Before the explosion in outdoor and workwear-based fashion, Japanese brand nanamica had quietly plied its trade maintaining a focused approach to re-living the aesthetics of the past. While much of the design language of nanamica is rooted in the past, the brand has done remarkably to create a contemporary spin on their products. Incorporating top-notch technical fabrics, the brand has always offered a fascinating line that truly embodies the notion of performance meets aesthetics. In this feature, we spoke with Eiichiro Homma, nanamica’s Managing Director as we gain some further insight into the respected label and retailer.
Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: Saki Tagami
Interview with Eiichiro Homma (Managing Director)
What’s the history behind nanamica? Was it originally a brand or a retailer?
We have launched our company in 2003. At the beginning, we helped produce and oversee some brands including THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL which we distributed to fashion stores throughout Japan. However, even at the start, we had a plan to open our own flagship store and launch the nanamica label.
How did your relation with THE NORTH FACE develop? Was THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL something developed by nanamica?
THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL was created and produced by nanamica. It originated through a license acquired through GOLDWIN INC. which holds rights to THE NORTH FACE in Japan and South Korea. Prior to helping launch nanamica, I had been working at GOLDWIN for over 18 years. Through my time there, I was in charge of everything from design and product development to the promotions of their outdoor brands . So as you’d imagine, the relationship between THE NORTH FACE team at GOLDWIN with nanamica has been strong for quite some time.
THE NORTH FACE has been a well-known global brand, is there the possibility of offering THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL to the rest of the world?
The brand rights of THE NORTH FACE outside of Japan and South Korea are held by VF Corp. And having said that we have a close relationship with them in terms of the global brand operations. Since the brand direction of THE NORTH FACE within the VF Corp is mainly as a technical outdoor business, we won’t expect them to carry our designs into a global market. However, having said that, we do believe what we have been doing has created interest and demand in certain countries.
Has the development and increased exposure of heritagewear in other parts of the world helped boost the profile of nanamica?
I think that there are perhaps some spill-over effects. We have had many inquiries from foreign customers regarding nanamica and THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL thanks to foreign media.
How do you approach the relationship between modern materials such as GORE-TEX with classic aesthetics of the past?
One good example of such an approach is our 100% Cotton GORE-TEX(R) fabric. Together it brings both a high-level of technology with GORE-TEX(R) and the appearance of a natural fabric. It comes across well in certain uses such as a modern version of the Mackintosh that we do. It offers a comfortable fit all while maintaining ties to the past.
Are there particular aspects of outdoorwear or eras that haven’t been explored that nanamica will look to focus on?
We have been looking at all generations of technical sports wear and work wear as potential inspirations.
Is it a difficult task to design something each season that represents the present when the brand directions have such strong inspirations from the past? Meaning, many of the inspirations are firmly set in traditional styles of hiking and outdoor fashion.
Although our background is based on the past and what we call “outdoor sports”, we also appreciate updated aspects of design and modernity. In other words, we like to create a mixture of highly-functional garments with a more fashionable flavor to it.
How would you say nanamica and THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL differ when it comes to design and aesthetics?
We operate as one team for design work, and as a result we have only one fundamental philosophy of design and aesthetics. But in case of THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL, we obviously respect the concept of OUTDOOR, the heritage of THE NORTH FACE, their philosophy and their American roots. On the other side, nanamica has more freedom of creation. And nanamica is our original Japanese brand. With this in mind, we make it with more particular details and fabrics within our Japanese sensibilities, a union of high quality execution and perhaps a little more fashion forward.
Can you expect some further developments from nanamica that are other non-apparel pieces, maybe footwear?
We can’t speak too much upon this but we do relish at the chance of creating non-apparel pieces when the time is right for our brand.
Did you have any last words for our readers?
We like sports and fashion. We would like to enjoy our lives and would also like to share the good life with our customers. So in doing so, we produce unique items beyond passing trends, special items that we would want around for a long time to come. Our truest hope in our work is to hear excitement and astonishment from people happy and amazed with what we create.