Mastermind Japan – Masaaki Homma on TIMES magazine

Recently Massaki Homma got interviewed by TIMES magazine and here i have uploaded the whole interview here and i think really worth reading, it actually meant something no matter you in fashion or art or nothing, it just worth reading it.

If given a thousand dollars, a young Japanese consumer wouldn’t spend it on a big, brand-name item. They would go for quality stuff with no logo,” says Masaaki Homma, 37, the designer of Mastermind Japan, a pioneer of what’s known in Tokyo as “street luxury,” a combination of street fashion and traditional Japanese craftsmanship.

“Young connoisseurs are not swayed by prevailing media trends,” he says. “They evaluate goods rather coolly.” Indeed, Homma is part of a growing population of young Japanese designers and consumers who value luxury over look-at-me logos.

“There will always be people who love a logo,” says Jason Lee Coates, a Tokyo-based “cool” hunter and sales and marketing director of H3O, a fashion-p.r. company. “Except now people are starting to learn that luxury and status don’t always need a big flashy symbol.” Appealing to this younger generation, local lines such as Heddie Lovu denim and Kenji Ikeda bags are looking to European brands like Bottega Veneta and Herm�s as examples of luxury houses that shun logos.

Homma launched Mastermind Japan in 1997 with a collection featuring skull motifs—a signature that became popular among Tokyo’s street-fashion tribes. But it was the extraordinary caliber of the fabrics used in Homma’s meticulously constructed designs that ultimately caught the eye of fans like Karl Lagerfeld. Researching state-of-the-art techniques, Homma has developed distinctive materials such as laser-printed leather and waterproof silk (which is traditionally used for kimonos).

“Homma has a great eye. He recognizes the finest quality,” says Masanori Nishikawa, a knitwear-factory owner and artisan who teaches at Tokyo’s prestigious Bunka Fashion College. “He has the guts to try something challenging. So if I propose new techniques, he identifies with them immediately and adopts them.”

Although Homma now shows his collection in Paris and his clothes are sold at 35 local and 20 overseas shops, he didn’t always find it easy to get his message across. When he started out, local buyers and journalists dismissed him as an unknown. It wasn’t until Homma showed his collection in Paris in 2001 that he began to attract the attention of several buyers. “It was in the midst of a Uniqlo boom in Japan, when people were wondering how to look cool in Uniqlo’s $8 pieces,” recalls Homma. “My stuff was already said to be expensive, so I decided to improve on it and go all the way to make really high-quality clothes.” In 2002 a buyer from Maxfield in Los Angeles took note and ordered 20 pieces, including a $2,000 skull-patterned hand-knit cashmere sweater. Celebrities like Tom Cruise and Justin Timberlake began wearing Mastermind Japan, and sales of Homma’s clothes took off.

When people were all going in the direction thinking that it would be O.K. to make low-priced clothes at a mediocre level, I just went in the opposite way,” explains Homma. He was reacting to Japan’s shrinking artisanal market and to the exodus of its production facilities to China. Not only were factories closing, but the high-volume plants that remained in business were filled with foreigners, as if they were outposts of Chinese factories.

“They will all go home eventually,” says Homma. “The time will come when we won’t be able to make fine clothes anymore because only the high-volume plants will survive. Fine artisans will all be forced out of business.”

Like Homma, Sachiyo Ikemoto, 33, the designer behind Japanese denim brand Heddie Lovu, cherishes Japanese artisanal work. “I wanted a good-looking pair of jeans that I could wear for decades,” she says. “Like a denim version of an Herm�s Birkin bag. But I couldn’t find them, so I had to make them myself.”

To create the jeans without compromising on color, shape or texture, Ikemoto spent a year living in Japan’s denim mecca, Okayama Prefecture, working with local craftsmen to develop everything from the thread to the design. Today Heddie Lovu jeans are among the best-selling premium jeans at Tokyo’s prime shopping complex Omotesando Hills.

To me, brands are all about individuality now. Logos are not important,” says Kenji Ikeda, 33, a handbag designer who once worked at Givenchy and has started his own no-logo label. When Ikeda launched his brand in 2003, the first thing he did was hire two full-time craftsmen. “If I got a high-caliber staff to create high-quality products, I believed that it would yield results,” recalls Ikeda, whose concept proved to be right. In 2006, sales of his handbags increased 170% over the previous year.

“People are learning, and the market is maturing,” says Kiyoshi Takimoto, a co-designer, with Kazuhiro Kushida, of Coffy, a new Japanese leather-accessories brand that is popular among twentysomething women. “Luxury brands without quality are going nowhere and are only ephemeral.”

For his part, Coates says he applauds consumers who seek more exceptional forms of luxury, which, according to him, owe their existence to a global respect for the skills needed to create luxury goods. In the same spirit, Mastermind Japan’s Homma says he always credits the people involved in his creative process, from textile workers to patternmakers. “I’m always moved by their know-how,” he says. “That’s what propels me to design. There are still so many fine processing technologies buried in Japan that can surprise the world. My job is just to introduce the technology and beauty of ‘made in Japan’ to the world.”

One Response to “Mastermind Japan – Masaaki Homma on TIMES magazine”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: