From high-end fashion to streetwear, the archive has become a genre that cannot be cut away from the general trends of fashion these days. In what kind of ways is this archive influencing the way brands make new creations? In this new project, we will be exploring this question together with Motofumi “POGGY” Kogi through interviews with our guests. For this first instalment, we will be talking to Daisuke Obana, one of the designers for N.HOOLYWOOD, a brand which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year.
--- First, Mr. Obana, could you please tell us something about each of the pieces of second-hand wear you’ve brought with you today?
Obana: “So my own room is about twice the size of this room, and it’s filled to the brim with these kinds of racks stacked in two layers, which are in turn completely packed with second-hand clothes. This time I made a selection from three categories: items I always use as a reference for when I make new clothes for a new season, clothes I wear when I don’t want to think deeply about what I want to wear and pieces I used to wear all the time in the past.”
--- So all these second-hand clothes you have in your room, do you change up that selection frequently as well?
Obana: “In the past I used to work at a second-hand clothes store; at some bad stores, you used to see great vintage items hanging from the walls, they would be for sale but all packed in bags to make sure they don’t change colours from the sun, and I hated that personally. Anyways, that’s the kind of place I used to work at. I’m not a collector, so when I felt I didn’t need an item anymore, I would sell it for a price much lower than people would probably consider normal; Kogi probably knows this as well, but I’d sell most items for about a thousand yen at flea markets.”
POGGY: “Yeah, I remember! You would sell these amazing items for only a thousand yen.”
Obana: “Like that, I would sell a heap of clothes at once only to buy new items again. The prices were so low that anyone would probably be convinced to buy at least something; I think that feeling of ‘you have to buy “something”’ is really important to fashion. Then again, we’re not like the huge stores in Chicago where they have so many items, they have to categorize their items, so in the end we’d end up with items like ‘So, what actually IS this item? When would you actually wear this?” with odd patterns sewed onto them; we’d use them as samples, but we’d end up with a heap of unusable stuff either way. Those are really hard to get rid of, so we’d just put a thousand yen price tag on those and be done with it.”
--- I see. So among that cycle of buying and selling, these are the special few items that you could never see yourself getting rid of.
Obana: “I guess you could say that! I never felt like selling them and they’re still here, so in a way to me this is my basic gear.”
Obana: “I absolutely love the Marines so I have a lot of G-1 items to begin with, but the most interesting thing about these is the sizes; they go up to 52 in US denomination. That’s probably even bigger than you’re imagining now. I always wondered what people these were made for, but I eventually found out they were made for fat people, not tall people; that’s why they’re fairly wide but the length is really short, so in the end it feels like they leave enough space for tall people to wear them as well. It was the first time that I saw such a large second-hand item, and it was also a revival item; the Marine G-1 series actually went out of use once, but was called back by individual soldiers because they thought it was such a good item. I found out by checking the tag it was made in 1986. Army wear is always made to an official army standard, so for guys like me who love these SPEC items they’re amazing. For example, the USN letters being punched upside down or more to the lower side, these tiny details are all different for each year. The item I brought with me today is not a really old item; instead I decided to bring my newest purchase with me.”
（Time to try the clothes on!）
POGGY: “I can see what you mean now!”
Obana: “It’s insane, right? The shape is similar to the kind of items AVIREX used to make in the nineties.”
POGGY: “That’s another interesting way to look at it. I bought a CHAMPION reverse weave zip parker in 2XL size before from Imano at NEXUSVII before which I really enjoy; it has length as well, which makes wearing it really interesting.”
Obana: “It’s interesting, right? The only two items I collect myself are reverse weave sweaters and down jackets, but I didn’t bring any this time…”
POGGY: “That’s fine, please do bring them if we have another chance to meet!”
--- It feels very fashionable, to be able to try a different size of clothes to use it like a completely new item.
POGGY: “The great thing is it turns out cheaper sometimes as well.”
Obana: “Of course, the feeling of ‘what do I do with a piece of clothing this size?’ is basically the same in America as well. But these days the trend is to have everything casual and loose, so bigger sized clothing is slowly increasing in price as well.”
Obana: “As for this WEP, this is also a Marine wear item, which I personally prefer over the MA-1. The jacket I’m wearing today is also originally Marine wear, but it always surprises me how much energy they put into making flightwear in this kind of shape.”
Obana: “Generally speaking, you have early, middle and late period wear, and for some reason all the items I like end up being late period. Before I know it, whether it’s cars or machines, I either like the very first model or the very last one. Between the very first and very last, the designers evolve the item a lot, so it’s completely different in most cases. The latter items tend to be easier for wear and be more well-rounded, very soft to the touch. My own brand turns twenty next year, and in that period I’ve gained a lot of inspiration from these WEP items.”
