BEAMS, a Japanese specialty store that is famous throughout the world. One of their staff members is Katoh Tadayuki, the buyer responsible for the SURF&SK8 part of the men’s casual section. He became famous as the director of SSZ, a popular brand that was born from inside BEAMS, and is known as a person whose knowledge, zeal and love for surfing and skate fashion is second to none; his creations are gathering more fans with each season and generation. Mr. Katoh apparently never gets rid of any one item he has ever bought as a principle; we asked him about the connection between his creations and the idea of the archive found hidden behind.
---These days, the concept of archive items is slowly becoming more popular, which I feel is slowly changing the world of second-hand stores into a more diverse place. There’s a lot of different value systems being born, and each store seems to be having their own idea of presenting their recommendations. Mr. Katoh, does the same idea sometimes occur to you as well?
“Yes, I think there’s a lot of those kinds of stores these days. I used to go to Santa Monica a lot because I loved the place, but they would have these items they especially recommend behind the counter. For example, items from Barbour or items with Freemason designs. I saw that and felt it was a really easy way to show what items you feel are special. You might not know what kind of clothes people are hiding behind the counter in second-hand stores, but if they’re displayed in a nice way people might think ‘Oh, so this is what they recommend. I wonder what it’s like’, which gives them a good first impression of the item.
Remember, there was this period that second-hand clothes were just too expensive. There was this vintage boom going on for a while. Because of that, I kind of left the field for a while. I started buying regular clothing, items I bought because I liked the design, I didn’t really know whether they were valuable or not; from there, I slowly started buying items of all kinds. While exploring the kind of clothes I wanted, I found that this time, I felt like buying well-designed clothes actually made by designers.” 」
---These days, I feel there’s a lot more second-hand stores selling designer brand items. Of course, OR NOT’s online store is also one of those.
“That’s true. In the past you would seldom find a second-hand store which had designer items being lined up. These days you can find items you bought yourself back in the day lined up in a second hand store. The situation now is almost like the American thrift stores of old days, where you could basically find anything all lying around disorderly. Up until now Japanese second-hand stores would be selling vintage items, pieces that have had value for a long time, with sometimes normal items lying in between; when we would go to a second-hand store with friends in the fashion sales business, we’d go looking for valuable second-hand clothes, but the situation has changed quite a lot these days.”
---Mr. Katoh, you are of course famous for your deep knowledge of skating and surfing items, but I’m surprised to see you’ve also been collecting a large amount of denim jeans.
“People in the know will probably not be surprised, but the brand SSZ I’m managing has so many jeans you could almost call it a jeans brand. I feel that in the end, all men’s fashion in the end comes down to jeans, and the reason for that is that the number of pairs of jeans you buy as compared to other clothes is second only to T-shirts. If you’re saying for yourself that you have an opinion about jeans, you don’t want people thinking about you like ‘what kind of pants does he have, and what does he actually know about them?’, so you end up buying pair after pair.
In the end, people who can’t persuade others tend to be useless. If people tell you something’s similar to another pair you can check it if you own one yourself, but if you don’t have it the message just doesn’t come across. So what I decided to do is just to buy the items I think are interesting, whether that’s a vintage denim piece or a pair of pants with a weird design, wear them, look at them well and realize their worth by myself.”
---I see! So that’s why the pants for SSZ are all such one-of-a-kind pieces.
“For SSZ we used to make denim jeans as well, but because I’ve worn a lot of different pieces in my time, you could say I have an opinion on the matter. For example, the pants made by Lee are designed with the back pocket a little further down than usual, so it has a very manly, impressive feeling. The painter who works for Lee is also very good; I don’t like my legs getting too hot, so I love their lightweight denims. I also bought some MAVERICK pants because the skater Jason Adams wore those a lot. Finally, I also wore the cheap pants wrangler makes because the way the paint drops looks interesting. They’re very loose around the behind, so the tapered feeling is also quite nice.
Ladies’ pants are not bad either. They’re quite wide around the behind, but they’re actually tight-fit around the legs, so they’re very easy to wear if you buy a bigger size. One thing I realized though after wearing a lot of pants is that loose-fit pants in the end are easiest to wear. This means that the pants for SSZ are mostly what at Levi’s they call Silver Tab. When I first entered BEAMS and was assigned to work at BEAMS TOKYO, there was this senior employee who was also a skater. I think at the time I was wearing “502” jeans. Of course, the 501 model is more standard, but I felt the button fly design was too much of a hassle. So this senior came to me and said ‘If you like surfing and skating, you should definitely try these’ and introduced me to Silver Tab. I’d bought a few pairs when I was in university but when I tried them on again they fit even better than I remembered.”
“One of those pairs I got from my senior, and another pair I bought on my honeymoon to Mexico. The loose feeling around your bottom and the tapered feeling towards the trouser legs is still one of my favorites.”
---When you say Silver Tab, I think there’s still a lot of different varieties, but do you have any favorite shapes?
“Definitely ‘loose’! Baggy jeans are too thick, and I like the tapered feeling of the ‘loose’ model. When I was in Mexico, some local Mexicans were wearing those jeans with the tops tuckered inside, which looked really cool. This outfit, with a belt fastened tightly and the T-shirt slightly hanging down was so awesome that I immediately had to try it for myself, but my wife urged me to give it up! Then again, nowadays the size is too small for me so I can’t wear them, but when I have to design loose pants these are the first ones I use for reference. When you’re making something it’s really important to see the real thing to get new ideas. If I get the feeling I want to try and make a new model, I always start with something as the base.”
