Interview with SKOLOCT designer, Tsuyoshi Nakano
SKOLOCT was founded in 2007 by Tsuyoshi Nakano, former designer of NGAP, one of the streetwear brands that took over Urahara fashion scene in the 90s along with brands such as A Bathing Ape and Undercover.
SKOLOCT was inspired by the Urahara streetwear culture and has a distinct presence ranging from art and casual wear. It has collaborated on art exhibitions with the likes of Hysteric Glamour and Stussy and released collection items with brands such as Undercover and TAKAHIROMIYASHITA TheSoloist.
SKOLOCT has been gaining international attention with solo exhibitions at Edison Chen’s Juice LA and Juice Hong Kong. It was also released at music and fashion event Innersect Shanghai along with brands such as Sacai and AMBUSH.
Occupation: Artist and Designer
Born: February 18th, 1972 in Kanda, Tokyo
1995 NGAP founded
2007 SKOLOCT founded
2013 SKOLOCT×STUSSY Collaboration
2014 SKOLOCT×HYSTERIC GLAMOUR Collaboration
2015 SKOLOCT×HYSTERIC GLAMOUR Collaboration
2016 SKOLOCT×TAKAHIROMIYASHITA THESOLOIST Collaboration
2017 SKOLOCT×HYSTERIC GLAMOUR
Tsuyoshi Nakano was one of the main influences for the Urahara fashion scene in the 90s with the likes of NIGO, Hiroshi Fujiwara, and Jun Takahashi. After closing of NGAP in 2007, he founded SKOLOCT and created its big eared, googly-eyed character. It has gained a lot of positive attention from its many collaborations.
EMPTY R _ _ M recently sat down for a candid interview with Tsuyoshi Nakano to talk about the beginnings of his brand and the Urahara movement.
Please tell us the circumstances that led you to establish SKOLOCT and about the characters motif?
I really like the animations of Hanna-Barbera productions from the 60s and its cartoons inspired the character for SKOLOCT. The design had a similar style to the cartoons but has now evolved into its own and will continue to change with time. When I was NGAP, I worked as a painter, carpenter, and architecture so I could only create things within those realms. I began to appreciate graffiti art and wanted to create something beyond the theme of architecture.
What were the circumstances in founding NGAP, one of the brands that contributed to the Urahara movement?
When I started NGAP, JONIO (Jun Takahashi, Undercover) and NIGO (A Bathing Ape) had already established their brands. At the time I was really close to JONIO and he would always take good care of me. I lived with him for a while and he would often buy me lunch and dinner every time. *laugh* He was very supportive when I wanted to create my own brand and he funded everything. He allowed me to exhibit the collection at UNDERCOVER and the NGAP bag was very popular.
Initially, I sewed everything by myself at home, but after the bags gained popularity, NIGO offered to create and sell it. He sold about 100 million yen worth of bags for me. *laugh* I made a bed shaped like a bag, and to be honest, I started making large things before KAWS. *laugh* From there, NIGO made the NGAP, FUTURA, STASH t-shirt cans and with the money we made from that we established our company.
The business ran for about 10 years, but after a while I got tired dealing with finances and the company politics and I wanted to distance myself from my surroundings. *laugh* At the time, I was naïve and thought that as long as I was doing what I wanted it didn’t matter if people knew about the brand. When I realized that NGAP wasn’t popular, I wanted to move on from the brand and start something that would have more momentum. That's part of the reason I started SKOLOCT.
SKOLOCT has collaborated with several brands locally and internationally. What is the reason SKOLOCT collaborates with brands and which was the most impressive?
I have collaborated with many brands but the most impactful collaboration was with VLONE. It was the first time I collaborated seriously with a foreigner and I had fun. We probably had good vibes. *laugh*
There were a lot of things that were difficult to communicate in English, but it was meaningful and it felt good to accomplish. In contrast, when communicating with JONIO in Japanese we can decide in 30 minutes so it’s easy. The reason we met and this project came about was because of the VLONE collaboration. *laugh*
Another meaningful collaboration was with HYSTERIC GLAMOUR. Nobu (Nobuhiko Kitamura, HYSTERIC GLAMOUR) and I went to neighboring middle schools and our families were close. He took good care of me and I respected him. The HYSTERIC GLAMOUR store has always displayed art and in the basement of the Aoyama store there is a gallery called Rat Hole. It’s a gallery where 2000 to 3000 works of photographers such as Araki Nobuyoshi and Daido Moriyama are displayed. I want to reach a point where my art can be displayed there. When I discussed this with Nobu, he agreed that after six collaborations with HYSTERIC GLAMOUR I could display my art. We are up to our fourth collaboration. That is the next challenge for my artwork.
You have collaborated with the brand TheSoloist, which showed at Paris Fashion Week last season. How did you meet Takahiro Miyashita?
When I was a teenager, I lived in Kasukabe (Saitama) and we were on the same train line. The guys at Ueno and Saitama hung out a lot. I know the guys from his hometown and we still hang out sometimes.
How did you collaborate with TheSoloist?
When Takahiro was designing for NUMBER (N)INE around 2002 and 2003 he seemed overworked and going crazy and I told him, “you need to get your act together!” When we happened to meet recently he still remembered that *laugh* and asked me, “NAKANO san, what are you doing now?” *laugh* and that was the starting point. At the time I wasn’t really thinking of SKOLOCT as a fashion brand, but when I showed Takahiro my work, he surprisingly liked it a lot and that’s when we decided to do TheSoloist collection with a SKOLOCT theme. That’s brotherhood.
You mentioned that you already knew JONIO and NIGO from when you established NGAP. How did you meet them both?