Obana: “I also really like underwear made by Calvin Klein. The really old items are actually completely different in shape, like the ones made in the eighties. I don’t want to brag too much about my collection, so this time I brought two different models from the periods I feel have the best shape. I brought one in a different colour as well.”
--- So which era do you personally prefer?
Obana: “Surprisingly, I really like the ones from the 2010s, and I also enjoy the ones that were still Made In USA. Some of them had some slight mistakes in the tags, but this item I really loved to wear back in the day. I stopped wearing it these days though. Also, it’s not really second-hand clothing, but I also love items by TARGET and SEARS, although they disappeared from the scene; I would always go and check those brand stores when I visited the US, and if they had a new item I’d buy it just in case, just to try how it felt. Innerwear is very important for my brand, so I buy a lot of underwear and T-shirts personally.”
--- What was the main reason you decided to make innerwear a part of your brand’s collection?
Obana: “There’s not really one specific reason, but I always felt that if you’re wearing slightly worn jeans it was really cool to combine that with very loose innerwear, so that’s where I started. When I go to the US to buy second-hand clothes, I didn’t really buy that much at the innerwear corner. But if I’d find pieces that were slightly different in size or shape, or stuff like thermal wear, that would make me really happy so I’d buy a lot. But then I thought; rather than buying these, wouldn’t it be better to make them myself? That’s how I got started, so I made all sizes as well, from XXS to XXL.
It’s not exactly the same as the G-1 I showed you just now, but I felt like making clothes to fit every body, or just to change the size according to your feeling when you wake up; the concept I started with was something like that. But it was also always a part of my lifework, I continued to buy innerwear, both new and second-hand and I will probably keep on doing so. I definitely feel that there’s a lot I have learned from Calvin Klein.”
--- You mean, as in the way they design their models, the way they feel when you wear their T-shirts?
Obana: “Something like that. Also, I feel Calvin Klein played a big role in changing innerwear into a fashion item through their advertisements as well.”
POGGY: “Right, like the photos Bruce Weber took for them.”
Obana: “Exactly. I personally like the photos from the early period with Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg posing together a lot as well. They’re just a little sexy, which works really well. A lot of other brands are a lot more blatant. It might be because they didn’t start as an innerwear company. I really think they’re interesting looking at the fact that they’re a pioneer in the field of fashion brands branching out into innerwear.”
POGGY: “Do you still continue to buy Calvin Klein innerwear?”
Obana: “Yeah, I still buy their new items.”
Obana: “These items are both by Lee. I’ve been working with the brand for about twenty years, but the reason I didn’t stop working with them is they have painter paints,
which is an item that Levi’s doesn’t have. There are also items from the seventies, but the real pieces are only made by Lee, so I ended up continuing to wear them all the time. After wearing them for a while, people working at the store who saw me wearing them asked me to make it into an actual product so we ended up doing that as well.”
POGGY: “That explains why I remember seeing them before. Do you always stick this kind of silver piece of tape on them?”
Obana: “Yeah, when I go abroad, I always end up buying interesting things like stage tape or duct tape. Tape is really nice because you can just stick in on like that. It’s also less gaudy than a sticker, so I prefer tape. This other jumpsuit is also army wear; it’s the only item Lee made in collaboration with the Army.”
POGGY: “So this is also a Lee item!”
Obana: “It is! H.D. Lee Company is the original name of the company, when it still carried the initials of its founder. At the time the Army and the Airforce were still having their jumpsuits produced together. This item will end up getting updated over and over again, but even back then normal pants had this many details, I mean, this one has six pockets! And then these jumpsuits have surprising details no one would expect all over, which I love as well. And doesn’t this white tape go together with it nice as well?”
POGGY: “Great, I love it!”
Obana: “I also have an even older jumpsuit from the time they were still working with wool. That one I sometimes combine with tops, sometimes with bottoms, as a sample to show off details but also to wear myself.”
--- Does it still happen sometimes that you encounter an element in a piece of clothing you’ve never seen before?
Obana: “Yes, of course it does; I feel people who are currently working at second-hand stores that sell vintage know much more and deeper than me, and they can also talk about those items along a timeline. It happens all the time that those kinds of people tell me something I didn’t know.”
POGGY: “For military wear, there’s a lot of test sample items, so you never know what you’ll find!”
