Daisuke Obana Interview
Japanese label N.HOOLYWOOD has been a central figure in Ura Harajuku for more than a decade now with designer Daisuke Obana's unique vision defined by his interest in vintage clothing. One element of Obana's philosophy that is really attractive is his ability to reference in each collection, and what better example is his fall/winter 2012 collection entitled "KAPITON", a homage to iconic Lost Generation author Ernest Hemmingway. Obana welcomed me in to his atelier to discuss the history of N. HOOLYWOOD while we also get a closer look at the collection thanks to notable photography Morimoto Katsuhide. With the relevance of N.HOOLYWOOD in today's society more real than ever, the impact of the label has gone beyond Japan onto a global scale and from talking to Obana, you expect there is much, much more to come.
James Oliver: Can you tell me about your upbringing and how it shaped your interest in fashion.
Daisuke Obana: Its becoming quite common that people start designing without having the objective to be a designer, so for me this seemed unusual. When I was younger I was a used clothing buyer so compared with people who studied design my perception is different. So when I first began N. Hoolywood I didn't have the intention to make it as big as it is now, when I started I was just doing what I wanted to do on a daily basis and the brand grew to what it is now. Eventually I wanted to show the collection overseas, I went to Paris for Men’s fashion market but when it came to decide I chose to show my collection in America, where I have great fondness and next we have done this four times now.
JO: What elements of American culture and fashion interest and excite you?
DO: Its very common that people who are interested in American culture and through culture they learn much more, but for me visiting America it was the little objects of normal day life that interest me and I see culture in it. I just went deeper and deeper into this combined with any daily life aspect of American culture began to inspire me. I was fortunate because my uncle lived in San Diego so I first went to America when I was 6 years old. I also used to get presents sent to me from America, so it was little things like the wrapping paper and packaging that was always around that interested me. I never wanted to be a resident in the States but want to be able to go when possible not to forget the feeling of visiting so I bought a house in North Hollywood.
JO: Can you explain the concept of N. Hoolywood and how the label has evolved since the beginning.
DO: The main concept of the label that hasn't changed over the past decade, N.Hoolywood is based on vintage American clothing. I have involved textiles, fabrics and detailing derived from these vintage garments. Because America is such a mixed culture, this is also evident in the clothing I design with such influences from European fashion or Asian fashion although it is through an American interpretation so the filter is also evident.
JO: What specific aspects from American culture do you try to intervine into the label?
DO: The point I try to transpire is not to interpret the bad side of American culture, just focus on the good aspects that really inspire me. From old to new, dislikes to likes, I look at America straight and not with a negative perception.
JO: Can you go into a bit of detail about the theme of the N. Hoolywood Fall/Winter 2012 Collection.
DO: I was asked to make something for an American brand MIGHTY-MAC which my friend bought a few years ago. When I was researching abou this brand, I found an article of a hypothesis that Hemmingway purchased MIGHTY-MAC product which Abercrombie and Fitch placed a special order. That led me to Hemmingway and I sublimated him by my own way for Fall/Winter 2012 collection.
JO: Why did you choose New York to show your collection? Not anywhere in Europe or somewhere else.
DO: I just really like New York! A few years ago, I have been to Paris Fashion Week but was not to fond of the atmosphere there.
To be honest, I don't see the point to show the collection all over the world because of we have social networking and the internet, so once you show the collection it gets seen all over the world. But I chose New York because I feel people there can relate to the brand and I have a good connection with the buyers and consumers there.
JO: What are your thoughts on the internet compared to printI?
DO: For me I think it is not a decision between both, it really depends on what you want to deliver. Something digital works between and sometimes print works better for imagery so I think it is important to have an open mind for both, when I work with someone I want to find the best solution whether it be online or in a magazine. I still really like the idea of a tangible product, the process of buying the magazine, opening the packaging and feeling the pages, but I think that has a lot to do with the era I am from. Although, if I want to search for something I won't go to a book store, I will check the internet and that is the reality and positive side of the internet as we know it so I like the balance the two. The internet is just tool.
JO: What direction do you see the brand going from the point you are now?
DO: I don't have a plan to continue showing my collection in ten years time, but it's clear for me that I some kind of style that I really like even if its in the 'in collection' line. Now I am thinking about showing my collection every year and I know what I like, for example minimal is key, I want each garment to be solid and less decorative. Now I am thinking about making small segments and going into niche markets, applying myself in a more focused manner and greater direction in each category.
The process of making a collection from thinking of a theme to applying this the clothing but the production team I have is so strong and each collection is so complete, so this is why I want to become more refined in each category.
There are two categories for expensive and cheap used clothing, but I actually first got interested in vintage clothing because I thought it was cheaper to make a complete look and could change the theme easily from day to day. But now with fast fashion, it is possible for people find a look at a cheap price now but for me vintage clothing I think you need to be more selective. This is why I hope my customers are more selective in my store and don't completely co-ordinate the brand.
JO: Where do you see N. Hoolwyood in 10 years time?
DO: For showing my collection, I don't want to change anything at all. Many editors and journalists comment on the collection line but if I show the collection and all the items are very standard there is a little interest, as to if it is conceptual and has a strong theme it is easier to get the right attention. An easy way to put it, it is harder to sell a collection line. The collection line is the core of N. Hoolywood, now I don't have the time but I want to try things that relate to the core of the brand even if it isn't fashion, more lifestyle based products. I am not planning on making the collection line any bigger, I want to make things that everyone within the company can enjoy and thrive from making.
JO: Finally, can you tell me the best thing about Tokyo?
DO: My house. Tenzo Kange, a famous architect designed my house and I think of it like an oasis within Tokyo.