This summer we were in Japan for work and play, and we got to spend some time catching up with the good people of Go Out Magazine. If you don't already know it, Go Out is a fashionable outdoor lifestyle magazine and a worldwide cult favorite (even though it can be tricky to find outside of Japan).
Battenwear team member Norimasa Shirai, Go Out writer Tropical Matsumura, and photographer Shouta Kikuchi drove down from Tokyo in their vintage whips with their vintage boards to meet us at Chikura Beach at the end of Chiba Peninsula.
This is one of our favorite spots to stay in Japan because it's not too far from Tokyo but feels deep in the countryside and has amazing food and nature. (Plus, we have a lot of great friends in the area from when one of us taught English here in the early 2000s.)
It was a real pleasure to get to spend the day with the folks at Go Out, especially in a place that we consider a home away from home. Here is a rough translation of the Go Out interview, for those of us who don't read Japanese.
How's your life in California lately? We live in Topanga Canyon, which has both mountains and the ocean. We surf, hike, trail-run, and camp with our family. Our office is in a repurposed mid-century schoolhouse and is just a quick drive from our house. For SS23, we did a photoshoot featuring our 91 year-old neighbor who lives in the Airstream next to our office.
You used to live in New York, right? Yes, but after we had our second child we decided we wanted to raise our kids with more access to nature, so we moved to Topanga where my wife is from.
Why did you move from Tokyo to New York in the first place? I had been dreaming of studying fashion in the United States, and in 2002, when I was 30, I decided to move to New York to enroll in the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Is that where you learned how to make clothing? No, I actually studied marketing at FIT. After I graduated, I worked at a vintage clothing company called What Comes Around Goes Around and after that I got a job working for Daiki Suzuki as his assistant designer for the Woolrich Woolen Mills project. I learned how to design during the 4 years I worked with Daiki.
Is that why you have a collaboration with Daiki Suzuki's brand Engineered Garments for Fall/Winter 2022? Yes, and it was a lot of fun to work with Daiki again. Unfortunately, this collaboration is not available in Japan, but I have another mentor, Takeshi Ohfuchi, who also agreed to do a collaboration for our 10th Anniversary. This Post O'Alls x Battenwear collaboration is available in Japan.
What brought you to Japan this summer? We have been exhibiting Battenwear SS23 in Tokyo these past couple of weeks. In addition, my wife used to teach English nearby in Minamiboso, so we wanted to visit all her friends here. And of course, I couldn't pass up the chance to go surfing with the Go Out crew!
Battenwear seems like an outdoor brand with a lot of surfing influence. What's your main inspiration? In 2011, when we were first starting the brand in New York, I used to go to Rockaway Beach by subway before work. I wanted to have clothing that matched to this lifestyle: suited for surfing but good looking enough to wear into the city for the rest of the day. So, that's the main reason I started Battenwear. Some of the first items I made were the Local Shorts, Packable Anorak, etc., and we are still making all of these items.
What's most important to you when you are designing clothing? The first thing I pay attention to is color. Then I pick fabric to match the color scheme I have in mind. The fabric also has to match the era of fashion that is influencing me at the time. I generally also focus on designs that can be made particularly well in the USA, although it is now getting harder to find factories to work with.
Battenwear has a lot of returning items that have become standards for the brand. Was that your strategy? It is true that there are a lot of returning items, but I'm often making adjustments to them. I feel like making clothing is like raising kids. You have to always keep your attention on them and help them be the best they can. For me, cutting edge, wild, new designs have short shelf lives. I like to make styles that feel timeless. So, my aesthetic is always coming from the same place, generally with roots in the 1970's and 1980's.
Finally, what's your vision for Battenwear in the future? To use a music analogy, I want Battenwear to be sort of like vinyl records. Nowadays, music is digital and, at least to me, can feel disposable. The music can be popular, and then it can just disappear. I want to make clothing that will be like vinyl--something you physically cherish and then hand down to the next generation.
So, that was our summer! We hope you had a great one too!