Obana: “That’s right. And even then, usually you can recognize the a test sample by finding a tag which tells you it’s a test sample if it’s this age, but when it comes to items made in the Vietnam era you can only really find out by having the items measured in a workplace. If there’s DLA or DSA written that means they’re part of the usual line-up, but the letters DESC indicate the item was made for the test sample line-up.”
POGGY: “So who was the first one to find out that’s the best way to recognize different lines? They must have been a pretty amazing person!”
Obana: “There’s these events organized for people who like army wear. If you go to those kinds of events, you get to hear a lot of information being shared between people. There’s this store run by a guy who loves army wear and Bruce Lee in the cellar of the Santa Monica store in Shibuya who instructed me in a lot of these things.”
POGGY: “There’s also this famous store in Meguro, right? I think they closed shop a while ago though. There’s a lot to army wear, but is there any country whose clothes you prefer?”
Obana: “I’ve spent quite a lot of time exploring the US to the fullest and I feel I’ve gotten to know most of it, so recently I’ve been going back to square one and looking at European army wear and researching that. Then after a while I’d hit something of a wall exploring Europe as well. I love English army wear, so I end up with a lot of those items in the end. For example, people would tell me there’s a place where the designer of Stone Island, Nigel Cabourn, would go regularly so I’d go there and ask them to show me around. These pieces are much easier to understand than other European countries like the Netherlands and have a lot of interesting features so I really like them.”
Obana: “At the beginning, I was almost ready to to bring all of my white items, but because I personally like the M-1 parkas, I end up looking into these white army wear pieces as well. If I find one, I’ll buy it on the spot. This is an overcoat, which is similar to an M-1 parka, but it’s more of a chemical product instead of having a specific purpose. These pants are overpants as well. If you find these used white army wear pieces, you can almost be sure that someone has painted on them with something like pink paint. Maybe they use it to differentiate between the different models?”
POGGY: “I think it’s just right if they’re dirtied up like that”
Obana: “These kinds of clothes fit young people best in my opinion…”
POGGY: “That’s right!”
Obana:”But we’re the people actually wearing them…”
POGGY: “What kind of army was this item made for?”
Obana: “This is a US Army piece. When you take a look at the tag, you can find out it follows the lineage of the M-1 parkas as well. It’s a winter piece, which means it also works as a camouflage when walking around snowy mountains; the jackets used by mountain corps are usually also reversible with the inside being white so they can use it for camouflage. You also see a lot of people who handle chemicals wearing white items.”
POGGY: “It would be great if you’d have classes in these kinds of items at fashion colleges as well. I feel like after people like Jonio (UNDERCOVER) and Miyashita (Currently working as TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist., formerly NUMBER (N)INE) arrived on the scene at the beginning of the 00’s, designing a collection has become more musical. Like for example taking the clothing style of one of your favourite artists and updating that into something new. I feel like a lot of the men’s wear designers that are popular these days worldwide all started with something close to that; but then, when you make clothes, your base is the whole history of military wear, and from there you select different pieces from different eras and try to combine them, right? To me, that’s also a very important part of designing clothes.”
Obana: “When I started making clothes for my brand, I started with remakes of older items, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. At one point, one customer walked up to me and asked me right in my face whether I was ripping off Margiela. But because I’d grown up wearing second-hand clothes, I knew nothing about areas like Ura-Harajuku or who Margiela even was. So I was really horrified when I visited the Margiela store out of curiosity in Ebisu for the first time.
That was about a year after I opened up shop, so I was really surprised at how much I actually didn’t know. I still get goose bumps when I remember that fear. I think that’s the moment I started to seriously confront just what it means to seriously make remake items. How old is Margiela by now again, around fifty, right? That means we’re still living in the same era. I like art styles like Fluxus and Dadaism, that kind of culture as well. When you think about it, Margiela is obviously also looking at the same past and knows about that kind of art scene, so it’s actually pretty understandable that the way we think about making clothes is fairly similar. I think it was a big step for me understanding that fact.”
Obana: “In a way, you could say I came all this way by continuing to keep a dialogue with clothes. But recently, I’ve slipped away from the style of designing after for looking at old items, instead looking at the actual shape and design of items; at the beginning there’s really nothing, or just a lot of things being crunched down and mixed inside my mind, and I have a really strong passion towards pouring that into the shape of an original piece. When at the end of it all I can’t decide on the final deciding factor and I feel stuck, I look back at second-hand clothes and decide on colours based on those; they give me that final push, and so in a way the process has become inversed. The way I have come to see second-hand clothes is the complete opposite of what it used to be. They’re kind of my life line when I don’t know what to do anymore.”
