Tokyo, NBHD BUILDING, 24.04.2012, 14:00
What is the story behind the name “NEIGHBORHOOD”? How it was born?
The story goes back to 1994. I and a few friends of mine studied at Harajuku. So, it was just a neighborhood for us. When I reflect now neighborhood meant what Harajuku was for us at the time.
Harajuku neighbors made the NEIGHBORHOOD?
If we talk about bikes as an element of esthetics and philosophy of
NEIGHBORHOOD … what are the bikes, the era in the motorbike production and
culture that NEIGHBORHOOD is most close to?
It is a simple yet very difficult question. Motorcycle culture seems like a good representation, but for me it is rather vintage here that I really care about. Why vintage? For example, at the time a bike was really a bike, it was the most authentic in the way it was made. I not only like bikes, but all things, products, industrial products that were more “human-made” and people really cared for what they did. So, I feel more warmth in vintage.
Your 5 favorite motorcycle models?
• Harley Davidson 1936 EL
• Indian Motorcycle 1939 Inline 4
• Crocker Motorcycle Hemihead Small Tank
• Brough Superior SS100
• Vincent Black Lightning
Hell’s Angels or Easy Riders?
Easy Riders I’m really inspired by. Hell’s Angels … I’m only interested in 1960-70s’ motorcycling influence. It’s just a part of Hell’s Angels.
I know you friend, collaborate and are inspired by Kostas Seremetis, Jeff Decker and Cole Foster for example. Who else you would like to collaborate with next? It may be a secret you would not want to reveal, but still … what are your current interests? The ideas and values of new Neighborhood collections.
In the past I chose close friends as collaboration partners - Jeff Decker (a bronze artist), Hiroshi Fujiwara, Jack White. They were all “underground” in a sense that they were not very known and the idea was to introduce these unique artists to the public through NEIGHBORHOOD. I still do this, but going forward I will probably pick some world famous names as collaboration partners.
SVG, ONETHIRD, various exclusive collaborations – all great things we like Neighborhood for. And what about women's lines? There used to be many great pieces, but it’s been a while ...
There have been many requests to release women’s lines. However, women’s market is quite different from the men’s market and what I realized … women’s wear tends to move with the trend. And therefore, there is kind of a conflict for me – I’m not up to speed with this, I honestly do not follow trends. So, no specific plans here. However, if there comes the right time when I could be able to create women’s wear with no need to follow trends, I will probably go for it.
I know you collect old elements of fashion design and other vintage things which inspire you. It is interesting to know more about your interests as a collector.
I wonder if there is anything I collect that you don’t know (laughs) … I collect bikes and bike parts, things that surround bikes, e.g. rider jackets. Vintage cars and all that goes with it … parts. Vintage toys – you may not know. Some art pieces. That’s about it. Not to disappoint you (laughs). I love metal … that’s where my passion for parts comes from.
Lifestyle “preached” by NEIGHBORHOOD is connected to music. What kind of music?
I’m not limited in terms of music. Neither is NEIGHBORHOOD. Rock, hip hop, reggae, punk. Sometimes even techno. The common theme is that music should touch me – that’s how I choose my favorites. If I were to pick a genre … rock and pank.
Your 5 favorite songs and artists?
• Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) / Neil Young
• Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys / Map of Africa
• Krank / KMFDM
• Hurt / Johny Cash
• Tom Traubert’s Blues / Tom Waits
What would be your other passion and profession if you would not become a designer?
Maybe, graphic designer. In a very real sense though … maybe homeless. Not that I really want to be homeless, but likewise, I don’t remember myself studying too hard or even working too hard … so I may have well ended up homeless.
I met Kostas Seremetis because of you. If I did not know what Neighborhood does I would never know what Kostas does. Is Kostas you favorite painter?
Yes, he is, yes.
People who inspire you – 2-3 names … activists, whoever … maybe from the past…
Difficult to say who from the past. I’m more interested in the current … as I mentioned, Jeff Decker, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Jack White. Generally, I’m more interested in the end result (work, music, movie, art, etc...) rather than personalities.
Do you travel a lot? Where have you been to over the last 2-3 years?
Difficult question …I would I could name a wide range of locations, but my time does not allow much travelling. I’ve travelled mostly to Asia nowadays. I haven’t been to the US for maybe 4 years, very long time. May be I should go there soon. Otherwise, I have not been travelling much.
American culture has influenced many brands in Japan. Neighborhood is also kind of mix of English punk and American motorcycling culture. Why North America had such a big influence? Maybe at a certain time they were the best, produced the best stuff at the time? Is it that Japanese designers just took what America did and re-shaped, made it better? Why America?
Interesting question. My first interest in fashion was English punk. If you talk shoes it was Doctor Martin’s. So, first, all fashion, music and culture pieces came from London. America … many-many people ask this question. We should go back to the time of the war … we lost the war and I don’t want to go into details. So, after we lost, every commodity in Japan was “Americanized”. So, the next thing we exposed to after traditional Japanese things was American commodity and culture. It was also a political stigma – we were occupied. So, it’s kind of natural that we have absorbed the American culture pieces rather than anyone else’s.
There used to be those SVG series T-shirts with Russian criminal tattoos. How all this came about?
I used the Russian tattoo graphics because it is so different from American or literally any tattoo graphics. I found it very-very striking, distinguished and unique and I wanted to use this theme on those T-shirts.
You should come to Russia some time then. The right time should come.
I really want to. Hope I will see things I have never seen.
With “mass” brands many people buying them don’t know and don’t care about individuals who stand behind the brands. With NEIGHBORHOOD it is just the opposite – 90% percent of customers know who you are. That is why I will try and keep doing those interviews, introducing views, passions, perspectives. It is very important.
Agree completely. With e-commerce and everything being on-line people no longer see people’s faces. Having those face to face interviews is very important and I appreciate it too.
Photo: Riei Nakagawara
Interview and text: Arsen Markaryan