Although you might not be intimately familiar with the story of Monkey Time, it's likely you've chanced across coverage of this Japanese newcomer fashion brand on the online pages of Highsnobiety.
While Monkey Time has built a strong rapport in Japanese markets, its arrival overseas in North American markets has been more recent, and in a relatively short time, the young, United Arrows-owned label has built up a strong resumé of collaborations with the likes of PUMA, Champion, ICNY and others.
We've already delved into the sneaker rotation of Monkey Time's Hiroki Okuda, now we take a look inside the brand's second Tokyo location and pick the brain of Creative Director Shoichiro Nakayama.
What is your background/education? How long have you been with United Arrows?
I graduated a fashion college in Tokyo, before starting at United Arrows in 1994.
How does Monkey Time choose collaborative partners?
We always have a respect for archives and cultures that have remained for a long time, things that exist beyond trends. It’s very important for us. For example, the Alpha Industries military jackets, the reverse-weave Champion hoodies, and PUMA's Disc Blaze. These items have become masterpieces in street fashion, and we are refining them to bring them to the future.
In addition, we are working with some young brands that have the same mindset as us, including Stampd and Clothsurgeon, who are adding modern twists on classic outfits. Along with these brands, we are aiming to update the idea of streetwear.
Talk about the “vision” of Monkey Time, how does it fit into the United Arrows house?
Our concept of creation is based around the respect for traditional items inherited from generation to generation. We try to channel authentic Japanese styles with free ideas of “street” and the creative sensitivity of “fashion." Monkey Time is a label based on street culture in Tokyo, whereas United Arrows is more classic, BEAUTY & YOUTH is more traditional in the vein of J.Crew, and United Arrows & Sons is more global and high-end.
What is the significance/meaning to the name Monkey Time?
It’s inspired from soul music of the 1960s.
How big is the team at Monkey Time?
We are currently 10 people including salespeople in-store. We still belong to the BEAUTY & YOUTH division, so we share the supporting department and production team.
Can you hint at any upcoming projects?
As far as sneakers, ASICS is coming in June, and for apparel we have some special projects for the one-year anniversary of our Harajuku store around April or May. Before that in spring, we will team up with a European sports brand to launch a capsule collection globally. In summer, we will collaborate with an Asian friend you guys know well! The particulars are still secret, but everything will be great!
Is it your intention to present Monkey Time as a Japanese brand, or simply a global brand?
We have been conscious that we should be a “Japanese” brand, and now we are interested how people from overseas view us. We are now trying to find a way to better approach the global market.
Do you have a particular favorite Monkey Time collaboration?
I have strong feelings for every collaboration. We always take the time to discuss a project with all parties involved. Through the discussion, we learn about the brand, philosophy, background, history, strong points, character of the brands people, etc…I love the process of making something together with people who have a unique aesthetic.
When did the Monkey Time store open? How was the store designed?
We opened the first store in Shinjuku, Tokyo in Fall 2012. We had in-depth discussions about the space with our in-house store designer. It is always important for us that the store is designed to be modern and to match Japanese aesthetics. We didn’t use many materials in the store; only white plaster walls, grey mortar, silver stainless steel, and natural wood to keep it cool and clean.
What brands are sold in the Monkey Time store? How were they picked?
Our store stocks Stampd, Filling Pieces, Clothsurgeon, Second/Layer, Mr. Completely, Revised Futur, ICNY and others. A-COLD-WALL*, Ne.Sense and Team Cozy will soon be in stock also. We choose these brands similarly to how we choose collaborative partners. It's always important that they have respect for the basics and history of the clothes, as well as the cultural background. We choose partners that can lead with current fashion trends.
What challenges have you encountered while starting Monkey Time?
I think that it is hard to keep the brand fresh and maintain good result in sales for a long time, but this comes with starting a new brand. There are many good brands and stores in Japan, and values are always changing as time goes by. But we always enjoy the challenges.