Trade shows serve as meeting points for brands, retailers, and press from around the world to come together and share their wares some twice a year. We usually hit up the North American shows in New York and Las Vegas every season, but there is a host of others in Europe and Asia that cater to the same world of heritage.
One of the newest and most heavily curated shows is the “CC” Clutch Collection show put on by Clutch Magazine in Yokohama. Clutch brings together some of the best brands and names in the industry and although we couldn’t be at the most recent edition in October 2016, our friend and owner of store Okayama Denim, Mehervan Sethi, and photographer Ryo Kinugasa were on the scene to scout for us and translate where necessary.
The following is his account and interviews with the best of what the show had to offer. His first interview begins with Atsu Matsushima, Clutch’s Editor in Chief and one of the key organizers of the show in Yokohama.
Atsu Matsushima of Clutch Magazine
Mehervan Sethi: Why did you choose to do Yokohama, particularly Osanbashi?
Atsu Matsushima: Osanbashi Pier in the Minato-Mirai area of Yokohama was selected as the venue for our show as it has a rich history as the first Japanese port to open its doors to trade with the outside world. It also gave us a chance to show the foreigners attending the show another side of Japan while still being so close to Tokyo. There is plenty of shopping, restaurants, hotels and beautiful scenery which inspired us to bring the show here to Yokohama. And personally, I love the area and the vibes of Yokohama, which drew me here.
MS: Why did you choose to do the show?
AM: Clutch is an international magazine that covers very high-quality products from an array of places, and the reason behind this show is to bring all of these superior quality brands and products under one roof for a curated selection of product. The magazine is the most important piece, but [the show] brings the people of this culture and niche market together, to share experiences and to make a hub for networking.
MS: How did you curate the brand list?
AM: The brands who have been introduced in our magazine are the ones who have the main booths at the CC show. We personally and individually invite the brands who have been in the magazine at one point or another. Beyond the relationships built through the magazine, there are countless brands who hear about the show by word of mouth. They request to be a part of the show and from that group, we select only the brands we would like to be exhibited.
MS: Any new vendors?
AM: There are a few new brands that are showing, but there are a couple brands which are showing for the first time that I am personally excited about. Gold Kid is a brand specializing in brass accessories. There are countless brands focusing on silver craft, but brands who do brass products specifically are minimal. This is a brand I’ve had my eyes on for a while, so I am excited that they are a part of our show this year.
Nick’s Boots from the United States is another brand of interest, and are represented here by their Japanese distributor. Mid-cut boots are particularly popular with this brand; something we don’t often see with other brands, which we found to be exciting.
MS: What is the future of the show?
AM: While considering particularly the international buyers, we decided to adjust the timeline of the trade show. The Spring CC show was moved from May up to March, we plan to do the Fall show in September moving forward.
For the past two years, the shows have been late in each buying season, so as to introduce our new show and its potential. Yet we always had it in the back of our minds that we would move the Spring show up to March so our schedule reflects that of most international trade shows.
I found it to be my duty to shift the norm of the Japanese fashion buying timeline so we are closer to the rest of the world in terms of scheduling. Although the world trend of trade shows is slowing down, we want to keep our niche alive and keep building our business from the small brands and people building top quality.
Takashi Okabe of Allevol
MS: Tell us about Allevol.
Takashi Okabe: I first started making jeans all the way back in 2005. Japanese denim was not so popular yet at that point. Europe was a step ahead of the curve in terms of popularity of Japanese denim. Our production was entirely in Japan, but sold exclusively in Europe.
[The magazine] Men’s File ran our brand story back in 2007 and the recognition helped propel our presence and popularity in Europe. At the time, we solely made jeans. Right around 2008/09, I was hired by Men’s File first as a photographer, eventually being involved in networking and even the direction of the magazine.
Because of the unfavorable exchange rate after the global financial crisis in 2008, I halted production of the brand in 2009. In March 2016, we revived the brand after a seven-year hiatus.
