Hideaki Shikama: a collector of many things, including designers’ items, street brands and vintage, and the designer for Children of the discordance, a brand which is highly valued in Japan and abroad, featuring creations made by carefully selection vintage and archive items, taking them apart and putting them together again. We asked him to tell some things about the camp caps from Supreme which he’s been gathering over a long period, and about the culture of New York that had a big influence on himself personally.
--- I hear you’ve been collecting Supreme camp caps, but is there a specific reason you started collecting them?
“Hmm, let me think. I started collecting them a few years after Supreme opened their store in New York. I have a habit of collecting things to begin with, not just Supreme, but this brand has a lot of different designs for their caps, so they’re almost like accessories, which made them really easy to start collecting.”
--- Were you in New York when the Supreme store opened?
“I was these for two months each in 1994 and 1995; I was staying over at a friend’s place in New Jersey, where I was doing soccer at the time. Supreme, and also Ralph Lauren’s RRL store opened in that period. Other than that, there were also places like Union and Zoo York, which were gaining in popularity in the street scene of New York at the time, and those really change the way I think about life.
Those were the times, so I would be buying Supreme, but also denim jeans from RRL which went for about 20.000 yen with the credit card my parents gave me. Of course, they found out and they got really mad at me. And it got even worse when I ripped it while skateboarding, haha. These things that happened when I was only a middle school student had a big influence on the person I am now.”
--- Wouldn’t we all spend our money if we were fashion lovers in that golden age? By the way, could you tell me what the Supreme store was like back then compared to now?
“The store’s general feeling is actually pretty similar to what it was like back then. In front of the store, there would be a lot of skaters, and because I was also doing skateboarding at the time, we’d be going around there doing tricks like heelflips and kickflips. I remember one of the staff members gave me about a hundred logo stickers and asking me to spread their name in Japan, haha. I took them back to my home town of Yokohama, but of course no one knew the brand so people would tell me it was lame and that they didn’t want them. But when I went back to my home town recently, there would still be these stickers in places I used to skate. That’s insane, right?”
--- That’s amazing! Not something all of us can experience, that’s for sure. Do you have any other special memories from that time?
“Because I went to New York at that young age, you can definitely say I was deeply influenced by the passion of street culture. Other than that, at the time Nas was doing a campaign in town, and at first, I was thinking like ‘who is this guy?’, but after listening to his stuff and buying his albums I realized he was really awesome. After that, The Notorious B.I.G. released their first album, and that had a big impact on me as well. Up until then rap had been strong on the west coast, but that wave slowly started changing after those two rappers arrived.”
--- I’m assuming that story goes on to what you told us last time about the influence East Coast Hip Hop had on your life personally.
“Yeah, that’s right. At the time the East Coast, and Hip Hop felt really cool to me.”
---Let’s return to Supreme. Did you buy your camp caps back then at the store?
“No, I only bought them after returning to Japan. At the time, they didn’t even sell them at the store, they only had T-shirts and stuff like that. I’m not sure whether they were sold out or if they were just plain not selling them yet. After returning to Japan, I contacted my home stay mother and asked her to buy it for me and send it to me. At the time, I was a pretty hard-core skater so I asked her to buy a T-shirt and a cap to fit with my skateboard deck. At the time, Zoo York was really popular, but when she went to the store and talked to the people there of course they recommended their own store’s original items, so basically all of the items she sent me were not Zoo York but Supreme. Other than that, I bought clothes at HECTIC in Harajuku when it just opened, and some stores in Daikanyama which were parallelly importing clothes from abroad.”
“I’ve been wearing these caps since I was a kid, so yeah, I’m well acquainted with them. For five years after entering high school I had dreadlocks for a time, but even then, I was still collecting camp caps. All the friends I was hanging with were also wearing them. The camp caps I’m making for my own brand weren’t specifically designed with Supreme in mind, but it’s true I prefer this shape of cap compared to baseball caps or other kinds of hats. But then again, the people who started making that kind of hat were actually New York Hat, a brand with a lot of history. I hear the Supreme hats were originally made at the same factory as well.”
---I see! So how many camp caps do you actually have?
“This is a general estimate, but probably around 300.”
--- 300! Do you have any designs you especially like?
“Of course I like them all, but especially the sample (Left photo) I got as a gift from Supreme which is not mass-produced and this cement design that reminds me of Jordan (Right photo); other than that, the caps that were made before Supreme started their business in Japan are few in number so they’re fairly rare. They have a camouflage pattern which isn’t used too often these days. On the other hand, Real Tree Camo designs are used very often these days. I think it’s one of their favourite textiles. Their box logo and tags have changed from the early period as well. The tag used to be made out of paper, and somewhere along the way that changed into the design it is now, with the Supreme logo printed on it. Compared to designer’s brands, I think it’s pretty hard to separate the different camp caps into different periods when talking about archive items.”
