Yumika was born in 1978 and graduated from ESMOD JAPON in 2000. She has years of experience working with NEPENTHES, and served as a designer, a buyer and a merchandiser at various select shop. In 2017, she launched "INSCRIRE“
“INSCRIRE”, is a brand whose name always comes up when you ask people with good fashionable sense, “which brand do you actually pick-up and wear habitually?” This brand, started up in the 2017 A/W season by designer, Ms. Yumi Oka, is known for their eternal production which makes people feel they want to keep pieces in their wardrobe. We spoke to Ms. Oka on this brand whose future movements is being highly anticipated, especially after having expanded their categories to include a men’s line and sports line.
Please tell us about the background behind how you came to start up your own brand.
Actually, after graduating from high school, I was attending a vocational school to become a stylist. I’ve always favored men’s wear, so during my vocational school years when all the other students were avidly buying up DC brands, I was buying vintage clothing, and after graduating, I experienced working in the sales development at NEPENTHES, which was a move completely different from the mood of the times. Later, I joined BAYCREW’S, at which I worked on various projects and buying of Deuxieme Classe for 10 years. After getting married and childbirth, I transferred to DRAWER because I wanted to reeducate myself in clothes making, and here, I became involved in high quality production particular about materials and details. Then, AMAN, a company involved mainly in the import/sales of European brands, contacted me because they wanted to create their own original brand, and I launched INSCRIRE in the form of becoming independent.
Having experienced a variety of experiences in the fashion industry, what kind of brand are you aiming to become?
The brand was started under the hope to become a part of our customer’s wardrobe in their closet, by creating comfortable basic wear with hints of playfulness and uniqueness through incorporating aspects of uniforms and/or men’s clothing, which I favor. I hope to suggest sexiness and/or maturity that comes about when women wear men’s garments.
Where do you get your inspirations for your creations
I sort of choose silhouettes or details that match my mood at the moment, from the many military and denim illustrated pictorial books I have at home, or from visiting vintage shops. I start from drawing things I want, things I want to wear, and then polish it up into a collection by subtracting to create a balance with coordinations in mind.
How do you decide on your seasonal themes?
I sort of do decide, but don’t really have a theme (laugh). The 23 A/W season was a season I paid attention to military, but in 24 S/S, I finished into a collection placing importance on sports. Both are aspects I incorporate into the brand every season, but the level in which I feature them differ from year to year. In 24 S/S, the theme was how fashionably sportswear could be worn as town wear, suggesting tight set-ups, wrap-around detailed pleat skirts, use of jersey materials and/or stylings befitting mature generations. As the designs of Levi’s changes with changes in era, I hope to express my “-likeness” befitting the times.
Please tell us the points which you hold dear in your production.
I place importance on whether I can feel satisfied with the styling possibilities when I put it together with my wardrobe, or how it looks when I try it on myself, do a fitting and move around. I create under the supposition that one piece of INSCIRE will be added to our customers’ wardrobe every season, I finish an item by trying it out, experimenting it against all sorts of items, imagining what kind of styling will become possible when that one piece is added to our customers’ wardrobe, what kind of styling can be made with clothes purchased years ago.
What is the background behind starting a men’s line and sports line?
I started from receiving requests from customers for a men’s development. As a flow of things in starting the men’s line, as a hook in launching, we first developed a sports line centered around cut-and-saw items which people always have in their wardrobe. In addition, in the winter, we sold approximately 20 fun styles in a knit collection made of high quality cashmere.
How is your present business situation?
It has been growing gradually, presently being approximately 45~47 domestic accounts. We are yet to develop business overseas, but we have 3 accounts in South Korea. At South Korea, our denim collection is doing well, with many people raising INSCRIRE as one of their favorite Japanese brand, and we have been seeing an increase in inquiries.
Having been awarded the TOKYO FASHION AWARD in 2023, you have experienced the brand’s very first show. Looking back at it now, how was the show?
It was extremely fun, including the process of building it up together, sharing all sorts of opinions with people who make the stage, people who make the music, etc. Rather than aiming to increase accounts, because it was our goal to send more customers to our existing accounts and directly offer our worldview, to show what kind of styles we are made of, I did the styling myself and invited the general public as guests. We are a brand with the wish to become the closet of all sorts of people, so we presented a production in which the personality of the people wearing the garments could be felt.
How was the reaction to your show?
I was happy that I received many compliments on the styling from business partners and guests. Furthermore, through the show, people of younger generations and Instagrammers have become aware of the brand, and we are feeling an expansion in our customer base.
Please tell us about your future aspirations.
We wish to continue conveying the worldview and styles of the brand, so above all, we want to open a shop. We feel that ours are clothes are such that become invigorated through conversations with customers, so we want a place at which we can convey. Also, at the moment, our overseas business is in South Korea only, but we would like to expand it to the US and Europe. We do not yet have any specific plans, but we are thinking about challenging overseas awards too, to raise our level of acknowledgment.
Is there anything you would like to challenge in the future as a designer?
Actually, I am in the process of looking into vocational schools because I want to do jewelry. It seems, my personality does not allow me to go forward unless I learn everything myself, so I am hoping to challenge jewelry as something I can conclude within myself, within my realm, after studying and gaining an understanding of it.
Interview by Tomoko Kawasaki
Photography by Daichi Saito