FEATURE 07 A talk about WTAPS®
with Akio Hasegawa and Tetsu Nishiyama

For the past few seasons, stylist Akio Hasegawa has been directing the visuals that appear in the WTAPS® catalogs and website. Director Tetsu Nishiyama puts his full trust into the world view of WTAPS® that is created from Mr. Hasegawa’s unique perspective. The two discussed WTAPS® for the theme of this talk.

About the WTAPS® brand…

Hasegawa (hereafter H) “In my mind, I have an image that it is pure Tetsu-san. It’s a truly unique brand that always shows different styles within the range that you possess.”
Nishiyama (hereafter N) “That may be WTAPS’ character. Maybe it’s permeated with shadow-like parts of what’s inside me.”
H“Each item has something like a keyword, and there are keywords within my range of understanding, but there are also a lot that are out of my range. I can piece together things within the range I understand in a way that seems right, but for things out my range, I piece them together in my own sort of way. But, by doing so, I actually think an unexpected effect may be born. More like, I hope so [laugh]. There has to be some chemical reaction.”
N“The unexpected. That’s exactly what WTAPS wants from you. A kind of call-and-response, a kind of improvisation. There is a limit if WTAPS only did things our own way; it’s kind of like (you) luring (us) into that realm where we can’t expand any further. Like making a change, from the concept itself. But it’s not forced, I feel like there’s a dialogue.”
H“The presence of models are important in my line of work, and I think it’s better for a brand like WTAPS that seems narrow but has a wide range, to be diverse even in their models. Because even with the same clothes, the look completely changes when a different person wears it. Also by someone actually wearing it, the clothes interact with that person’s strength, and the imaginary image becomes something real. For example, even with clothes that don’t make much sense, they take on that look by just having a model wear it. But, if there is no culture in the background of the clothes itself, the image will not have that vibe even if it becomes something real. I feel that sort of chemical reaction of ‘the culture of the clothing appears by someone wearing it’ is something I would like to create in the visuals of WTAPS. First of all, I don’t think that just anyone can make clothes that are tied to culture. I think it wouldn’t be possible without the unique balance between your designer-but-selector-like clothes making and consummate graphics.”
N“The most important thing for me is making clothes that are tied to the culture that has influenced me. I guess that’s what the origin of the word street brand is supposed to be.”
H“And, having various backgrounds is also a characteristic of WTAPS, right? You have skating and you also have music, and even in music it’s punk, and there’s also hip-hop. I’m not very familiar with each individual culture, but since I am close generation-wise, I think there are things I can sense be the feel.”

What stylist Akio Hasegawa is particular about —

H“To be honest, there’s a part of me that wonders why WTAPS offers me this much work. I almost feel bad about how I never got into Ura Harajuku culture. I started out as a stylist assistant when I was about 20 years old; at that time I had no money, there was no way I could afford to buy clothes, and my mentor was devoted to high fashion like Prada during that era, so the detailed trends of street wear back then is something I am completely devoid of. I think WTAPS started around that time.”
H“Like ’96?”
H“Correct. That is why I wonder if it’s okay for someone like me that has no idea of what it was like back then to be offered work.”
N“What are you talking about (it’s not a problem). This is something I always talk about, when Popeye renewed their visuals (2012), there was a poster with a guy in glasses wearing a plain beanie; it was a photo that you could tell how the person who made it knew how that normal beanie was cool. I really digged that. How there was such a way of portraying fashion. At a glance, it is a photo featuring a really regular item, but the composition and crop was also calculated. That was what did it.”
H“Glad to hear such fine details like that were checked out.”
N“The MILL visuals that will be released soon for the 2020 Spring/Summer collection is exactly that; that setup of standard sneakers and MILL is something anyone would say looks perfect. Including the atmosphere that seeps out from how it’s worn.”
H“Lately I have been thinking again about how details are really important. The combination of clothes is something important, but by expressing wrinkles and subtle nuances that match the person, the clothes and the person begin to look attractive, going beyond things like culture or the story behind it. Especially MILL; since the clothes are simple, the character it possesses is important.”
N“You’re right.”
H“I feel that WTAPS can look even more attractive by taking the simple clothes with culture that you make, have a cool looking guy wear it, and express the wrinkles that are created there. MILL’s good thing is how they are plain shirts or military pants; that is why I feel my important task is to portray that in its best possible way.”

