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When one has been in the industry for almost two decades, one tends to know a few things, acquire a select set of skills, and ultimately become a master of sorts. Eiichiro Homma has reached these goals and then some. Overlooking nanamica, a Japanese brand notorious for understanding the stylistic intricacies between the rugged outdoors and the classic gentleman, “Having his hands full” would be an understatement. Beginning his legacy in the late ’80s, Eiichiro has gone through a metamorphosis from his humble beginnings at outdoor sportswear retailer GOLDWIN INC. to his own company in 2003. Throughout the years nanamica has seen countless iterations of slim outerwear garments, technological overhauls of classic design, and jaw-dropping techniques to which he has applied to collaborations with The North Face, Filson, Woolrich and much more. In this exclusive interview, we look further into the life of this al fresco authority.
Can you briefly describe your 18 or so years working with outdoor garments and how you translated that into designing for nanamica?
My background was designing and marketing of technical outdoor garments at Outdoor Sportswear Division of GOLDWIN INC. which carries The North Face, Helly Hansen, Filson and Macpac, etc. in particular sailing gears. I designed gears for a Japanese entry for Americas Cup or Olympic Regatta. This experience has given me not only know-how about design but also close relationship with high technical fabric mills. So we are able to use very advanced functional materials and skillful factories.
What are your thoughts on the current landscape of menswear? Where does Americana sit in the picture?
After we have launched THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL, we have seen many authentic outdoor labels have expanded into “Modernized Rugged Outdoor Wear.” And it seems to pass the peak. So menswear would shift more classic and sophisticated. Americana has been key signs for showcasing the life in America which non-American people have been hankering as its image of freedom over the generation. The world becomes smaller and smaller. New generation won’t hanker after image so much, but they would just enjoy it as design source of American heritage and culture.
How do you balance technical fabrics and forward-thinking design with more traditional or classic elements?
Since my background was producing authentic outdoor sportswear, I know what we could arrange and what we should not change in terms of keeping authenticity. So keeping some fundamental elements of authenticity, we would add what we would like to put by ourselves depends on the times.
“Americana has been key signs for showcasing the life in America which non-American people have been hankering as its image of freedom … New generation would just enjoy it as design source of American heritage and culture.”
A lot has been made on Japanese “heritage” garment-making or the ability to reproduce/update American heritage clothing. What is your stance on that? Is it something you embrace or do you feel Japanese labels should be moving in a perhaps more innovative direction?
Japanese might be recognized as good at focusing on even small details. So there are many good brands which produce high level of replicas of American vintages. Their replicas might be sometimes better than authentic vintage clothing. We are different from those brands. We produce garments which have technical aspect, functions and modern shapes based on American heritage clothing …
In general Japanese are good at applying rather than creating. So Japanese might be able to move into more innovative direction after we have digested platform of Western clothing.
Do you see nanamica as a Japanese brand or a brand that has a wider, global relevance?
Since we have already been operating global business more than three years and have been carried by 58 retailers in 18 countries. However we would always like to add something from Japan.
Any thoughts on designing/producing for a wider global audience?
Since we thought fitting should be most essential factor for success, we have spent a couple of years to study fitting for Westerners before we launched in Pitti Uomo in 2010. The garments under nanamica label are completely modeled for global market.
“In general Japanese are good at applying rather than creating. So Japanese might be able to move into more innovative direction after we have digested platform of Western clothing.”
What has changed with the brands you oversee over the last few years?
In global market nanamica has been recognized as outerwear brand at the beginning since our GORE-TEX® coats have been well-received. Past few years we have expanded our collection more various items. Now customers could enjoy all kind of items except footwear.
Do you approach your collections for nanamica, THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL and Filson Red Label differently? If so, how?
Basically our approach for all brands is same. Since we started THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL at the beginning, it has been core of our merchandising over the years. After we launched nanamica label, it has taken the place of core year by year.
Now nanamica is our core and both THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL and Filson Red Label are mixture of our sense and each character.
What’s the future for menswear?
In the long term, menswear would become more lifestyle-oriented one. The word of lifestyle is not so fresh since our industry has been using this word just to showcase every style as a presentation. And fashion itself has been an objective for long years. Today people’s interests have shifted from goods to activity. So their lifestyle would be more essential point for their happiness. Thus menswear should be just tools to support them.
Any last word?
We are so happy if we could support people’s life.
“Today people’s interests have shifted from goods to activity. So their lifestyle would be more essential point for their happiness. Thus menswear should be just tools to support them.”