To learn more about The North Face's mysterious PURPLE LABEL, we sat down with the brains behind the project, Eiichiro Homma.
Out of the many, many Japanese fashion labels that lure Western customers with their obscure riffs on menswear, THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL is perhaps one of the most elusive. Available only in Japan, The North Face's fashion-forward sub-label attracts a loyal following both in and outside of its native country, thanks to its progressive design language that blends its parent brand's legendary performance credentials with a bold, stylish aesthetic.
We sat down with the brand's mastermind - Mr. Eiichiro Homma, who also runs nanamica - to get an exclusive insight into the origins, roots and inspirations behind this mysterious brand.
What's the story behind PURPLE LABEL? When did it start and how?
THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL is a collaboration with The North Face brand in Japan and nanamica. The North Face in Japan and South Korea is owned by GOLDWIN INC.; who I started my career producing technical outdoor clothing with in 1982. The head of The North Face business in Japan is my best friend. We started THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL in 2003, when we established nanamica.
Why is PURPLE LABEL only available in Japan? Will the line ever be available in the rest of the world?
As I mentioned above, the owner of The North Face trademark in Japan is different from the rest of the world. So we are not allowed to export it to any other countries. In addition, we address THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL to fashion-oriented people through fashion distribution, while The North Face is carried through technical outdoor distribution - they're different definitions of the product.
Apart from only being available in Japan, what are the differences between PURPLE LABEL and The North Face's mainline?
Sportswear is developed and designed with the ideals of freedom of movement, maximum comfort and minimal weight. The core value of The North Face is providing the ultimate functions for outdoor sports. On the other side, people have emotional taste. Somebody might want to add their emotional direction even to technical clothing. So THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL is modified outdoor clothing with additional modern fashion aspects - creating a high-level mix of style and function, which is nanamica’s fundamental value, too.
What informs PURPLE LABEL's design?
THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL's principles are: garments should look like The North Face, they should be inspired by the outdoors - in other words, feel "mountainous" even when in an urban setting, they should use The North Face's design heritage, they should use the fabrics that are developed by The North Face and they should be the perfect modern fit for Japanese people.
Is PURPLE LABEL's purpose to push boundaries with new technology, or to try out styles and aesthetics that would not work in The North Face's mainline? Or both?
Again, THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL is modified outdoor clothing that doesn't sacrifice function - similar to nanamica’s fundamental high-level mix of fashion and function.THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL is a high-level mix of The North Face's aspects, with just the right functions for every day.
How does PURPLE LABEL use new technology and materials in its collections? Are the technologies and fabrics used the same as those of The North Face, or different?
Since we have a close relationship with The North Face's product design team at GOLDWIN INC., we are able to use the same fabrics as The North Face's mainline. We sometimes replace just the base fabrics, to keep the garment's main structure and functions.
What is PURPLE LABEL's relationship with The North Face's HQ like?
The North Face's HQ for us is GOLDWIN INC. and we have a close relationship with them. I also have direct contact with the top management of The North Face's HQ in the U.S., just to exchange business information.
What is PURPLE LABEL's relationship with nanamica?
nanamica is the primary entity which produces THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL.
How big is the team working on PURPLE LABEL?
We have only 12 people in our office. In addition, 18 people are working at our four own stores.
What can we expect from PURPLE LABEL in the future?
We would like to be the leader in both high-level fashion and function.
Check out THE NORTH FACE PURPLE LABEL's Fall/Winter 2015 lookbook here.