The Retrospective

The Retrospective random header image

From Japan with Love – An Interview with Mimi Tamaoki

June 8th, 2009 by

Photo Credit: JAY ELEGANCE

The internet has changed everything. When you look at contemporary culture—youth culture especially—people are tapping blogs, social networks, and other online resources to scout trends and entertainment from places that fascinate them but may be just out of reach. This type of innocuous transmission isn’t new and we’ve seen it before. MTV did it when they introduced suburban kids to things like grunge, hip-hop, & punk rock for example in the 80’s and 90’s.

Thanks to the internet, today’s youth culture is influenced from every corner of the globe. That kid in Iowa just copped the latest jeans to drop from Hiroshi Fujiwara in Japan because he’s glued to Hypebeast, while another kid in Kansas is all about the new Foals record because he lives and breathes websites like Stereogum. With brands being so visible on the internet how do they connect with audiences they have yet to meet? We had the pleasure to catch up with Mimi Tamaoki who is the PR/Branding/Marketing director for Japanese brand Swagger, in the US. Mimi has also worked with brands such as TI$A(Taz Arnold), Phenomenon, Trilly & Truly(Lupe Fiasco)  and Dee & Rickey. She herself faces this and many other challenges in her day-to-day. Read on for Mimi’s insights on streetwear, Japanese culture, and how global brands make a big splash in the US.

TR: Who are you and what do you do? Tell us why your job kicks ass.

MT: My name is Mimi Tamaoki. I’m from Tokyo, Japan and came to NYC almost 9 years ago. I was always fascinated by NY culture, hip-hop, Broadway musicals and arts. This whole fascination made me decide to challenge myself in NY. I spoke very little English when I first came here and I had a long way to go to get to who I am now.

I am Marketing/Branding/PR director. I work with street wear brands, contemporary brands and artists in the US, Japan and Singapore. I help brands to create awareness in the market and spread brand images to the streets in the US and Japan.

The reason why my job kicks ass is that I can help bridge the cultural gap between the US and Japan through fashion and music. I believe that a certain group of people can communicate through the language of fashion or music even though the language barrier exists between them.

名前はMimi Tamaokiです。日本の東京からNYへ9年程前に来ました。







TR: You have experience working with Japanese brands that are trying to gain momentum in the US market and North American brands working to do the same in Japan. In your view, what are the ingredients a brand needs to make a crossover succeed? Do you see a pattern?

Six ingredients [fashion]brands need to have as follows:

1. Brand awareness on street level – To have tastemakers such as DJs, shop staff, bloggers, stylists and editors wear brands occasionally and be seen by others.
ストリートレベルにおけるブランドの知名度 – テイストメーカーと呼ばれるDJ、ショップスタッフ、ブロガー、スタイリストやエディターに頻繁にブランドの服を着てもらい、他の人達に見られることが大切。

2. Product placement on artists – To have artists represent brands on media and be seen by fans.
アーチストへのプロダクト提供 – アーチストにブランドをメディアでレペゼンしてもらい、ファンに見られることが大切。

3. The story of the brands such as roots, inspiration and designers needs to be told in press.

4. Magazine and blog features are important.

5. Create websites in both languages and update press frequently and tell viewers where to buy.

6. Product collaborations – US brands x Japanese brands

I see a pattern but I find that it is not easy for brands to do everything to the right degree because of budget issue, however I see giving away clothes as an investment for brands, just like advertising.

I also find a difference in effective publicity between the US and Japan. Being featured in respectable blogs in US is effective to gain brand awareness but in Japan, blogging is not that major compared to the US and consumers in Japan prefer to learn from magazines like Warp, Ollie, Samurai and a few more. Japanese magazines have a significant amount of detailed information in them and it’s like a “monthly street wear dictionary.” I’ve done a lot of work as a writer for Japanese magazines in the past so I know for sure that writers are required to do a depth of research and interviews. I also know that Japanese magazines are expensive, like 8 dollars, compared to US magazines because of the volume of information and photographs.

All I am trying to say is that brands are required to be flexible in both countries.




また、アメリカと日本での効果的なプレスの仕方の違いもあると思います。アメリカでは、リスペクトされているブログにフィーチャーされることは、ブランドの知名度をあげることに繋がりますが、日本では、ストリートウエアのブログカルチャーがアメリカ程浸透していないので、日本のストリートウエアマーケットの消費者は、基本的に、Warp、Ollie やSamuraiなどの雑誌から情報を得ることを好んでいるような気がします。日本のマガジンは、大量の細かいインフォメーションを掲載し、「毎月のストリートウエア辞典」のようなものでありますし、私も過去に日本のマガジンライターをしていた経験があるので、ライターは、奥深いリサーチとインタビュー力が要求されます。大量の情報と写真が載っているため、実際日本のマガジンは、8ドルくらいして、高いのが現状です。



It’s seen as common knowledge that in the “street wear” industry, the Japanese are several years ahead. Would you agree? If so, in what ways are they innovators, and what is it in Japanese culture that drives or supports innovation?

