We recently were given the opportunity to have a conversation with Eiichiro Homma. Homma is a founder and managing director of nanamica, an independent menswear brand carried by Roden Gray that is focused on providing high quality utilitarian garments. He is also currently the senior managing director of Goldwin, a major sporting goods manufacturer and distributor in Japan. In his over three decades in the industry, Homma has quietly proven himself to be a major figure in both technical manufacturing as well as creative direction. He is recognized as one of the first people to not only bring international sportswear aesthetics to Japan, but also as an early adopter of utility focused American designs. Not one to stagnate, Homma continues to push forward, and in the past two years has come up with a new fabric (ALPHADRY) and has expanded nanamica both at home and internationally.
Homma is joined by Takashi Imaki, co-founder and director, as well as Saishi Fukugawa, product development.
Adam Danyluk: So, Eiichiro, what were you doing prior to starting at Goldwin?
Eiichiro Homma: My background is in sociology, and my major was sociology at university. Personally, I was most interested in the communications side of academia. I found that pure marketing was more so focused on the business aspect of communications, while sociology focused on the emotional side of it. Frankly, I preferred to study the emotional side of marketing, and so I chose sociology (laughs) Around this time, I was also skiing, and I became involved in sports events and worked as a ski instructor. This provided me with a good opportunity to learn how larger sporting events are structured, and it opened my eyes to the emotional effects that these events had on both participants and fans alike. At that time, Goldwin was already well established and recognized as a sportswear manufacturer, particularly in the ski category, and that is how I was first introduced to the company.
AD: You mention that you are inspired by commuters, and that you would like to positively impact their daily lives. What do you think are some key aspects in your approach to this goal?
EH: I think the foundation is an appreciation of classic and basic styles and an emphasis on proper fit. From there, one thing I look for how something I create fits into their lives not only in the present but moving forward into the future. This approach keeps me focused on providing updates or variations that can add value to the garment in some way without negatively impacting its original purpose. These variations can include new materials or additional functionality, or maybe a collaboration that brings forward the strength of both parties involved.
AD: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that such a personal and corporate philosophy faces in modern menswear?
EH: One of the biggest things occurring in menswear is collaborations that draw on aesthetics rather than functionality. Many brands and designers will appropriate looks or design aspects from certain original sports, military and workwear garments without an appreciation of the purpose of said design. These brands then market these clothes as technically inspired everyday pieces, as opposed to the appropriations that they are. In contrast, nanamica is recognized as pioneers in the technical daily menswear market by some its key figures, which we appreciate greatly. We think that this approach allows us to maintain what would be considered a very focused way to run a business.
AD: One of your favourite books is Ikusanga by Ryuzo Sejima. From my understanding it is a memoir about a Japanese officer and business leader. What makes this book so interesting or important to you?
EH: Most of the time I would say that I am centered in my fundamentals as a person of civil society when it comes to how I frame my personal vision and objective reality. However, there are times when I recognize that these frames begin to misalign for whatever reason, be it positive or negative. I find that this book, and other books like it, help me refocus and realign to a more neutral position as a human being. Essentially the book gives me a few principles for human value that I find to be personally beneficial.
AD: Can you recommend any other books? Particularly ones in English…
EH: Ahhhh, I’ll have to get back to you on that (laughs). After some thought… Unfortunately, I don’t remember any English book which I could recommend. However, for a young generation of entrepreneur in particular who’s background is design and creations, I would suggest reading at least a few business books since producing a brand as a business is not only creation but also organizing a team. I sometimes remember some instructions of Jack Welch’s WINNING which I read right after I started nanamica.
AD: On that note, what do you find so inspiring about soul music from the 70s and 80s? Is there a particular artist from that era that you enjoy the most?
