Presented by Japanese online magazine, Cluster, comes an interview with Scott Schuman of the popular style blog “The Sartorialist” and Hirofumi Kurino, Senior Adviser of Japanese retailer United Arrows. Luckily for us, there is an English version where Scott shares his views on the new United Arrows & Sons store in Tokyo as well as Japanese fashion and the whole Harajuku experience. Extracts from the interview can be found below.
This is your first time in Japan and how is Japan, like the town and everything?
Schuman: It’s very over whelming. You know the hard part of doing a blog is it’s so daily. Write every day, I’m taking pictures and putting pictures up. The first day I put pictures up, I took some pictures around here and someone left a comment, “Well you obviously don’t understand Japan. These are not pictures of us doing our best.” And I wanna say I’ve only been here for one day and it is very complicated, there are so many different types of style and it’s so overwhelming and it’s so big. How can you possible understand it in one day? I think it’s fascinating. Now I just have to figure out how to keep coming back. It’s like something like anywhere else I’ve been. And that’s good things and bad things about that.
Is there anything funny you found in Japan? Like Pocari Sweat (Note: Japanese famous drink) you mentioned in your blog, for example.
Schuman: Um… funny… well see, I mean that the Pocari Sweat thing, when I did that, it was it was totally a joke right, but many people didn’t understand the joke especially Europeans. I’m saying “Is it really made from real sweat or artificial sweat.” I mean it’s obvious that it’s a joke. But a lot of Europeans were like “Oh you know how can you as an American can talk about other people’s whatever.” So one thing you learn is that you have to be very careful about how you joke around. But um, anything funny… No, I just think its different. It’s just different. It’s fascinating here because the cultural references are so different from American cultural references, the concept of beauty is so different from American or European concept of beauty in just little things, you know. I was mentioning at last night dinner that a lot of girls here wear high heels, and very very short skirts.
And yet somehow in some place like in Italy, if they wear such short skirts and high heels, it would look very sexy. Somehow here they are able to do it to look cute. I don’t know what it is. For some reason they juts look cute than sexy. Although the girls are pretty and everything. Those things, its not really funny, its things you….you are trying to understand it. My pictures hopefully come out nicely, hopefully there is a sincerity because I’m really trying to understand it. I’m curious about them and I’m trying to understand what those differences are. That’s why I go to so many different places. So I can create compare and contrast between like Tokyo and Berlin. It’s a long answer I’m sorry.
What is the image you have for the people walking around in this area, fashion wise?
Schuman: I think there is a difference between perception of what Japanese street style is and what the reality is. There’s a difference between those. And I think the reason there is a difference is in the west, is because really the only pictures we see are bit crazy Harajuku, right.
And that’s usually because you know someone like me takes pictures here, I think it’s usually young person that is drawn crazy crazy and so that’s really the only pictures we see, whereas when I come here I would like to shoot more wide range, different kinds of people. So yesterday, I put a picture up of a gentleman with a blue cap and white… I didn’t realize he worked here, I didn’t know he worked here.
I shot just over here but I didn’t know him, you know, I just asked to take his picture, but I mean he’s part of harajuku, too but you never see pictures of these guys, and I think that is the reason my blog has separated itself from a lot of the other kind of blogs. I don’t always wanna shoot crazy, you know. I shoot a little bit of that, but I’m a regular guy and I’ve got a regular girlfriend, and I want shoot things that I relate to also so I think that helps widen the perception of what real Japanese style is. Its much more complex, much more diverse, than what we are in the west usually know.
By the way, you said little while ago that Japanese dress very well but don’t take too much care of hair…
Schuman: No, its not that I said don’t take too much care. I think they take a lot of care with their hair, its just not for me it doesn’t look great. For some of certain section group, their hair is big, crazy hair and stuff but that’s just my own life and my own taste and that’s why I say the cultural idea of beauty is so different. I can’t make it right or wrong. To me it doesn’t appeal but I don’t live that lifestyle. But it doesn’t appeal to me so it makes harder for me take a photograph. I might like the clothes but I you know. It’s trickier.