About WTAPS military pants —

H“Military pants that are nothing really special, but cool, seems like something that’s out there, but they really aren’t. In that aspect, WTAPS’ MILL is made really well. Just like what you said before, it’s not like you want to wear military pants that those enthusiasts value; I think the attractiveness of WTAPS is the pursuit of the fabric feel and details of the military pants you liked when you were young.”
N“True reproductions of the original do have their own appeal, but it just doesn’t make any sense for me to make that. But, I am really particular about that texture when worn. Especially for clothes that I saw and was influenced by when I was a kid.”
H“Like that cargo pocket bulge; I really like it.”
N“Kind of like a tent.”
H“I don’t think there really are military pants like this among clothing made by designers. Kind of like military pants that were sold at an old school Amekaji (*short for American casual) shop. I feel that kind clothing works best for men’s clothing…”
N“I know, right? Well, I also kind of think maybe because I’m old now too. In my case, I wasn’t a military gear geek, so honestly I don’t feel that necessity to make things that are true to vintage.”
H“Instead of keeping the vintage details as they are, I think it is more like you to kind of re-edit by changing the combinations.”
N“Right. I am always thinking about what the demand is. Especially for details and stuff, like, is this detail needed in this era?”
H“On the other hand, is there something particular that doesn’t change?”
N“What absolutely doesn’t change, is how there is this fabric that is good for this shape. It’s sateen for M-65s, ripstop is cool for jungle trousers. But, that is something strictly personally for me though.”
H“I really like ripstop, it was also mainstream back in those days too. Kind of curious, are you interested in any of the modern military stuff?”
N“No, not really. Maybe it’s just because I don’t know what is current, but might get interested if I start finding out about it.”
H“I also don’t know much, but maybe modern military stuff just doesn’t look as cool compared to the older stuff. I know it’s functional, like high-tech fabrics with stretch.”
N“Back in the day, ripstop too was said to be functional for being quick drying and tear resistant.”
H“You know, also the military pants pockets and flaps look complicated so they seem even difficult to make.”
N“Right. It’s difficult. We made some BDU shirts before using a fabric called sheeting that you use for lining and stuff, but it was super hard. It was really a lot of work and a pain. Even with a construction design that was supposed to be made taking into consideration sewing efficiency. It was like, you really can call this efficient?”
H“In reality, it seems like it’s difficult to sew products like things with gathers. But, regarding WTAPS, I think it’s interesting since stuff like that including such details are taken care of moderately.”
N“Following exactly the poor quality details that are unique to milspec stuff, and also the texture when wearing it; those are the important stuff.”

About WTAPS’ design —

H“Those brown envelopes? you used to use before for WTAPS; are those types of things other than clothing also stuff you design yourself?”
N“Those kraft paper bags with a coated inside? Those were made a long time ago, but yes, I designed those myself. I like doing that kind of work.”
H“Wow. Normal brands are usually all caught up in making the clothes, and slack on stuff like packaging. No wonder I thought the details looked like they were from a receipt or paper bag from America. Those bags are durable and useful so I can’t throw them away.”
N“Thanks for paying attention also to things other than the clothes and giving me feedback.”
H“Another thing, the recently updated WTAPS label. Why did you change it?”
N“The label is something I have always been particular about since the beginning of WTAPS. Even during our end of the year cleaning, a whole bunch of different types of labels from back in 96, in chronological order, came out. Originally, the label existed as a graphic. But, recently labels that had a somewhat similar design started popping up, so I decided to change them to something new and easily recognized. That’s why it’s something that was rarely used up until now, a simple design that only says WTAPS®.”
H“True, labels are important. Because the impression of the clothes change depending on what kind of label it has. No matter how cool the clothes are, I get disappointed when the label’s design is unfortunate.”
N“The silhouette also started to change a little bit before the label did. Around the 2016 spring/summer STARTER series, so it was just when you started to do the visuals. I feel it was great how you started to work with us when it was also the start of a new era for WTAPS. Looking back at that, I guess the timing was inevitable…”
Akio Hasegawa Born in 1975. Stylist, Fashion Director. Studied under Yoshiyuki Kitao while going to college, and then became an assistant. After training as a writer, started as an independent stylist. Involved in the start of Monocle (UK) in 2007, on to Fashion Director for 2015 – 2016. Involved in the renewal of the magazine Popeye in 2012, and served as Fashion Director up until 2018. Currently handles the direction of the fashion media AH.H, a cooperative of the web magazine HOUYHNHNM, and writes a fashion column for the magazine UOMO. Other work include fashion brand consulting and direction.