I look at clothes differently now. It is not exclusively heritage, nor is it a men’s fashion brand. I find myself in the middle trying to take influences from different places to relay my vision. During the design process, England and English Workwear heavily influence me. I found that because Americana is already so popular with a somewhat saturated market, I wanted to take a completely different and fresh approach to designing my products.
MS: How do you feel about this CC Show?
TO: I feel really positive about the CC show this time. There is a great gathering of people who are all serious and passionate as buyers, so this makes the working environment very comfortable. Also, because I know the industry and people who come here (due to my relationship with Men’s File), I have met all the people I need to meet.
- Hand Braided Belt: the belt is hand braided in a small workshop in Liverpool. It is crafted from English Bridle Leather, and is an exceptionally durable weave due to the hand made aspect of this piece.
- Ventile Jacket: 1960s Royal Navy Waterproof Smock, inspired by the Royal Navy. The fabric is a ventile fabric and was originally navy in color when used by the Royal Navy. Taking cues from this heritage, we updated the color to a bold orange to breathe new life into this classic piece. The buckle on the hood draws inspiration from the French Army, as it was more durable than what was historically used by the British.
Mikiharu Tsujita of Fullcount
MS: Why Clutch?
Mikiharu Tsujita: We always have our own exhibitions in Osaka and Tokyo, but the concept of Americana brands being brought together by this culture under one roof is very appealing for us. At this show, everyone is working very hard to gain recognition for this niche market.
Rather than only focusing on our Fullcount & Brown’s Beach Jacket brands, we like the idea of all these brands coming together under one roof for this trade show. It is a true family feeling here, and we love that. If for some reason Clutch were to stop doing the CC show, I would love to put together a similar show myself.
Another great perk of this show is that all the serious buyers show up here, allowing us to work face to face with our retailers. We consider this a great privilege.
MT: Fullcount has about 150 accounts in Japan. As this is our only showcase in the greater Tokyo area, we have made appointments with all of our domestic retailers, and will be busy all three days of this show.
25th Anniversary Product Showcase
MT: The local history of loopwheel in Japan spans almost a hundred years, as do the shuttle looms for denim. As bringing Japanese heritage to Americana has been our thing since day 1, we wanted to epitomize this concept with this latest collection. So we have gone overboard with details to create a collection that will only be available this year with the 25th anniversary.
The only reason we are able to make this collection possible with very specific details is because I have been working with this production factory for over twenty years, so they took my insane requests to perfect everything. We went as far as possible to get new threading and only had the most professional and experience worker of the factory stitch the entire collection.
Kento Tsujimoto of The Real McCoy's
MS: How do you feel about this show?
Kento Tsujimoto: From a personal point of view, I am very happy with the way this show always goes. As a brand, we cannot mass-produce our product, nor do we want to sell to too many accounts. So being in this environment allows us to create, develop and nurture the personal relationships we have with our clientele.
MS: Why do you show at Clutch?
KT: Clutch is the only showcase of our product throughout the entire year, and we appreciate all of our domestic as well as foreign buyers who visit us here to check out our upcoming collection. Because this show is quite international in terms of attendees and due to the unique atmosphere of our niche market, we really like showing here.
- M-65 “First Model” Jacket: The early model M-65’s did not have epaulets, which is why we chose this design and silhouette for this piece. They came in a variety of fabrics. The shade of the green we applied to this piece is called OG (olive green shade), a tone that is closer to a yellowish green closely replicating the original first model. This is in contrary to the M-65 that we have been running as our standard, which is a more pure olive green, portraying the 1960s look.
- Tiger Stripe Camo Jacket: Joe Strummer of The Clash popularized this camo pattern, and with the help of a military specialist, we mimicked the silhouette of the original that Stummer wore, down to every last detail. Taking cues from the Souvenir style jackets from this year with the patch motif, we have updated this specific fabric to closely replicate the original fabric of the original 60s, which possesses more character and detail intricacies than previous fabrics we have developed.
- A-2 “Deerskin” Jacket: The A-2 was made in a variety of leathers, and this year we chose to develop the Deerskin version, which was historically a civilian model. Details portray early A-2’s, including exposed buttons on the torso pockets, and not snap buttons like were previously used. The era that deerskin was used was likely pre-WWII, and we have built this model out like we would expect this model to look like of that era. Also, the liner is a custom produced satin fabric, which was primarily used during pre-WWII, as opposed to broad cloth, which was used on later models.
