Q&A with BLACKMEANS Yujiro Komatsu / English

Japanese version Q&A

  •  How did you all start blackmeans?

-When I was working for a different clothing brand I was invited to leather factory to search for someone that specialized in distressing leather in which I brought 2 other people from the previous brand that I worked for to help me. During this trip as all three of us became closer we decided to start a brand at the factory that would go against the norm in using leather in which designers in Japan at the time would tend to stay away from. Our goal was to showcase to the industry that leather has so much more potential than what it was known for at that time.

 

  •  Why did you guys name the brand “blackmeans”?

-We named the brand blackmeans, because we wanted to name ourselves after a group of people in Japan that were the original leather craftsmen in the Muromachi era during the 13th century. Their original name was “Burakumin” in Japanese in which in English would be translated as “blackmeans”. With this brand we wanted to conserve our Japanese heritage of leather craft making.

 

  • So what is the brand’s concept?

-We wanted to seek and showcase our Japanese heritage through fashion while also displaying our original style.

 

  •  Where did the inspiration for the design come from?

-We collectively all took our inspirations from the music and culture that we love and formed our ideas into a cohesive product in which we reconstruct, repair, and renew original designs to our liking.

 

  • The brand blackmeans consist of three people who are Mr.Komatsu, Masutomo & Ani Ariga. What are each of their roles in blackmeans?

-Each of us individually come up with our own designs, but we don’t reveal to our consumers who designed which piece. Although we help each other in the mass production stage we each are responsible for the distressing and last touches of each piece we individually come up with.

 

  • What is your favorite piece from your catalogue?

-The Buddha jacket and the collaboration pants with Tora Ichi. Collaboration pieces usually stand out the most to us.

 

  • How did you come up with the concept for your most popular pieces such as the leather brass knuckle lighter case , coin purse, and the Sid Vicious jackets.

-We always want to create something that doesn’t exist, but that our consumer can use as a daily necessity. In terms of the Sid Vicious jacket we actually collaborated with a famous second hand shop in Tokyo called Berberjin and the concept was that if this piece actually excited in a second hand shop and what would it look it?

 

  • Most brands move their production overseas for cheaper cost in labor, however you guys tend to keep your production in Japan where it is expensive. Why is it important to you guys to keep the production of blackmeans in Japan?

-We wanted showcase and add value to made in Japan products to our consumers. Due to the never ending advancement of technology many of these overseas cheap labor factories are being able to produce high quality products in recent years. However for instance, the coin case that we created is constructed in a way that cannot be duplicated by others. When we started the relic treatment on our leathers no one else was doing this same process. So even if other brands were to copy our designs we are continuously creating new concepts for our work in which we are confident through our experience to always stay ahead of the pack when it comes to constructing leather for our products.

 

 

  •  Even though blackmeans is inspired by punk rock there are artist from different genres such as Kanye West that wear your clothing. How do you feel about this. 

-Its an honor! Not only speaking of punk, but also any sub-culture that has a rich history to stay conservative is important. However, staying conservative and close minded can stunt the growth of a brand from advancing through the time in which would leave you as only a part of history and not in the present. In order to stay relevant, collaborating with other brands and artists is important to prosper and be accepted by the public. Ultimately speaking thats how a culture exist through out time.

 

  • In 2013, UNDERCOVER had released its Crast pants through its SS “SCAB” collection and many other pieces that resembled punk. How did you feel about that?

-My first impression was that it ruined CRUSTCORE which was something that was special to me growing up. I always thought that this genre and fashion could never merge together. Through out time the popularity of CRUSTCORE was depleting however after the release of the collection I witnessed that kids became more educated on the culture of punk rock. Recently when I went to these live events I saw these kids and I asked them how did you get into punk some of them said that they were introduced to it through the “SCAB” collection. In fact after this collection I joined the UNDERCOVER team in which I was even more convinced that the collection was impactful to assist the culture in expanding.

 

  • I heard you guys are not only a leather brand, but also take orders from other clothing brands operating as leather OEM (original equipment manufacture). Which brand that you worked with stood out to you the most.

-There 3 types of brands that we operate as a leather OEM for. One of them are contemparary brands that we duplicate what they ask us for. The other brands bring us historical/vintage pieces to renew. The 3rd brand, we add our own creative designs to these pieces. The brands who ask us for standard items are more focused on the silhouettes. However, those who want the renewal version of vintage pieces are usually more knowledgable about details and fabrics yet outside of that they’re unaware. And lastly, those who ask us to customize vintage pieces are well knowledgeable on contemporary fashion yet are not interested in specific cultural concepts. With all that being said there are also brands that specialize in all of these aspects, but our favorite brands to work with are those that have the same passion for designing as we do.

 

  • Who are you the most influenced by?

- Masahiro Nakagawa, Lica, and Jun Takahashi.

 

  • What is your favorite brand?

-My favorite brands are the ones that I get to work with along with everyone else in this industry.

 

  • Now that you guys are gaining a lot of attention worldwide within this industry, are there any other brands in Japan that you guys look at as competition.

-As a brand we don’t look at other brands as competition, because we believe in remaining innovattve and staying in our own lane to showcase our best work through blackmeans.

 

 

  • For the future for blackmeans what are your goals and what kind of brand you like to be perceived as?

-Our goal is to educate not only the industry, but the world on Japanese culture through our brand along while remaining relevant and spreading peace. As a brand we want to be unique and in order for us to do that we would like to educate ourselves more on other cultures and values from around the world in order for us stay inspired and original.