Emerging in recent times, Porter Classic has been a little known entity within the whole Yoshida empire which has predomiantely been known for its bags. In this rare interview, Edwin Himself speaks with Porter Classic’s director, Leo Yoshida. Some of our favorite answers are seen below as we anticipate more big moves out of Yoshida in the near future.
Can you tell us about the beginning of Porter Classic and the roles that you and your father play within the label?
It started out of necessity. Few years back, Katsu had to go through cancer operation, treatment, leave of absence from the old company (eventually resignation) but after a while he was like “I need to create again.” So my job was to create an environment for him, where he could create luggage, clothes, jewelries, etc. without unnecessary stress. I’m more like the Scottie Pippen type, trying to score and defend and steal and pass the ball to Katsu’s Michael Jordan, the game winner. We design and direct the lines together, from the Kendo fabric series, or the Palaka series, or the Hickory series but we get tremendous help from the “shokunins,” the artisans, in each genre.
You’ve mentioned that it took almost two years to find the right resources needed to develop the Porter Classic collection. What were some of the hurdles that you guys faced during these years?
It’s all about finding the right people. You can have all the budget in the world, but without the right team, it’s impossible to create a great collection. Our first obstacle was finding the best fabric. The company that sells kendo fabric specializes solely with the sport of kendo, so for us, an apparel company, to approach them was not easy. Then once we overcame that obstacle, it was finding the right factory to produce the indigo, as well as the tailoring. The fabric is not an easy material to deal with. Nobody’s ever done a Chinese jacket from a kendo facric, so it was lot of trial and error in the beginning.
Just over a year ago, Porter Classic opened its doors in Ginza. What were some of the other locations that were considered? What was it about this neighborhood that finalized your plans to set fort in Ginza?
Actually Ginza was the only place we looked… It’s the best place in Tokyo no doubt. Movie theaters, best restaurants, great bars, cool camera shops, five star hotels, it’s all in Ginza. Aoyama, Harajuku, Nakameguro, tis all great but Ginza is THE center of Tokyo. Miyuki Street (where PC shop is located) was one of the first fashion districts in Tokyo back in the 60’s. Katsu was definitely influenced by that environment back in the day, and he always had a soft spot for this neighborhood…So when we found out there was a space available, we moved fast. The space, is located under a railroad track, in an arcade called The International Arcade. You literally hear trains passing above the shop. It’s awesome…
When most brands open a shop in skyscraper buildings, we went the opposite way… a beat down narrow arcade… Also, there are lot of foreign brand shops located in Ginza, and we being a made-in-Japan brand, there’s definitely a “we have to stand up against the wave” kind of attitude…
So far, I only know of two places in Japan to acquire your goods. Are there any immediate plans for international markets in the West to obtain some of your pieces? What should we be expecting to see from Porter Classic in the near future?
We are launching a new luggage brand next year, aimed precisely for the international market. The show is in January, so products will be in stores around March. Komu Yoshida is the main designer for this project, the same designer who created the Porter HEAT series which is the second most popular line after TANKER series. He also resigned the Yoshida company recently and joined Porter Classic.