ. This time, we talked to Nobuhiko Kitamura of <HYSTERIC GLAMOUR> about the brand's early days and what is going through his mind these days.

——Please tell us how you got involved in the fashion world.

I wanted to have a job where I could work with music and musicians. I've loved music since junior high school, and even aspired to be a musician at one point, but there were many people around me who were good at playing instruments, so I fell behind surprisingly quickly and became more of a listener (laughs). I listened to everything I could find. I didn’t have much spending money, so I borrowed records from my friend's brother, and since new records were expensive, I went to used record stores. There wasn't much information back then, so I gathered what I could from a few music magazines, liner notes, and the radio. Eventually, I became interested in the graphic artists and photographers who designed the jackets, and I was able to learn about cultures other than music. I found myself going to used record stores and buying records by trying to imagine what it sounds like just from the cover design. It's called "buying just for the jacket" nowadays (laughs). Since I spent my junior and senior high school years like that, I inevitably chose the vocational school closest to Nishi-Shinjuku, the mecca of record mania at the time. I didn't even know what I wanted to study. I was confused when they gave me sewing tools after I entered the school (laughs). I went to that school for three years, and in my third year, a friend of mine who had graduated a year earlier got me a part-time job in design. I was able to make a good amount of money by taking in 10 to 20 records a week. I spent most of it on records. At the same time, another friend got me another part-time job at a show production company. It was a great experience to be able to work with the brand's designers for two to three seasons in a year, from meetings to the actual show. I was able to make connections with models and people in the industry. Outside of the show season, I also worked as an assistant to the stylist there and produced background music for the company's stores. I was also lucky enough to be able to buy records at the company's expense and select the music. When I was about to graduate, the company where I was working part-time as a designer approached me and said, "We're thinking of starting a new brand, would you be interested in coming in with us?" Apparently, some of the designs I had submitted for the part-time job had sold well, so I jumped at the chance to start a new brand.

——What did you think of the fashion industry at the time?

At that time, the Tokyo Collection was booming and young new designers were doing shows. There were some people with sharp sensibilities, but there were also a few people that I didn't really get what they were doing. Even as a part-time worker, I helped the new designers with their shows. They all aspired to the Paris Collection, and every season they put on a show with a different theme. A different worldview from the previous one. Back then, I couldn't understand how it was possible to construct a new, perfect worldview in less than half a year. I started to think that it would be good to have a brand that pursued more mundane things like music and subcultures.

——That's a completely different culture from musicians.

It was a time when street fashion wasn’t even a term yet. The concept of < HYSTERIC GLAMOUR > was born from the music culture I'd been into ever since junior high school and my part-time job experience as a technical student. A rock, vintage, and pop brand. The brand concept was based on a world view that didn't seem to exist until then. I thought it would be great if each of the items I designed could stand on its own, and years later, people of a different generation could find them in vintage clothing stores. When I was a student, I liked to go to thrift stores and find stuff like that rather than designer items. We started in June 1984 and had our first exhibition at the end of July. It was a flurry of activity (laughs). On the first day of the exhibition, the editor-in-chief of Olive magazine came to me and said, "We're leaving tomorrow for a photo shoot in Paris, can we borrow some samples?" I ended up lending him all my main items. So, from the second day of the exhibition, I lined up photos taken with a Polaroid camera in place of the clothes. The buyers who came from the provinces were very angry with me, saying things like "Are you kidding me?" (laughs) When the magazine was sent to me a month later, I was happy to see the main photo used in the front cover, and even the buyers who had been upset with me started to understand (laughs). From that day on, the sales phone kept ringing. I guess I just got lucky.

——What are some of the things you made back then that you still make today?

My main items haven't changed since then. Sometimes my taste changes depending on the type of music I'm listening to or the culture I'm interested in, but basically, it's still the same. Recently, there has been a retro 80's and 90's boom, so I've been reprinting patterns and items from back then. About five years ago, I heard that the younger generation overseas started to look for our vintage items, and now it's spreading, which makes me think that my wish from when I started the brand came true.

——Have you ever wanted to quit working on the brand after doing it for such a long time?

I started my brand when I was 21, and I was struggling for a long time, from about age 23 to 28. Some of my closest friends started moving to New York and London, and I was very jealous. I had always been fascinated by American and British culture. But I had already started my own brand. So, I hung out with foreigners who came to Tokyo. People my age who wanted to be designers or photographers. Some of them came as models to earn money, and at one time, there were about six of us living together. It was a great way to learn English and make connections with people overseas. One of them was Michael Kopelman of < GIMME FIVE >, who inspired me to start < HYSTERIC GLAMOUR UK > in the early 90's, and I was able to meet a lot of foreign artists who contributed to the Urahara culture at the same time. I was able to get to know a lot of bands like Primal Scream and Sonic Youth, too. I was working on my brand in Tokyo, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I stayed in Japan.

——How do you feel about Tokyo and the world today?

Nowadays, we live in a convenient age where we can connect with people all over the world through social media. On the other hand, I think that some things have been neglected. Music is mainly distributed, and photos are being shifted from print to data. There are a lot of good pieces that don’t survive as physical pieces. Just as we were rummaging around for things from the 60s and 70s in the 80s, and today's youth are digging for stuff from the 80s and 90s, there will surely come a time when the youth of 20 or 30 years from now will be searching for stuff from the current era. It's a waste of time if you only look at the data. The books and records I found back then were the best source of information for me, and I've been able to continue making things ever since.

——Is that why you wanted to work on this DAYZ project?

The brand will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in a few years, and since it started in 1984, there are customers who have supported the brand for two generations. We are one of the oldest brands in Tokyo. I've also thought a lot about the corona crisis over the past year and a half. Normally, I would go out every night, talk shop with my friends, and have fun. I haven’t been able to do the things I used to take for granted. I’ve been thinking about what I used to do in my twenties. After a friend that I had met in Tokyo before moved back to Japan, I took the time to write letters and make mixtapes to send to them, because there was no social media back then. We would customize the cassette tapes with stickers and colored markers. The situation now reminds me of those times. Collaboration is the mainstream of the fashion industry. You make an item, advertise it on social media, and sell it online. I wanted to do something a little different from that. I wanted to go back to the beginning. I've been customizing empty bottles that I've accumulated from drinking at home, and sending them out as junk art pieces with DMs to my friends. I'd make a small limited edition photo book and add a message. It's a silly piece of work, but I put a lot of love into it, thinking about the people who I would send it to (laughs). I named it the "Love Buzz Project". The collaboration wasn't so much with as it was with my own personal challenge. I had a lot of fun doing it. It was lucky that DAYZ offered to collaborate with me, and I was able to bring a year and a half's worth of ideas to fruition. Thanks, Bebetan!

Interview & Text : Yu Yamaki
Photo : Ryutaro Izaki