Japanese fashion imprint mastermind JAPAN rounded out its tenure with its last collection at Tokyo Fashion Week for 2013 spring/summer. While the collection represented the brand’s final seasonal delivery, founder and creative director Honma Masaaki continued to work on coveted collaborations in both fashion and lifestyle, such as the mastermind JAPAN x Bamford Watch Department Rolex Daytona, mastermind JAPAN x HIDE-CHAN Raemen and mastermind JAPAN x COMME des GARCONS BLACK x Dover Street Market NY capsule collection. The latest project sees the launch of its “mmj Macau Exclusive” collection via its Macau outpost. We caught up with Masaaki at the last remaining store from mastermind’s empire to chat about the collection, the relaunch of the Macau brick and mortar, and the current state of fashion.
“mmj Macau Exclusive” Collection
“While the cuttings and designs are new, the materials we used for the store are all vintage to mastermind’s archive, paying homage to the brand’s Japanese roots.”
You chose to launch the recent “mmj Macau Exclusive” collection at the brand’s only remaining flagship in Macau. What’s the reason for this?
We started planning the collection launch from last year. The Macau flagship is the only store outside of Japan, it’s quite unique so we wanted to launch the collection there. With the closing of mastermind JAPAN, I wanted to wait for the right timing before moving forward with a collection launch.
When designing the Macau store, were there certain guidelines you followed to ensure it coincided with the brand’s motifs?
While our skull and crossbone motif is definitely prevalent throughout, much of the textiles and fabrics used to decorate the interior come from previous decorations we’ve used in different stores in the past 10 years. We found interesting ways to cut and design the fabrics to tailor to our Macau store.
What does the relaunch of the Macau store mean to the brand’s tenure? Should fans expect the brand to expand to other territories?
This project is targeted at the Asian market only. While the cuttings and designs are new, the materials we used for the store are all vintage to mastermind’s archive, paying homage to the brand’s Japanese roots. I wouldn’t call this a new chapter but rather a continuation of my own inventions and interests. I never intended the Macau outpost to reach a big audience or for it to be mass-produced.
On The Industry and What’s Next
“It’s important for Japanese brands to stay true to themselves and not mimic trends, while working hard to share their vision.”
Are there any plans of reestablishing the brand to the level it was before?
I haven’t thought that far or made any plans for that as of yet.
How do you spend your time now? Are there any plans of pursuing other projects in the fashion realm?
If there are good offers, I’ll definitely be interested. After mastermind finished there was still a lot of followup work to do in regards to distribution and logistics. I’ve also been planning forthcoming projects which I can’t disclose in the meantime.
It could be argued that international brands are overtaking Japanese brands in the fashion market. What are your thoughts on this?
It’s a pity that this is the perception. Regardless of the current state of fashion, it’s important for Japanese brands to stay true to themselves and not mimic trends, while working hard to share their vision. Designers and labels should stay committed for the long run and not be discouraged by hard times.
Current Landscape of Fashion
“You want to set yourself high standards.”
What are your thoughts on the progression of fashion on a global level?
I feel there’s a lack of new impactful figures in fashion, like Hedi Slimane. The current branding and production isn’t as authentic as before. Nonetheless, I wish for all the brands to continue to build on their strengths and not be afraid to experiment.
What’s the difference between starting a label now compared to when you started mastermind JAPAN in the ’90s?
It was much harder back in the day. Although you’ve always had to challenge yourself to build original ideas, designers today are spoiled by the accessibility of endless information and convenience. When I started mastermind, pushing your brand outside of Japan into the Asian market was hard enough, let alone to the global market. Nowadays, you can upload your video lookbook onto social media and reach a global audience instantly. Brands can market and promote their products a lot easier.
What advice can you give to new brands starting out in the fierce industry of fashion?
I suggest focusing on quality first and foremost. A good lookbook and collection needs to be backed up by quality clothing. The last thing you want is an unhappy consumer who is disappointed by the end product. You want to set yourself high standards.
A brand can shoot a good lookbook or collection and get it to the world, but if the consumer receives an item of clothing that’s better than how it’s represented in the lookbook and has a greater quality, that would be most ideal. For new designers, I hope they pay as much attention to quality and the final product as they do to branding and marketing. Both are just as important as each other for any fashion brand.