「THE CONTEMPORARY FIX」 Owner
In addition running the restaurant "PARIYA" since 1998, he was also the buyer for the members-only select-shop "CELUX" (located within the "Louis Vuitton" Omotesando branch) and served as the head coach at the select-shop "LOVELESS" which is run by Sanyo Shoukai, and was then appointed to the post of Japan Branding Director of "GOYARD". In June of 2008, he opened the select-shop "THE CONTEMPORARY FIX" in Omotesando which he personally manages. In addition to handling Mastermind JAPAN, PHENOMENON and the like, and managed the limited shops FACETASM and DISCOVERED brands, both of which were featured in TOKYO Brands. Above all, recently Cafe & Deli "PARIYA," which published its first recipe book, commemorated its 15th anniversary by opening shop on the first floor, combining food and fashion.
With buyer credentials, Yuichi Yoshii, manages, restaurants and produces and directs shops representative of TOKYO. All of these charm countless fashion lovers. This is the Yuichi Yoshii who loves fashionable clothing so much that when he was a student, he would spend money on his favorite brands of clothes even if it meant diverting money from his food budget, and yet, describing fashion using words such as “dream,” “passion,” and “affection” in the true manifestation of love for fashion, as a buyer and as a shop owner, he radiates the sense of feeling joy. We interviewed Mr. Yoshii in regard to his options on contemporary TOKYO fashion and brands to keep in focus, as well as the future development of THE CONTEMPORARY FIX.
Entrance area of The Contemporary Fix. Climb the spiral staircase on the left to reach the select shop on the 2nd floor.
First of all, can you tell us your feelings as to the current TOKYO fashions…
Yoshii: All sorts of new fashions came out in the latter half of the first decade of this millennium, and gained a lot of momentum at the start, but more recently have petered out. To tell the truth, I was not at very happy about it. It could be just because of the economic climate, but the wave that swept across the industry seems to have receded.
But speaking about the latter part of the decade, one can not ignore the so-called fast fashion boom, can one?
Yoshii: The boom is quite significant. Within this fast fashion, there are many high quality goods, some of the brands which I would judge to be not so different to some of those included in the TOKYO brands. With quality that is not all that much different, fast fashions are quick to catch innovations and trends, and are cute and inexpensive. Especially as far as girls are concerned, the big question is how many cute items they can buy with a limited budget, and I suspect that may be somewhat responsible for some TOKYO brands losing out.
Especially, some of the more popular fast fashion brands that are popular with girls have some very clever gimmicks, and can infuse dreams. After all, dreams are what trend are all about, right? The fast fashion with its clever gimmicks has taken over the lead. When fashion-seekers go into one of those fast fashion shops, they feel like a child in candy-land and are so engrossed in what they are doing, they feel they cannot leave without buying something. The euphoria comes not so much from the quality and price of the array of items, but rather it is the very shop itself. It possesses a kind of energy of its own. I would say that one big reason for TOKYO brands losing ground is this energy and atmosphere of the shops.
The first thing you will see after climbing the spiral staircase is a display made by “SASQUATCHfabrix.”.
Of course, we cannot overlook the shopping power of visitors from Asia, but as a buyer and as the owner of a select shop, you must be able to feel the enthusiasm of their driving force, right?
Yoshii: We also have a lot of Asian tourists coming into The Contemporary Fix (TCF), and yes, you can really feel their enthusiasm. TCF has a core base of regular customers, and all of them are quite fashion conscious, but among them, the ones who make you go “Wow!” are mostly customers from Asia. I don’t actually work in the shop floor myself, but at the end of the business day when checking over the days receipts, when I ask the staff about the customers who bought “such-and-such” items, they are more often than not our Asian customers. They are overflowing with vitality. Both the boys and the girls love to adorn themselves with ornaments while feeling the thrill of shopping, but more than anything, they have a very sharp eye. In that sense, Asian consumers are already stand out from the crowd and I would say they have established themselves as being indispensable. In view of the power of these consumer, it seems fair to say that creators from Asia are on equal footing, and in the near future we should not be surprised if we start seeing some interesting brands debuting from Asian countries.
Do you think TOKYO brands stand a chance at competing in the Asian market?
Yoshii: From the perspective of creation, I think TOKYO brands are one step ahead, but the gap is clearly getting narrower. In my estimation, we do have a chance of permeating throughout Asia. Japanese brands have more of a reality for Asian people than European brands due to the visual similarities of skin tone, hair color and body form and the like. It is a market that we must pursue aggressively.
As of January 22 of this year, began handling products as a store directly managed by “PHENOMENON”.
Mr. Yoshii, as a buyer, what is your criteria for brand selection?
Yoshii: A buyer must be more stylish and possess greater expertise in coordination than anyone else. Perhaps a buyer may need to have greater expertise than a stylist. As I see it, in fact, if a person can’t cut it in styling, what basis does he or she have for selecting items to display in the shop?
