honeyee.com / .fatale Editor-in-chief
After working at UPLINK and Takarajimasha, he was involved in founding honeyee.com in 2005. Since then, as its editor-in-chief, he has been developing content focusing on fashion and lifestyle. In 2011, he launched .fatale, a fashion online magazine for women.
Since its emergence in 2005, the online magazine, honeyee.com, has been a significant influence on Tokyo’s men’s fashion scene, rising in parallel with its growth. They were one of the first to incorporate the now celebrity creator blog into the media and have persisted in developing original signature content while leveraging their own network. This has allowed honeyee.com to develop its high reputation as a one-of-a-kind quality magazine. We sat down with Tetsuya Suzuki, the President of honeyee.com which continues its evolution such as by newly launching .fatale, an online magazine for women.
Please share with us what the fashion scene in Tokyo was like back in 2005 when honeyee.com was launched.
The backbone of honeyee.com was originally with the street fashion scene often referred to as “Ura-harajuku (Urahara)”. Urahara used to merely be one category within men’s fashion in Tokyo, but as fashion globalized in the world, we saw that designers and brands from the Urahara generation were holding exhibitions overseas, given premium shelf space in major boutique shops, and gradually expanding internationally. Eventually, these independent brands were recognized by people abroad as representative of men’s fashion in Tokyo and built their reputations. That’s what the situation was like when we started honeyee.com.
Given that historical background, what was the stance of honeyee.com as a medium when you started it?
Initially, one of the thoughts was to bring a wide array of content like in general men’s magazines directly to the web. But, when we actually started, we thought it was better to focus on content that is more real to us and to specialize on our own unique information. We thought if we distill the community and network that the co-founders of honeyee.com, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Hirofumi Kiyonaga, and Hiroki Nakamura, have, we could develop content that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Even now, our core lies in “our uniqueness,” and we try to feature designers and brands that fit with the current times or have concepts that are ahead of the times without prejudice.
The blogs by various creators is also essential when discussing the growth of honeyee.com.
That’s true. Now, some people say that the people blogging with honeyee.com are celebrity bloggers, but from our side, the focus was not so much on their fame, but we intend to ask people who we think understand honeyee.com, may develop a certain scene with us, and may expand our activities further. However, when you have blogs, there are unexpected reactions that are both good and bad. We thought we were hiding and doing it in our little corner of the world, but there is something incredible about the power when something suddenly hits the spotlight for some reason but also how something so “now” can dissipate so quickly. I feel the diffusion and spontaneity of information is on a completely different level than having a column in a magazine.
Does this uniqueness of the internet impact honeyee.com’s editorial policies?
My personal view of the essence of the internet ultimately is that all information is available online. At the beginning when we launched honeyee.com, maybe due to the high expectations for online media, I was told a lot of things like that we should have trackback capabilities for our blogs or that we should organize our members into a SNS. But what we prioritized was that we would fully control the image and we would bring that online. Even now, I think if we want to communicate interactively with our users it would be better to include an offline party or event. Because honeyee.com is an online magazine, we focus on how to handle what is offline or, in other words, we are always conscious of the contrast between online and offline.
Could you tell us what you thought when starting .fatale, women’s online magazine last year?
I have always had the idea that the women’s mode is true international fashion. If we were able to hold that down, it would make many activities easier and it may allow honeyee.com to become a media company that represents Japan or that is influential internationally. With women’s fashion, we can’t use the honeyee.com methodology armed with its locality of being “an insider to Tokyo street culture”, but we can leverage our skills that we learned through running honeyee.com like how to handle information and project quality. Right now, we are steadily figuring out a unique method for .fatale.
What is your understanding of current fashion and culture in Japan?
In the past, I think, in part, Japan has developed this image or mindset that it is “another planet”, sophisticated in its own right but different from Europe or the US by either emphasizing its differences with them or by having those differences highlighted by others. But recently, with the rise of China and other countries, I think culture in Japan is being interpreted as being an extension of the European / US context. At least in the fashion world, I feel that it is being grouped with the “European / US side”. I do think that Tokyo’s men’s fashion is capturing a regular position in the world market, but many Japanese brands are in a medium between high fashion and street fashion, which is a market not yet established in Europe/US and, consequently, it’s creating such a category, but is not fully a member of the Europe / US side with the impact of the strong yen as well. It’s like being the “youngest baby of Europe / US”. But on the other hand, Japan also has the position of being the “eldest son of Asia”, and I think the Japanese themselves are now wondering which side they want to join.
Because it is a hybrid, it faces a dilemma of becoming stuck somewhere in between.
Yes. But I also think that this “somewhere in between” may be praised highly. For example, there is no comparison between Tokyo men’s brands and European high-end brands to begin with, but it may work to our advantage to counter top-class European/US brands by using the characteristics of Tokyo brands that takes creativity equal to high fashion and bring it down to street and casual products. When I look at the world and the tangle of diverse values, I think there are less and less factors that prove that Paris mode is higher ranking than Tokyo street fashion. That’s why I think it’s interesting, and I’m very intrigued to see how designers will survive in this situation.
What do you think is important for creators to survive while the times change so dramatically?
What I feel has changed significantly recently is that no matter how famous a designer is, he / she is no longer up on a pedestal. This does not mean that they are valued less, but more significantly, that there is no random “mass” that is swept away in one specific direction. When so many things are fragmented as they are, if you try to wrap it up in one scarf, so much of it trickles away. Also, given this age where an unknown person with no normal media exposure tweets something, it spreads, and forms public opinion, it changes the positioning of creators that were influential. Not just in fashion, but this paradigm of charismatic individual vs. the masses has collapsed, and society has become flat. I think the creators that will survive will consciously engage such a society, break down the boundaries of genres or hierarchical structures, and think of how much of an impact they can have on society.
You participated in the talk show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo 2012 S/S event VERSUS TOKYO held last year October. Please share any comments about Tokyo Fashion Week if you have any.
I feel that if you are too insistent on Japanese brands or designers, it will actually be more difficult to highlight their uniqueness. For example, it would be interesting to invite brands from Paris or New York that are little known even in their own countries and showcase these new brands by not “reverse importing” but “reverse exporting”. Paris Fashion Week does not only show French brands. Having a runway show in Paris is a declaration of your intention to work in the historical and prestigious world of mode. Similarly, it would be interesting if brands would gather in Tokyo to declare their intention to work in an alternative position differing from the European mainstream.