--- I see, so for the items made before Supreme came to Japan you basically have no choice but to buy at these parallel import stores. How did fashion trends change after Supreme opened their first store in 1997 in Daikanyama?
“Of course, people started to wear more items by the brand, so I think it changed quite a bit. Even the friends who were saying they didn’t really need the items I bought as souvenirs from New York suddenly started asking me things like ‘Do you still have those Supreme items from that one time?’. One other thing is that one of the bigger reasons for the Ura-Harajuku movement to become so big was probably the influence of street brands from New York. Brands like Supreme, Zoo York, STASH and RECON started collaborating with brands from that area, the whole movement started growing bigger, and because the veterans in the business used their connections in their work effectively, I think it turned into this big movement crossing both country and cultures.”
--- Were you also wearing these Ura-Harajuku brands at the time?
“My taste started changing after finding out about DOWN ON THE CORNER, so at the time I really liked the graffiti designs Hiroshi Fujiwara made for FINESSE, More about less and other brands, so I was also wearing items from SUBWARE and RECON. The more recent items by SUBWARE and RECON were made by Erollson Hugh for Acronym in secret, and I loved their style of mixing more functional designs with graffiti designs.”
--- I see these more functional elements which are popular these days and the graffiti style had both existed from back then. But even among those kinds of styles, Supreme decided to specialize in skater fashion, right?
“Indeed. I think it’s that kind of feeling of going for one thing and not budging is what’s so good about them. They must’ve had periods where their sales weren’t as good as they are now, but in those periods people were wearing it exactly because they understood their way of thinking. When I went to Collette in Paris around 2005, there were already people there wearing the caps, and we were wearing coach jackets and caps as well before anyone else did.”
--- I see. Mr. Shikama, as someone who has spent a lot of time looking at Supreme, you of course know about the collaboration they did in recent years with Louis Vuitton which led to a world-wide boom, but what do you actually think about the way Supreme is right now?
“As a hip hop head, of course it keeps being a stimulus for me whenever I see it. Of course, there’s periods I wear them and periods I don’t, but I think the key to staying a popular brand is the fact that they keep on producing new, cool designs without running out of ideas. Usually you can’t keep on going for this long without heading into another direction idea-wise. The fashion sense of the team making the items is truly one of a kind. This may have nothing to do with their fashion sense, but their style of “this is my style, so if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” is something I can really find myself in. Also, there’s the fact that they used to only have stores in America and Japan, that probably had a good effect as well. If they would’ve had stores all over the world from a long while ago, the market might’ve been satisfied a long while ago. Having not too many sales points might’ve kept the order of the fashion culture.”
--- You just told us that the great thing about Supremes’ creations is that they stayed true to their ideas, but do you have any specific examples of them doing that?
“They have complete control over everything they’re doing. It might seem like they’re just having fun and making what they want, but the timing of their designs and collaborations is always perfectly coordinated. They actually think about when to bring out which idea. I think they’re always keeping track of street fashion as well as more high fashion, and are trying to make creations that are always one step ahead, which then becomes the new trend, you know? Of course, the opposite does occur sometimes as well. The fact that street brands are now competing on the same level with brands like Rei Kawakubo and Virgil Abloh makes you feel the times. The way the design team acts and dresses these days is quite elegant and stylish these days”
--- I agree, the team members for Supreme all leave a very good impression. They’re not just cool, they’re also starting their own powerful brands like OAMC, AWAKE NY and NOAH even after leaving Supreme. These days when you talk about archive, one of the important points is who was the designer when it was made. With Supreme, you never know the name of the designer but the old pieces as well as the new ones are still really popular.
“That’s true. But it’s for sure that the creations of a lot of designers and artists are involved in the projects. I hear their logo animation was made by SKATE THING. It was not just used on the flyers or the T-shirts when the Daikanyama store opened, it’s actually still being used. The designers and artists who are involved in making pieces for the brand are probably also deeply connected with each other in a family-like way.”
--- I see. So basically, they’re requesting designs to those designers that they know they can trust. For most designer brands, the contents of the designs change a lot every season. Supreme does change their collection’s contents each season, and they are doing collaborations with spot advertisements, but as a whole they keep the base items like caps, T-shirts, pants and accessories, only changing the patterns and the design each time. How do you feel about that as a designer?
“I think it’s very logical for them to keep on doing the same pattern without trying too hard to change things unnecessarily. They’re a brand at a different level, it’s almost unfair. Their clothes look cool just by the sheer existence of their logo. Just like Louis Vuitton’s Monogram, it’s a symbol of their brand. I think it’s amazing they were able to make such a stable brand.”
Born in Kanagawa prefecture.
Designer for Children of the discordance
His original design consisting of bold de- and re-constructions of carefully selected vintage clothes and valuable archives stands in stark contrast to any other brand, and is high acclaimed in- and outside Japan.