EH: Looking back on it, I think that youth culture during those eras had a particular feel to it that encouraged individuality and energy. From this perspective, I guess that music from this time invokes a certain level of nostalgia in me about my youth and how much I enjoyed it (laughs). In comparison, without too much condemnation I’ve found that music from the 90s and the 2000s, particularly mainstream music, reflected a culture that may have been more focused on conformity and financial prosperity. I think this is where my love of this music probably comes from, and I try to capture that energy and creativity whenever I DJ or play music at events. As for artists, once again I will have to get back to you after I think about it (laughs). Once again… I can’t choose just a few artists in particular. I think a good combination of a piece of music and artist makes good vibes. In many cases I would like to use 90s and 00s, as far as those could make good combination with the same list, together with 70s and 80s. Here are some titles which I usually put into my playlists:
Through the Fire (GTS Mix) / GTS Clap Your Hands Together / Funky Bureau You Make Me / Monday Michiru Love Never Felt So Good / Michael Jackson
AD: Shifting the focus more to the professional side, how would you say your career has evolved at Goldwin?
EH: 1982 is when I graduated university and began at Goldwin. It was around this time that there was a paradigm shift in the public mentality regarding sports in Japan. Prior to the 80s, the public focus was mainly on competitive sports, famous athletes, and subsequently products designed for them. As I started working, people became motivated to participate in what can be called ‘lifestyle’ sports like skiing, hiking and camping. Just one year after I joined Goldwin, the company decided to extend into such outdoor and lifestyle categories and organized “Outdoor Business Division”. Then Goldwin extended their brand vehicles to nautical sports, and we partnered in 1983 with Helly Hansen in addition to The North Face. When this partnership occurred, I was promoted to be brand director, where I stayed until 2001. This worked perfectly for me as I enjoyed surfing during university and can still sail, but windsurfing is a little too tough for someone my age (laughs).
AD: What is your feeling towards the current Japanese menswear paradigm and what seems to be a focus on Americana? Do you think the paradigm will shift sooner rather than later?
EH: I think that this context is already beginning to change. Right around when nanamica started (2003), there was a very strong trend of recreating traditional garments and taking inspiration from more heritage styles, often from America. However, we have noticed that over the years Japanese people have started to appreciate how technology and small design changes can add value to a garment without being detrimental to its original purpose. While the focus is still on American styling, a certain portion of consumers are most certainly starting to move away from purely vintage inspired clothing. As a result, more individuals are becoming interested in our brand, as we have a more modern approach to production and styling. We appreciate this new shift. (laughs)
AD: What do you believe sets nanamica apart from other technically focused brands?
EH: The most important aspect for us is the ability to access the most up to date information regarding manufacturing and textiles. This is because of my relationships with key figures in Goldwin, which is a trade mark holder of The North Face and Helly Hansen, amongst other outdoor goods and clothing manufacturing companies. These relationships ensure that even though nanamica is a small operation it stays at the highest level of production available. Additionally, these other brands seem to be design and aesthetics oriented, as they often change styling and pieces season to season. nanamica approaches clothing in a way that tries to build on existing styles while making minor improvements, while ensuring that our choices for graphics and textiles keeps the consumer hungry, so to speak (laughs).
AD: Do you believe that nanamica accurately captures the ‘active lifestyle’ that it aims to portray? Are there any aspects of this lifestyle that you would like to further incorporate into your garments and product line?
EH: Personally, I believe that nanamica has done well to support our customers. As mentioned previously, the recent move towards ‘athleisure’ suggests to us that our customers are looking for versatile garments that can be worn both inside and outside the house. We at nanamica like to be able to recognize these changes and reflect on how we, as a company, can provide products that will fit into and benefit their lives moving forward. Personally, I am interested in merging athleisure aspects into utilitarian designs, so that they are wearable both inside and outside the house. I’ve found that few, if any, brands have approached design this way and in this regard I believe nanamica would have a positive impact. If the recent trend proves to be lasting, then this could be something that we expand on in the future.
Photography Andrew Milligan, styled by Ricky Zhang, location Revolver Coffee
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