Right now I am backing brands such as PHENOMENON, FACETASM and others, and over my career I have promoted a lot of different brands, and I think it is important to possess the human qualities of a designer. It goes without saying that creativity is a must, but above all, one needs perseverance and will-power and the stubborn passion to carry on as a designer. It is imperative to aspire to be greater today than yesterday, and even more so tomorrow than today. And I think this is especially true for young designers who have just made their debut to stay on this course for the first ten years. In the world of fashion, you only get to present your creations twice a year, and the first ten years fly by like an arrow. Keep on creating clothes with zeal for ten years, your own personal hallmark will develop itself, and just keep growing from thereon.
Held a limited shop for “DISCOVERED” goods for three weeks, beginning February 25. Also handles orders for limited edition goods and collection items.
In that meaning, who, in your opinion, would you name as some of “the greatest” designers of all time?
Yoshii: I would say Masaaki Homma, of mastermind JAPAN and the two designers of Green (Hideaki Yoshihara and Yukiko Ode). Since becoming a buyer, they are the foremost designers in my mind, they really have high aspirations. I guess I am sort of the type to stir things up (laughing), but beyond that, a Stoic when in comes to the clothes they create. They have natural gift, and their talent is blossoming. What’s more, their sense of speed in the way they live is something else. As for myself, when the weekends roll around, I forget all about work and give priority to my private life (laughing), but they devote their priorities to creation. They can get so wrapped up in their work they don’t even notice that they have not taken any time off and may go a whole month without taking a holiday. mastermind JAPAN will be taking a break from activities after the spring & summer 2013, which will be the 15th anniversary of the brand, and while this is disappointing on one hand, on the other hand, it makes me happy that Masaaki Homma who has been operating at high speed for all this time will be taking some time off.
Tell us, when you are engaging in buying, what point of the design is it that captures your attention?
Yoshii: A creation that is one of a kind, a brand that is in a class all by itself. It needs to be something that is not based on anything before it. TOKYO is coordinated in a certain way, and it is the combination and arrangement that gives TOKYO its charm, for instance, clothes created by Takeshi Osumi of PHENOMENON and Hiromichi Ochiai of FACETASM are nowhere else to be found, and nevertheless “beautiful.” For me, personally, I take the word “beautiful” seriously, and things that do not have any beauty in the landing site (clothes, shows, shops and the like) are not to my liking.
In addition, freshness and sensitivity to contemporary times are important. There are those who say, “vintage things are better” about fashion, music and movies, but I don’t think those people are really paying attention to the present. In today’s world, if one has a magnificent talent, wonderful clothes and wonderful goods will result. My desire is to never lose touch with these things.
TOKYO fashion on the whole is not on its way out, PHENOMENON and FACETASM and the like are the new light and harbingers of what is to come, and these fresh brands are coming out with creations that have no equal.
Also sells items from the women’s brand “plumpynuts.”
Buying clothes on the Internet has become commonplace these days, so tell us your plans for your physical shop TCF and future sales plans…
Yoshii: How to deal with an online shop versus the physical shop has been on my mind for several years now. In the present generation where anything and everything can be purchased on the Internet, my thoughts are about providing added value that can only be provided through a physical shop. This includes things like the background music playing in the shop, flowers that please the eye, decorative books, the mood created by the staff… the entire process leading to the purchase of the desired item, in other words, I think we need to entertain the customer with a complete story line. If it is only a matter of displaying a lineup of goods, an online shop is plenty enough. I think the “live reality” of person to person interaction is able to exceed the convenience of one-click shopping. That is where personally serving customers comes in. The staff need to have a pleasant aura about them at all times. Another thing is, discovering new brands, something you can only do at a physical shop. So if it is a brand you see for the first time, you can try it on and see if it suits you, which you can not do in the case of online shopping. I believe a light still shines for the future of physical shops.
TCF operates various brands limited shops, and FACETASM will hold an event simultaneous with the JFW event March 18 through April 1 (http://www.tokyo-mbfashionweek.com/jp/the12th/event/20_facetasm2011SS.php). We will be doing the installation for the models recruited from among ordinary customers, and our aim for this event is not simply selling clothes, but what we can show during the process leading to it. Our desire is to live the fashion scene up together with our customers.
Precisely because this is the generation that it is, our aim is human ingenuity, excite people with fashions, and make our shop a shop with dreams.
Purses and shoes by “Steam and Thread.”
Lastly, could you say something to all those involved with the JFW and the fashion industry?
Yoshii: I wish that the appeal of Tokyo fashion is conveyed through the JFW in response to the hopes and expectations that foreigners have for it. My aunt and uncle live on the outskirts of Paris and have absolutely no interest in fashion, but recently they watch the TV and say to themselves, “hey, it’s fashion week now”. Karl Lagerfeld even comes up in their daily conversation! The whole of France helps to build the excitement in Paris during fashion week. I would hope that in Japan as well those people interested in fashion, and even those not interested, will enjoy JFW and help to build excitement about it. I think that’s what makes fashion culture. All those involved in fashion, myself included, are not just in it for the money; each and every one of us is on a mission to create a culture, and I hope that they are aware of that.
10% of proceeds from the FACETASM limited shop, open between March 18 (Fri.) and April 1 (Fri.) at The Contemporary Fix, will be sent as donations to charities for the Tohoku Kanto earthquake.