Director, MIKIRI HASSIN / Stylist
Born in 1982 in Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture. Graduated from Bunka Fashion College. Opened MIKIRI HASSIN in March 2006 in a building that was a mixed-tenant building prior to WWII. Moved the store to Harajuku’s Cat Street in January, 2009 where it remains today. Started working as a stylist in 2006. Provide styling services for culture, mode and street magazines, as well as advertisements, CD covers and PV.
MIKIRI HASSIN is a popular select shop in Harajuku that introduces up-and-coming domestic brands and vintage wear from a unique perspective without being particular to any specific genre or style. The store’s creator, Souta Yamaguchi, also works as a stylist and was selected to be the director of “Pyarco” which opened in Shibuya Parco in May of this year. With an interior by “Ultra Technologist Group” TEAMLAB Inc. and events and schools held on weekends, this store shakes the definition of a select shop with its various experiments and Mr. Yamaguchi is gaining much attention because of it. We caught up with him for an interview.
Please tell us how MIKIRI HASSIN came to be.
During the three years leading up to 2005, I worked at a used clothes store in Shimokitazawa called “NORTH”. After the store was forced to close, I carried on the desire to create a place where I could once again get together with many patrons. With this in mind I saw an ad for a property that was available for lease while riding my bike in Shimokitazawa and decided to apply for it then and there (laugh). I then went to the US to buy clothes for the store. We had one-off clothes made by interesting people around me and used clothes just jumbled together in a space the size of about 6 square meters.
You’ve always had used clothes mixed in with western clothes made by designers?
Yes. This explains why I like used clothes, I like imagining why and how the people that owned these clothes wore them. The value of these clothes goes beyond what most people consider, such as age and rarity. The same goes for clothes made by designers. These aren’t just things; they express the designer’s personality and ideas. When I select clothes I look for many things such as the identity of the person who made it and something I can relate to, as well as everything from conception to sewing.
Regardless of whether the clothes are used or are a designer brand, you focus on the ideas and stories of the people behind them, right?
Yes. Clothes are being sold less and less based on image and world view, and more because of the story behind them I believe. The basis for determining fashion is shifting from wearing something that you think is cool to wearing something that was made by someone who you think is cool, or that is worn by someone you think is cool. That’s my own experience with fashion and culture, so when someone says to me that something made by an overseas maison that I’ve never heard of is cool, I don’t really get it.
You moved your store to Harajuku in 2009, was there anything that changed because of the move?
In Shimokitazawa we had customers that stopped in on the way home from the public baths, but in Harajuku everyone has come to experience fashion. So, I’ve come to think of myself more as an embodiment of fashion. Also, we try to be flexible about the direction of our shop, which is something I realized after the move. Deciding a one stern direction prevents you from adsorbing the phenomenal happening around you. We’re not making the fashion, the customers are. I’ve been introduced to good brands by customers and we tend to alter the shop little by little in conjunction with customer reaction.
The relationship between the shop and your customers is very harmonious?
I believe the shop and the customers are walking hand in hand. Of course we offer advice as to what we think is fashionable, but we look at the reaction of the customer to that advice and grow together through the interaction. We have great customer service. For example, our “Black Card Members” receive a discount that increases in accordance with the number of days that they have visited our shop. Of course we would like to see our customers every day, and this gives them an “excuse” to come every day. We try to create reasons why our customers should come to the store. We also sponsor events once a month during which our customers can meet the designers of brands that we carry.
What kind of place is Harajuku, where MIKIRI HASSIN is located, to Souta Yamaguchi?
It’s a place I’ve always sought to be. In the late 90’s there was still the pedestrian’s paradise and an expectation that something interesting would be born from independent movements. Now the younger generation is starting its own stores, but it’s much harder to do than it was. I wish that fashion had more power. I think that fashion is very behind the times. I think there should be more dissatisfaction and a sense of crisis, I’d like the young people coming to Harajuku to realize that they are ones making Harajuku, and that they are the ones responsible for fashion. It’s disappointing when a person dressed great isn’t cool, right? I’m always thinking about the relationship between the shop and the town, and I think there’s still a lot to be done. I want to act with a purpose.
Could you tell me about “Pyarco” that opened in Shibuya Parco?
The first time I was approached by Parco I politely declined (laugh). We started in fashion because we wanted to do something different from fashion buildings and department stores, so I had no clue what to do at a place like Parco. But, they were persistent so I said I would do it on some conditions, such as being able to work with TEAMLAB Inc., which I had been interested in for a while, and they agreed. So I accepted the offer. I suggested the name “Pyarco” because I thought it would be cool to have a store inside Parco that criticized the existence of Parco to begin with. Of course they don’t let me criticize anything (laugh). Since we’ve created this store it would be nice if they were more on the same page as I am.
How did you feel about running a store in a place such as Parco?
The difference with MIKIRI HASSIN is that we have people come to the store that have no idea who we are. So, I figured that we should be able to present ourselves to everyone, from babies to the elderly. If someone presents something difficult to me in a difficult manner, it’s hard to relate. If you base it on something familiar and then sublimate it with fashion in a unique manner then you can related to it. At Pyarco I’d like to take things that people have never noticed are beautiful and output them. This is the reason why we have toys and candy out, for example, there’s no specific way to play with a rubber band gun, right? It only becomes a toy through the creativity of the person that buys it. The same can be said of fashion, clothes themselves are not interesting, it’s being able to wear them in a fashionable way that makes them cool.
What are your future plans for the store?
I’d like to explore ways for getting our message out that can only be done from places like this, such as linking digital with analog. Take the TEAMLAB Inc. purikura photo machines at the entrance for example. The people being photographed enjoy capturing a memory, while the people watching feel like their watching a real photo shoot. And, since the photos are posted on the Paryco website, people who visit the site often can see who’s coming to the store.
Also, we run a school on Saturdays called “coconogacco” as well as events and workshops on Sundays. We also try to videotape the events and show the images in the store the following week. A place where you thought you knew well could be turning into something totally different when you’re not looking. I want people to gain an interest in the store by leaving a digital footprint of what’s happened there. We can do more interesting things so I want people to have more fun.
Changing the subject, tell me what you think about Fashion Week in Tokyo.
I think it might be good if they clarify a little better who and what the event is for. At our shop we balance two approaches, one that targets the industry that is done for the brand, and one that targets the street that is geared for the customer. But, if taking both approaches results in half-measures then I think it’s better to choose one approach and focus on it. I’m sure there are budget issues, but not having money is becoming the norm. So we, and that includes the brand side, need to think more about how to present our message without a lot of financial backing.
If your shop was to participate in Fashion Week is there anything particular you would like to do?
These days it’s easier to get your message across through a shop than it is through a brand. People usually don’t wear clothes from only one brand, and you usually don’t see a complete look created by one brand for sale at a select shop. That’s exactly why I think it’s better for the shop to take the initiative in setting the style. For example, you could do a show where each select shop has a theme and coordinates clothes from different brands that are made to order. And, the made to order clothes would not be arranged on mannequins to just sell them, it would be an opportunity to learn about what the shop thinks and how the brand can be interpreted. Whatever the case, I’d like to do something that general customers would enjoy.