MT: I agree and disagree. Speaking of street wear brand, the Japanese originally got inspired by progressive American youth culture such as hip hop, skaters, graffiti artists, BMX riders and any artists whose lifestyle and art are always one. Many Japanese brands pay deep homage to US brands like Supreme whose history is over 15 years and still strong.
同意するともしないとも言えない状況です。ストリートウエアに関して言えば、日本人は、始めに、ライフスタイルとアートフォームが一緒になった、ヒップホップ、スケーター、グラフィティ アーチストやBMXライダーなどのアメリカのプログレッシブな若者カルチャーにインスパイアーされたと思いますし、たくさんの日本人は、Supremeなどの15年もの歴史があり、今でも格好良くやっているアメリカのブランドに対して深い敬意を持っていると思います。

What the Japanese did is to bring US street influenced lifestyle to streets of Japan and created unique Japanese style with their passion and keep upgrading Japanese fashion. I am proud that the Americans who are innovators in my terms have started seeing the Japanese fashion as the leader of the game, but the truth is we inspire each other. I also see that the Paris music scene is getting involved in NY and Tokyo culture. Artists from Ed Banger records are making a noise on both streets of NY and Tokyo. I like the three way cross cultural inspiration. It’s interesting to see how the future scene is going to be.
実際日本人は、アメリカのストリートに影響を受けたカルチャーを、日本のストリートに浸透させ、その情熱と共に、独自の日本のスタイルを創りだし、常に日本のファッションをアップグレードし続けたのだと思います。私は、開拓者でもあるアメリカ人が、日本のファッションを高く評価していることを嬉しく思いますし、実際お互いがインスパイアーしあって、今のファッションがあると思います。また、最近では、パリのミュージックシーンが、NYと日本のカルチャーに浸透し初めていますし、Ed Banger Recordsのアーチスト軍団は、NYでも日本のストリートでも注目を集めている存在だと思います。こうした3カ国のカルチャーインスピレーションに興味がありますし、将来のシーンがどうなるのか、楽しみです。

TR: We like to keep our eye on brands that challenge the norm and elevate/challenge contemporary fashion. What brands should we be looking out for?

MT: Swagger, Phenomenon, Ti$a by Taz Arnold, F.O.R by Lupe Fiasco, Dee&Rickey, Jeremy Scott and COMME des GARÇONS. Except the last two brands I mentioned, I am involved in many ways but I am just being honest to the question!
Swagger、Phenomenon、 Ti$a by Taz Arnold、 F.O.R by Lupe Fiasco、Dee&Rickey、 Jeremy Scott、COMME des GARÇONSです。最後の2つのブランド以外は、自分が実際に関わっているブランドですが、質問に対して正直に答えてみました。

TR: What artists or brands are you digging right now?

MT: As a female I like the style and swag of Victoria Beckham, Rihana and M.I.A. Oh I am so loving the new hair style of Cassie. 1/2 shaved and 1/2 long hair…so original. For male artists, I am an old school head. I’ve always got love for Biggie and Jay Z but I am also into the movement of Ed Banger records from Paris.

For brands, I am digging vintage high-end brands like CHANEL and Versace these days. I like the movement of Jeremy Scott. His new kicks with Adidas were really cool. Unfortunately my size was sold out when I went to store in SoHo. I cannot wait for the next ones!

女性アーチストでしたら、Victoria Beckham、Rihana、そしてM.I.AのスタイルとSWAGが好きです。Cassieの新しいヘアースタイルも大好き。半分

刈り上げ、もう半分はロングヘアー。かなりオリジナルだと思います。男性のアーチストでしたら、私はオールドスクール好きなので、いつでもBiggieとJay Zが大好きです。最近は、パリのEd Banger recordsのムーブメントにハマっています。

ブランドでしたら、CHANELやVersaceなどのハイエンドブランドのビンテージものにハマっています。Jeremy Scottのムーブメントも好きですし、Adidasとのコラボスニーカーも格好良かったと思います。残念ながら、ソーホーのストアーに行った時には、私のサイズはソールドアウトでした。次のコラボ企画を楽しみにしています!


TR: Your role is demanding and unique—you work to bridge the gap between cultures via fashion and music. Who else is out there doing work like you? How do you interact with them?

MT: I do not know any Japanese who does work similar to mine, but I know some Japanese distributors and writers in the US and Japan and we help and learn from each other.

TR: As contemporary trend culture becomes more global, artists like Kanye West and Taz Arnold are finding that they must draw from diverse international sources to stay relevant and fresh. What new comers to the fashion and music scene are out there doing this and doing it well?
現代のトレンドカルチャーがもっとグローバルになり、カニエ ウエストや
タズ アーノルドのようなアーチストが、フレッシュでいるために、多種の国際ファッション情報を常に参考にしなければいけないと感じていると思います。ファッション/ミュージックシーンにおいて、彼らのように実践していて、成功している新人は誰ですか?

MT: In every generation, the trends are different so it’s difficult to define who will be the post-Kanye and Taz, but I would say Chicago crew-DJ Mano (a.k.a. Million Dollar Mano) and Hollywood Holt are doing well in my eyes. In the world of fashion, Marc Jacobs and Jeremy Scott are so fresh. I have never seen any man who looks as good in leggings as Marc Jacobs. He really killed with his LV Stephen Sprouse leggings that he was wearing at Tribute for Stephen Sprouse event in NYC this past January. If anyone who has not seen him in leggings yet, please google!
どのジェネレーションもトレンドは違うので、次のカニエやタズは誰になるのか見極めるのは難しいのですが、恐らくシカゴクルーのDJ Mano ( aka. Million dollar Mano) とラッパーのHollywood Holtだと思います。ファッション界でしたら、Marc JacobsとJeremy Scottがかなりフレッシュだと思います。Marc Jacobsのように、レギンスが似合う男性は今までみたことがないですし、1月に行われたNYのStephen Sprouseのトリビュートイベントで彼が着用していた、Louis VuittonのStephen Sprouseレギンスは、本当に素敵でした。もし彼のレギンススタイルを見たことがない方は、ぜひGoogle検索してみてください。


TR: Where do you see the industry going with respect to the amalgamation of music and fashion?

MT: I think they are going in the right direction. Music and fashion inspire each other.

Previous Post: Big Time Sensuality – Spring Break in Iceland

Next Post: Chris Piascik Solo Show at Chorus Gallery


Tags: Fashion · Interview · New York · street wear3 Comments

3sxiteen Ad

Leave A Comment

3 responses so far ↓