--- Was there some specific event that lead you to change your stance towards designing in these three years?
Obana: “After making items for the New York runway for ten years, one thing I learned there’s just as many people making collections purely based on their feeling but also people who don’t really have a specific method but make great pieces either way. So in the end, the end result is probably what matters most. Of course, people who make clothes in a completely different scene like street culture are a completely different group, also by ways on design. The way I’d been designing clothes for example seven, eight years ago was like this; I’d decide on a theme, maybe Western, and I’d look at actors playing in Western movies, making items as an homage to those kinds of people, saying ‘this is what those people are wearing right’, which makes it really easy to share the same feeling with a lot of different people, but in the end I wasn’t sure that that was the vibe I was going for. For example, it’s pretty difficult to define what casual style Kogi is wearing today. In the past you used to differentiate styles like Shibuya casual, it would be pretty straight-forward. The mixture of styles that it has evolved into mixes clothes from a lot of countries and people sometimes even wear suits so the rules have changed up. The general elements are the same but people put their own spin on it. So if I put that into terms of my own way of design, you could say my design became like this of all the things I’ve seen on my trips, even including things like food or walls, so no one except for me can really tell where it came from; that’s when you can really say it’s an original item by me. The first time I announced an item I designed using that process, it really made me feel like I’d finally found the right thing. I can use the shapes I like and make them into clothes. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stopped using theme names for my collections since about five years ago.”
--- So you’ve finally been able to be upfront about everything you’ve collected in your head and the fact that you want to express that in clothing.
Obana: “I hope so! When designing I mix a lot of things, but I do try to keep my own core at the centre and try to not to go too far from there; usually I try to remember what I found most impressive of all the places I visited in one country and use that as a leading thread. But then, the days we live in, people and things move from place to place all the time. Until last week I was visiting Germany, but even there I found a lot of items originating from America or Japan. I try to not deny that mingling of things, but instead actively using it in my own designs.”
POGGY: “Probably these days designers prefer it when the things they personally enjoy travel over the world.”
Obana: “Definitely! That requires a lot of personality, putting your own identity and choices out there for the world to see. I personally prefer putting culture first, showing people the things that inspired me while making items; in the end I try to sell my items by focussing on the actual design.”
POGGY: “In the past, designers like Raf Simons or Helmut Lang spent long periods of time learning and building up their design, which is of course one of the reasons their clothes are still out there. So I personally would love to see N.HOOLYWOOD become a similar brand that will remain for another ten or twenty years. I’m looking forward to it already!”
POGGY: “Finally, can you tell us if you have any items you regret not buying, or any items you regret getting rid of too early?”
Obana: “One item I regret getting rid of is an interesting story; in the past, when I only had a landline phone at home, there was this old man who was a fan of army wear from Machida who kept on calling me every day for a whole month, asking me to sell him that item. My mum and family ended up getting worried, saying maybe it would be easiest to just sell him the item. It was a brown B-15C Boa jacket, but for some reason there was a white stamp on it with the letters ARMY AIR FORCE, with bright red lining. I haven’t seen anything like it before or since. But I ended up having no choice but to sell it at that time. Then again, when I started working at a second-hand clothing store I had already decided for myself not to get too attached to any item. Setting an arbitrarily high price on some item just because you really don’t want to sell it felt like a really uncool thing to do. I’m not really much of a collector, so it doesn’t happen too often that I regret selling an item. These days I instead find myself often selling more and more items to clear up space. Clothes to me are something that have a season, and when that’s over I sell them and let them go to their next owner; that’s how I feel about clothes. Being very much attached to clothes is of course a good thing as well, but I feel it should also be okay for clothes to keep on moving on, circulating and creating the next encounter.”
Designer for fashion brand N.HOOLYWOOD.
Born on January 28th of 1974 in Kanagawa Prefecture. After quitting his studies at a fashion college, he started working as the manager and buyer of a second-hand fashion store. After that, he helped to start up the second-hand clothes store “Go-getter” in 1995, and started his own company, Mister Hollywood in 2000. His first collection for his men’s brand, “N.HOOLYWOOD” was launched in 2001. From 2010, he has also been promoting his collections in New York.
Motofumi “POGGY” Kogi
Born in 1976. After starting to work part-time in 1997 at “UNITED ARROWS” and moving on to PR, Kogi opened the boutique “Liquor,woman&tears.” In 2010 he launched “UNITED ARROWS & SONS” where he was also the director. After becoming independent recently, there is growing anticipation for new initiatives from him this year.