I used to frequent a nightclub in Shinjuku with 40 to 50 guys from Saitama and was responsible for keeping the scene alive. *laugh* Hiroshi Fujiwara, JONIO and NIGO used to DJ there and that’s how we met. They used to play popular music from overseas and each day had a theme. Monday was London night, Tuesday was hip-hop, Wednesday was reggae, Thursday was rockabilly, Friday house music, Saturday was music by Hiroshi Fujiwara. Everyone was DJing there but I was there to support. I became friendly with JONIO and NIGO.
When NIGO he approached me and said, “I’m going to open a store called NOWHERE so help me out” and I helped to create the interior. Everyone was around 20 years old so we had no money, and at the time I worked at a paint store in Sangenjaya so I would drop by after work with the tools and we helped out late into the night. After that NOWHERE became hugely popular so we were able to make and sell new things and change the interior with each new season. We made a lot of money and suddenly I’d receive something like one million yen. *laugh*
There are many designers that have contributed to the 90s Urahara scene. Is there anyone that you respect or consider your rival?
It’s not that I don’t want to lose to JONIO, but I want be on the same playing field as him. I lived with him for a short time so I spent a lot of time with him *laugh* He’s older than me so I can’t say it in a high-and-mighty attitude. *laugh*
At first NIGO was doing streetwear so JONIO wasn’t looking to adopt streetwear style, but eventually he wanted to include streetwear for UNDERCOVER and took me with him to New York to meet KAWS and FUTURA. That was the beginning of the collaborations with them. I was influenced by JONIO by working with him. Shin-chan (SKATETHING) also influenced me a lot. I didn’t want to do the same thing but he was like the pop culture KING OF HARAJUKU. He was a big influencer and everyone looked up to him. *laugh*
NIGO and Shin-chan brought home SUPREME and KAWS as a souvenir and that was the start of STASH becoming popular. At the time there weren’t many foreign things in Japan so everyone would bring back things and tried to popularize it.
Otherwise, there were times I lived with Hikaru-kun (BOUNTY HUNTER) and JONIO, and I used to hang out with Tetsu (WTAPS) almost everyday when I was around 20 years old. Nobu is an incredible person and he continues to create lasting designs. He adapts to youth culture and has good sense. Arata-kun (REVOLVER) is a junior of mine and I designed his store interior. I see him from time to time. We were all rivals when we began but we inspired each other to aim for the top.
You have many friends in the industry but is there anyone that you are particularly close to?
I’ve been a friend of KID (Norifumi KID Yamamoto) for more than 20 years and we’ve been creating art together since the days when I established SKOLOCT. KID is another person I respect. I’ve known KID since he started out as an amateur fighter. Since he is a world champion his mental state is strong and his way of life is disciplined. When KID was a university student, he used to come to the spot where I hung out, that’s when I was introduced to him and we got along really well. We still inspire each other and draw art.
Is there anyone you respect outside of fashion?
In the art world I like DOZE GREEN. My friend’s sister was going out with DOZE and I thought his art was cool and we started to meet every now and then. DOZE grew up on the 125th street in New York and was a rebellious kid. They say Hip-Hop originated from the Cuban American community in New York. DOZE is part of that founding community because he is African American and Cuban. He used to paint on the walls while dancing.
At the time, people who were obsessed with fashion, like JONIO and NIGO, surrounded me but I also liked rebellious culture like the one DOZE was living. I was working at NGAP and didn’t draw much but I liked graffiti and did a lot of research. That’s when I came across the works of DOZE and when I went to meet him I thought his style was really cool. DOZE was making a lot of money through his art and was known worldwide. He was invited to Europe to paint a few times. When we went to a record store in Brooklyn he stole a record and I had to run out with him. *laugh* I was 34 at the time but I thought I wanted to be more rebellious like him. *laugh* That’s when I started to think I wanted to make art. DOZE probably doesn’t know that I started SCOLOCT and still thinks I operate NGAP. *laugh*
I liked Hip-Hop more than Rock and I grew up in that time and thought that was cool. I don’t know if being rebellious is the right way to live but I thought it was cool to live as who you are. I like Shin-chan’s style of art but I like DOZE’s rebellious art.
What do you think of the youth today?
I don't think the youth has changed on a fundamental level. Young kids who want to make something of themselves are doing just that. I had some motivation when I was young but I wasn’t that hungry.
What do you think of the current graffiti scene?
I don’t have much interest. I am more interested in people who make and sell things. I am interested in people who change their things into money. Art is the same. Making art isn’t interesting, but making money or having people view it, or displaying it in a big art museum, interests me more.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become an artist?
I think that you should continue to do what you like without giving up.
What kind of brand would you like SKOLOCT to become?
I want SKOLOCT to become famous worldwide. If it changes shape from what it is now, I want people to know that SKOLOCT is fashion and art. I want it to become like SUPREME. Not like the fashion of SUPREME, but like the SUPREME stores. I want it to be in a central location like Manhattan and Harajuku and be a cool place for people to go to and to sell interesting things in the store. I want it to have a core so it doesn’t ambiguity.
What JONIO and NIGO have done has impacted the world and everyone. There’s nothing that’ll overcome that and the perspective towards Japanese people has improved. Fuck You JONIO and NIGO!!! *laughs*
I don’t think Japanese people can beat America’s pop culture, but we have the ability to change that pop culture into shape. With garments, JONIO will make a lot of pants with patches with UNDERCOVER, but I don’t think they can make that kind of thing in America and because they have a different perspective. We don’t know how long this wave will last but we want to give it our all.
Tell us of your upcoming plans.
The collaboration with HYSTERIC GLAMOUR will be released in July. Also, I hope to have a solo exhibition within the year.