Under the Seven Seas: Eiichiro Homma of Nanamica Interview August 22nd, 2012

During our trip in NYC to catch the (capsule) NY show, which we recapped here, our William Yu had a chance to sit down with Eiichiro Homma, the co-founder and managing director for the Japanese brand Nanamica. Catching him at New York’s Ace Hotel, Will brought the questions as Jay previewed Nanamica’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection. A brand known for integrating technical materials into classic American styles, Nanamica introduced some new materials for the upcoming season as well as recreating the Take Ivy style popularized in the 1960′s that features a heavy nod to the prep world. During this session, we talked to Eiichiro about the Nanamica’s history, the crossover between American and Japanese cultures, and the new Spring/Summer line.

William: To start off, could you state your name, and your role with Nanamica and talk about how you developed the brand?
Eiichiro: My name is Eiichiro, and I am the head of the company, the managing director. My role so far is full direction of the company, brand, in particular for the overseas sales right now. We started the year 2003, as select stores, although even at the time we are aiming to develop our brand, but initially we started from a retail business, and also some licensed merchandise like North Face or Champion, or American sportswear brands. But we created a special make-up addressed to more, not sports or streetwear stores but to fashion-oriented boutiques.

In the year 2004, we started our own stores in Tokyo, and in the next year 2005 we launched the Nanamica brand, which is our house label, which can be coordinated with our special make-up under the North Face brand. After several years we launched the Nanamica brand, we reestablished Nanamica as a global full item brand and spent a couple of years just test marketing in Italy, in particular for the fit, to be well-received for the Western people. In year 2010, after a couple years of test marketing, we launched in Pitti Uomo, Florence. And after that we expanded to a global market. And in this year 2012 spring, our styles are sold in 19 countries right now, and maybe more for next year. This is the first time for us to give small individual presentation in New York City, since we have many North American customers who couldn’t come to our Pitti or Tokyo show.

W: Did you previously have a background in fashion/design?
E: Actually, my background is in design for technical outdoor garments for over 18 years. In addition to design work, I took care of the items, promotions events, creating catalogs, and also set up whole retail operations. Before we started Nanamica business, I met a guy (Takashi Imaki, the current chief designer) who is my current partner for the company, who has also good experience designing fashion products and another catalyst (Toshio “Tom” Suga, the head of sales and retail operations) who has excellent experience in sales and buying the fashion stuff in Paris or even from the US, in particular for the women’s stuff. So by having this triangle synergy…

W: What are some examples of Nanamica’s integrating technical materials into fashion items? I know you’ve put Gore-Tex into jackets, etc.
E: Yeah yeah. When we started our brand, I looked into which is good advantage, as a Japanese man or a Japanese company, [is that] most advanced function materials, such as Gore-Tex or Par-Tex or even synthetic down type of things, all those technical fabrics are produced in Japan right now. Recently, only very high-end technical fabrics are developed in Japan, even if the production is in China or Taiwan. Since I was working in technical outdoor industry, so we have a very close relationship with such mills, so we can get some advance information from them. That’s where our advantage is, it must combined with fashion creation. And when we look at Japanese other fashion brands, those Japanese fashion brands might be recreation just for Japanese sense, very sensible and small detail. The design might be little basic and simple, classic, but we add the technical features. And also shape and fit must be very important for us. For instance, when we create very basic oxford button-downs, if we look at the sketches it looks all same, it’s basic, but it looks different when you put it on, and that depends on the shape or the cut. So we spend a lot of time getting a nice-looking shape.

Because technical garments size must be developed and focused on a very specific purpose like running or climbing or jumping, that’s why all those things must be analyzed by computer things. The result be the same, which is [as if you were] naked. That’s why speed skating or nordic jump is very tight fit. So naked must be the purpose for a specific purpose. But human beings prefer a little more emotional looking, for labor day, that’s why we coordinate a real high level of features of comfortness for what we’d like to show or what we like to showcase as our preference.

W: What goes into finding what the right fit is for a specific type of customer? Do you just look at body types? You mentioned computer analysis?
E: Actually it depends on the physical, organic analyze by our eyes. For instance, when we look at the Japanese market over five years, basic things have been changed to more tiny tiny things for the past five years. Now, new brands try to push little baggy in case of autumn trousers, but jackets and inners in general become very tight over five years. So when we compare even our brand from the first collection to year two or five or six, it’s a little bigger then that. So we have to analyze which type of shape the people prefer, or which type of shape we’d like to put by ourselves, that’s a very important thing.

W: It seems as though there are lots of Japanese brands that are into remaking American wares and doing it better than American companies are. Why do you think that Japanese and American culture seems to get along so well with each other?
E: It depends on the mentality. We are good at making everything very in detail. Without any big stress. But the reaction from customers [of Nanamica] from overseas are much bigger than the customer of Japan right now. I don’t know why, but inquiries from the business side, we’ve had more inquiries from overseas.

W: Are these inquiries more from America or are they more European based?
E: Both. Even from Asia as well.

W: What are your highlight pieces from the upcoming collection?
E: We added two new fabrics. One is a basic one, the cotton ribbed stop, although the sewed color of the fraying cotton Gore fabric, but we have the ribbed stop as well. For us, this brand new fabric is the linen. This is a new and exclusive fabric for us that we developed with the Japanese Gore-Tex mills. This is a three layer fabric with Gore membrane, but with 100% linen outside. Good for the summer atmosphere. And we have the new riding jacket and short coat with detachable hood. We also have the easyfit cruiser jacket…good for spring.

W: I’ve noticed a lot of these items have a sort of cycling feel.
E: It is. The basic theme is the New Take Ivy. Like the Ivy car drive back to 1960, and we tired to modernize the college looking into a modern shape. And also now people are into biking, it’s good for the, save energy, I don’t know.

W: I know Bodega’s stocked Nanamica for a little while. What’s the relationship with Nanamica and our store? How did we end up coming to stock you guys?
E: I think (Bodega co-founder) Jay understands our detail and features. He understands completely. He understand Japanese companies and Japanese brands and our mentality. So we are very comfortable with him. And we’ve visited the store and it’s so unique. The circuit of Nanamica overseas department into two different ones: one is very fashion-oriented, like fashion boutiques, the other one is very fashion but a little more life-style, street-oriented mixed together.

Many thanks to Eiichiro and the entire Nanamica family for granting us the time to talk to us and show us the upcoming collection. We here at Bodega couldn’t be more excited to show our Bodega customers the great things that are coming from Nanamica.

Words: William Yu [@williamkuehoyu]

Images: William Yu

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