---These days you might be keeping a lot of samples which means you own a lot of clothes either way, but was it always the case that you don’t really get rid of items you bought?
“That’s probably true. I feel it’s always an encounter finding new clothes. Of course, I think it’s important to make the most of encounters with people as well. It’s hard to throw clothes away because you have memories related to them. Really, I am quite jealous of people that can dispose of their clothes easily. Things like T-shirts I often buy on a whim, so you’d think I wouldn’t really notice whether they’re there or not, but sometimes you get the feeling like ‘Wait, what happened to that one T-shirt?’, you know? When watching a skate video or something and one of my favorite skaters is wearing brown pants with a blue T-shirt, I suddenly remember that ‘oh, I bought a blue T-shirt as well that one time!’ and then immediately start looking. These days I buy mostly clothes in standard colors like white and black, but before I got influenced by a lot of other people and bought T-shirts in all kind of different colours. There’s always a cycle for these things; there’s a period that you don’t wear them at all, but because sometimes you feel like wearing them again you keep them around just in case.”
“Today I brought some T-shirts with me from ANTIHERO; for these items from the 90’s or the early 00’s, I don’t really look at their value at all. But for me, these are T-shirts I could never throw away. I never wear these M-size ones these days, and there’s even some S-sized ones here, but I bought them for the design so I just want to keep them with me, you know.”
---When you were buying vintage clothes, like for example the XX model, were you also looking at the more standard second-hand clothes?
“Of course, that goes side by side. I love it when you have two items matched with a big gap in design. When I was in university, that was considered really fashionable; I think that’s a really Japanese way of thinking. Wearing a bland T-shirt above a pair of XX jeans but then with accessories of a really high-end brand. I feel foreigners don’t really do those kinds of outfits. But those days it felt like ‘That’s so fashionable, as expected of Tokyo’.”
---Nowadays, that idea is slowly spreading throughout the world. For example, T-shirts originally made as workwear sold at New York stores are now considered as the latest trend.
“I think a lot of the leading fashion designers these days are mostly in the same age group these days. As a person making clothes (of course, I am nowhere near their level) I sometimes really feel like I understand the designs they come up with. I’m not that sure to be honest, but I feel a lot of them love the fashion scene and the Japanese culture of the 90’s and the 00’s.”
---So it’s like combining casual clothes with Hermes sneakers of the Turbo model.
“Yeah, that was definitely the trend of that period. For my own clothes as well, rather than wearing only items from SSZ, I think it’s interesting to create a gap between different pieces of clothes by combining several different brands.”
“I also own a lot of accessories from skate brands. Today, a lot of the things I’ve brought with me were made for the brand ANTIHERO. They’re so cool, you know? I don’t really use this bottle opener a lot, but I bought it anyways. You’d think a lot of the caps out there are basically the same, but that’s not the case at all; this one has a very American feel to it so I just had to buy it. Even these days if there’s a piece with a design I like, I’ll probably end up buying it even if I don’t end up wearing it. I never really wear things like trucker hats, but they’re still good, right? If you have some of these lying around in the house, and you suddenly remember them and wonder where you left them, you go look for them and find them; when that happens, you get the feeling you like them again and try them on, but in the end you decide not to wear them anyways. I don’t know, caps don’t really fit my style, but still...”
“When I first started working for BEAMS, I got really into the pants made for BIRDWELL, so I own a lot of those, but this time I brought only jackets. This jacket wasn’t really made to repel water, but all the people who love surfing in California know BIRDWELL either way. There’s a special presence towards these, you realize that the more you wear them. They’re made from a special kind of nylon called SurfNyl Nylon, which becomes more durable if you dry it after it’s made wet. When you wash it, it becomes more flexible and dries faster, so it’s a great material for surfers.”
---For SSZ, you’ve also made a jacket based on the BIRDWELL motif, right? The one with a lot of pockets on the backside, which you dedicated as an homage to Barry McGee, also known as Twist.
“That’s right! There’s also a denim jacket designed by Neck Face for RVCA which I bought at a sale at a skate shop before, which when you first see it doesn’t feel like a Neck Face design at all, with only the letters RVCA written on the button in a Neck Face font. But then you open it and inside is a print of a demon-like face by Neck Face, with a lot of tiny pockets on the back in which you could probably just fit a permanent marker. I wouldn’t wear it, but I loved the design so I bought it with the idea of hanging it as a decoration in my room. As Twist, he is active as a graffiti artist, so I figured I could use some details of the design like the spray can inside or the pockets that seemed perfect for permanent markers.
So the BIRDWEP jacket I made for SSZ is a mix between the BIRDWELL jacket and the Neck Face jacket made for RVCA. A lot of design these days seems to be based on mixing things. I think we all just loved the amazing clothing and fashion from the 90’s, so overall there’s a lot of mixing up designs going on. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing, but I do like a lot of the designs that were born because of that, so perhaps that’s why I’m doing the same thing. Collaborations are probably also a new idea born from the feeling of creating mixed designs. At the moment, there’s a lot of people making clothes with that kind of mixed-up feel. That’s probably why I get the feeling I understand the clothes of today.”
Buyer for BEAMS/Director of the SSZ brand.
Born in 1973 in Kanagawa Prefecture. After graduating from university, he joined BEAMS. After a period of time working as sales personnel and assistant buyer, he started working in 2012 as the buyer responsible for SURF&SK8.In 2017, he was responsible for the start of SSZ, an original brand by BEAMS, and became well known as designer/director. Aside from that, he is also a vegetable farmer, being the fourth head of Katoh Nouen.