Can you introduce United Arrows?
Established in 1989, United Arrows (UA) is a multi-label store “from Japan”. However, nowadays in Japan, this is commonly referred to as a “select shop”. I think that it is the “originator” of select shop.
We are carrying various products from Japan and around the world as well as United Arrows' original brands. Based on the company’s philosophy, “Our shop is dedicated to customers”, we select brands - from nameless ones to famous ones - and the standard of selecting brands is a mix of "Products with quality that last for a long time" and "a brand that brings fresh air in our period".
As I mentioned before, United Arrows is the heart of the brand, but our panel of choices is pretty wide. There are many other divisions or brands: from luxury jewellery brands such as Chrome Hearts to more affordable brands such as Coen.
What are your selection criteria for a brand at United Arrows?
Firstly, I think that a brand needs craftsmanship of quality. Secondly, the prices need to be honest - the right price. And thirdly, a good design without falling in the "trendy luxury".
Of the 23 short-listed finalists of the LVMH Prize 2016, six designers are from Asia -including four from Japan and two from China. As a jurist of the LVMH prize 2016, what did you think of that?
This is extremely great. To be honest, we cannot say that there is no political bias against the current world’s economy and the new leading players in a luxury goods market from the organiser. However, I think it’s a great motivation and actions for the still remaining values of the “fashion” world.
The industry may still be embroiled in a deeper debate on the “broken” fashion system. Do you think the fashion system is broken?
Yes, I think so. It should be reformed.
Major European brands are integrating men's into women's fashion shows. What is your opinion on that?
I do not think all the brands should do [things] the same way, but it will save lot of time and money. Also it’s a great strategy for strengthening the high productivity of the structure and it will stimulate better consumption.
After the worldwide economic crisis in 2008, the Tôhoku earthquake and tsunami disaster of 2011, then in 2012 with “Abenomics [economic policies advocated by Shinzō Abe]”, the Japanese market took quite a beating in recent years. Did you see changes in our clients?
We Japanese originally had these ideas such as “mottainai [a sense of regret concerning waste]”, being "modest", or being "appropriate". It’s an alternative to the westernised mind of consumers in the 20th century.
Since the big earthquake and nuclear accident, Japanese people are becoming more "introspective". There is a change from "things" with value criteria to something valuable from the "heart". The resilient side of Japanese is showing up.
This month, the international menswear trade fair Pitti Uomo and menswear fashion weeks in London, Milan and Paris are presenting Spring-Summer 2017 collections. What are you looking forward to seeing?
I think that "Fashion always reflects its era"; it would be interesting if "Post Luxury", "Post Trend" or "Post Fashion" such as philosophy, ideas, sensitivity, [were] put into effect.
As a matter of fact, this year, in the selection of brands at the Pitti Uomo event, Raf Simons reflects Fashion as a "culture", Gosha Rubchinskiy reflects fashion as a "Reflection of the Street"; Vivism reflects fashion as "Craft-orientated products", and finally, Lucio Vanotti reflects fashion as a "Fusion on West & East culture". I found it interesting because we can see that the mostly considered and focused subjects had been put in effect in choosing brands.
Can you introduce us to a few menswear or womenswear brands that you like lately, and why?
I would say the London brand called "1205" created by Paula Gerbase. It’s simple but conceptual, modern but natural. The label was founded five years ago (in 2010) with the idea "Beyond Gender", blending gender lines in fashion.
On the womenswear side, the French brand, "Koché", founded by Christelle Kocher. Koché was a finalist in the LVMH Prize, two years ago and it’s a promising brand. The concept is quite amazing, it’s a crossover of high fashion, street culture and contemporary art.
On the menswear side, the brand called "biscuit head" was started last year by the former pattern-maker of Comme des Garcons homme plus, Daisuke Hashizume. [It consists of ] simple garments and accessories, but always underlying premises with a unique concept such as foldable, alterable in size, and ways of wearing.
In June 2013, UNITED ARROWS LTD opens its first overseas store in Taipei, Taiwan. How are things going for the first store outside of Japan?
At the start, the various differences between Japanese and Taipei customers - such as the climate, preferences, and habits of customers - were a big challenge for us. In the third year, sales and contents are growing. Also the feedback has been very good.
We really want to be proactive outside Japan, but after all, it’s not easy, so we will try to progress while learning and researching.
Do you plan to open United Arrows stores in China, maybe Hong Kong or Macau soon?
We don’t have any plans to open in Hong Kong or Macau, however we have desires. I feel it is necessary that we make success in Taipei to learn and study more from it.