But I mean that’s a trend and the trend will change. I’m sure when I come back a year from now the hair will be totally different. The other point I want to make is that the concept of Japanese street style, you know a lot of people say on my blog “Oh japanese street style is great, anything goes and so unique, they do whatever they want they do so many things.” But after walking around here, I just don’t think that true. I think here in Japan they are totally open to any kind of reference, you know. The trend can be any kind of reference, western, astronaut, whatever. Sports. The references are totally open maybe more so that you have in the west or America. They are open to any kind of reference but once it’s agreed upon trend, everybody wears it. There is some individuality, but I also think its very very trend driven here. For example, a lot of the girls here wear those straw border hats, right? And if I see that once, I see that twenty times a day. So I think there is a real variety in kinds of styles, but once its been accepted, wow boom, you know. But because there are no girls in the west wearing straw border hats and stuff, it seems very different, it seems very individual. But its just it’s a trend here but not really anywhere else. The trend here is very unique to here.
Basement floor, how did you think about it?
Schuman: Oh great, very cool. You know I’ve wanted to come to Japan for a long time and I have a lot of offers, I really cant tell from who though. It was the right offer with right people, to come and see Japan and really have the right people to help me understand Japan. So Mr. Kurino came up with this idea, it was perfect. And when I first started shooting, I didn’t know who you are, I didn’t know who Poggy was, I was shooting these guys individually but I didn’t realize. It wasn’t until later I realize all these different guys I’ve been shooting all worked for the same company. Because the conversation is so difficult, you speak English very well but Poggy he speaks little. And usually interaction is very short. So it just seemed so natural to come here with United Arrows. And someone like Poggy, he really has a very unique style and I really really like it. I mean its not like he looks like a movie star, its not like he’s a handsome guy, he is a handsome guy but its not like a movie star, but I think he looks so cool, and that’s what I respect.
How did you think about the interior used in the store?
Schuman: I loved it. One section with the DJ booth, it reminded of me my older brother, what his room looked like when I was growing up, music and all these kind of stuff you know. I think it seems like kind of a place you wanna go, you wanna be a part of that life style, its aspirational. You go in and think “Wooo cooool!” You know it’s a place like Collette. There are certain stores that you go in and “Wow I wanna live this lifestyle.” So part of the greatness is its potential of expanding and adding his take on magazines and his take on books or whatever, I think the hardest thing to be able to do is to communicate your vision to other people and make them want that.
What do you expect from United Arrows?
Schuman: For products or for me? Just in general? I don’t know, I mean when you are inspired by someone, you don’t want to think too much, you just want them let surprise you, that’s better. I would rather like, one of my favorite fashion show that I always go to is Marc Jacobs. Because whether you like it or not, you know, you can’t tryi to say “Oh I really like to see Marc Jacobs do this” because just about the time you think he’s going here, he goes way over there. And something so unexpected but so great, you know. People that you really respect their work, you don’t try think what they are gonna do, you just let them surprise you. So team like United Arrows it’s a very special environment in a sense that they let their people do something creative, so for me, I just get sit back and enjoy. I’m sure when I come back next time they probably have some new things that you can go wow, its not necessariry product, a lot of times I think its understand the experience, you know the experience of shopping. Lot of people don’t understand that. I mean look at this room, you know, the people are gonna come up here and have something beautifully made, they wanna do it in a beautiful space. You got beautiful light, you got beautiful lay-out, and at downstairs its cool, young, little dark, little like you are hanging out with your older brother and his friend. I think they understand very well the experience of shopping. So that’s I probably look forward to seeing what these new ideas are.
Can we have a word for the fans of your blog in Japan?
Schuman: Just keep what you are doing. It’s a place I wanna come back now, trying to understand the great spirit they have here. I think it’s a very interesting thing here is it’s very society driven and it seems everybody here wants to do for the greater good for Japan and Tokyo and people are really allowed to be really individual and celebrate the individuals. I would say continue to celebrate your individuality.
But don’t trick yourself in the thinking just because I’m wearing something crazy over here, you really have to look at…I mean, like the girls with the straw border hat, I’m sure they are feeling something individual, but they are really not, they are dressing like other people. Same thing in London, the perception of Japanese street style is very very very high. Perception of themselves is higher than what you really see, what you really get. Here Japanese is very high but you gotta keep working on it and maybe not everybody follow same couple of trends. But I think its great, they really play with all the elements of design, color pattern, texture, genre, the way they mix like snowboarding and cowboy, something crazy like that. I love how they come up with crazy ideas and combinations, it think its really cool.