So you’ve got a unique line of clothes that are water dirt resistant, and even contain reflectors for night-cycling and straps for locks. Now how do you market that to riders around the world? Enter Nakamichi Daisuke, Director of Design & Merchandising, Global Creative Hub, Tokyo, Levi’s® Brand.
What kind of bicycle do you own?
It’s a Bianchi, an Italian brand. It’s a mixture of a street and a road bike. It’s really about the commuting for me so the Levi’s® Commuter collection is something I’m going to wear with those bikes.
We heard you worked with the bicycle riders to create the Commuter line. Who were the designers and riders you worked with?
Designers in our San Francisco office (HQ) actually designed this and the marketing and merchandising guys all went as a team to Denver, which is the Mecca of the bicycle community in the US. The whole approach that we took is that we need to be right in the middle of the society, and in the culture and lifestyle of the people there. The bike people we talked to were posed all these different questions and hypothesis and that’s how we were inspired. And all that was translated into the designs. All these details, the actual products and all those designs, they were for those people, inspired by them. It’s about how we can better those lives.
When collaborating with artists, how do you guide their creativity? Are there some things that are ‘too radical or too crazy’? Or do you just tell them to go ape sh!t?
In a way that’s what Levi’s® is about. I think because we’re Levi’s®, particularly people in Japan, they have gone through “the moment” within their lives, the moment of Levi’s®. Everyone is actually looking at the same thing – some take it as something very rebellious and some take it as something very refined. It’s not a gap, it’s more like the width of the brand, is something that we own because it’s Levi’s and we’re the only ones that can do this. So to me, I never ask people to do whatever they want. It’s pretty much about communication but end of the day, the width is something very important for the brand and collaborators.
We asked Jacky this question and we’re going to ask you as well: What makes Japanese denim so special?
The people of Tokyo consider denim as part of their culture, it’s not just a product. Obviously, denim came from US but I think that’s the biggest difference and the angle that the Japanese people create, in a way. It wasn’t just culture, denim was the work wear. We took it. It’s almost like one of the categories of fashion for work wear and we made that into a different culture and style.
Do you feel like the rebellious nature of denim is it getting lost along the way ‘cos it’s becoming more commercially accepted?
I don’t think it’s lost. Particularly for us, it’s just one of the big waves of trends and definitely we’ll see the denim style becoming more refined and that’s something that we’re always looking out for. But Levi’s® isn’t just about being rebellious or rugged. It’s something we’re always trying to create and we have to shift from time to time.
We’ve been talking so much about denim, do you have any personal interesting stories about denim? Did you ever have to use denim to bandage yourself?
[Laughs] No, nothing as interesting as that… My first ever dating experience was when I was 13. There was this girl I fancied and I was trying to talk to her. She was a very fashionable woman and she mentioned that my denim back then was not too cool, and that’s when I decided “Sh!t, I need to look better to pull a girl!”
How do you feel about Levi’s® today versus how it was 20 years ago?
I think being original and authentic hasn’t changed. What changed was that, back in the ‘90s there were no other brands on the same page with us. Since then, with the evolution of apparel brands we are not the only ones, anymore. At the moment, anyone who wants to create denim, can. In terms of the brand itself, we’re still quite a big brand and company.
Still, in our minds if it’s denim, it’s Levi’s®.
The Levi’s® Commuter line will be available at Levi’s® stores in Pavilion KL, The Gardens at Mid Valley and Suria KLCC from this month onwards.