Ian Segal of Nine Lives
About Nine Lives
Nine Lives represents Japanese quality and over construction. A heritage-inspired line refocused with a modern feel.
MS: Why Clutch?
Ian Segal: Clutch is part of the roots of our brand and we have friends here who have supported the brand since our inception.
MS: Comments on the show?
IS: Day 1 and the show is great so far. With a great mix of serious buyers and people sincerely interested in our products, I am enjoying the overall feel.
- Shearling Jacket: Sourcing the best Spanish Merino Lambswool available on the market, the superior quality of the Shearling Jacket by Nine Lives is both soft and warm enough to rock with just a tee. Featuring a rough out exterior and subtle and clean detailing, finding this level of sherling sewn and finished in Japan is rare given the declining number of artisans still able to do it.
About Kassim Denim
Kassim Denim is a vertically integrated mill – they grow their own cotton, they spin their own denim fabric and they have a sewing factory where they finish their jeans. There is a premium section that is advised by Mohsin Sajid, and they have designed these original fabrics from scratch.
Ben Viapana from Bangkok [now Toronto, Canada] is the lead designer of the current collection, to integrate a more heritage look and feel that fits well with our intended demographic. People from our niche industry identify well with Ben, so he used the latest fabrics to develop 10 of the pieces from the collection.
While Kassim is more of a cutting edge mill, developing a ton of stretch and jacquard denims, they takes from vintage to develop the fabrics used for the Kassim Denim line.
- 38oz. Selvedge Denim: Kassim are responsible for the world’s first 38oz. selvedge denim, basically the heaviest selvedge denim to make it to market. Currently only one pair was produced as a sample to bring to the show. The jeans were constructed on carpet series rather than conventional denim sewing machines, simply because it would be impossible to sew a denim this thick otherwise. With an eventual planned production of only 100 meters of this insane denim, any more would be a stretch as this fabric literally destroys the mill that it is woven on due to the sheer weight of the fabric.
Images by Sadia Rafique.
Ken-ichi Iwaya Pure Blue Japan
MS: Why Clutch?
Ken-ichi Iwaya: The people at Clutch magazine and myself have a great friendship, allowing us to work seamlessly together.
In my mind, great product boils to three pivotal points – price, quality, and promotion. We have perfected the process of designing and producing a top quality product that we are proud of. Yet promoting our products is not necessarily our forte. So when we collaborate with a large company like Clutch and their CC show, it assists in getting our brand name and ethos out to the world.
Clutch attracts a niche market, that brings together the best of Japanese brands and what Japanese craft has to offer. It is imperative for our brand that we are part of this group of people at the forefront.
We go to European exhibitions, we go to American exhibitions, but not all of the buyers attend every exhibition. Thus, we would rather meet people face to face and explain our product in vivid detail. Also, rather than working via mail alone, we prefer to meet our clients in person to build our business relationships.
MS: How has the CC Show been for you?
KI: Since it is the first day, we are not really sure how it is going to pan out, but it is very similar to previous shows. There are serious buyers among the crowd, and we can spot them out almost immediately because of the way they interact with our product. Those who engage [with] the product very seriously are generally the ones who have sincere passion.
My personal ethos is simple – fabric is everything. It drives my design process and product, so I want the buyers to feel the product and get an understanding of the new fabrics I am introducing to the market.”
- 17oz Beige Pop-Up Selvedge Denim: A selvedge denim jean comprising of a classic indigo rope-dyed weft, and a beige yarn (featuring a beige core) that is then also indigo rope-dyed for the warp. The combination creates a 17oz. selvedge that looks completely ordinary when new, will fade over time with a subtle hint of beige. Similar to our XX-020 “Pop-Up” denim, the fade to beige effect is an innovative and interesting fabric and I cannot wait to introduce and show our clients.
- Jacquard Shirt: I love this piece simply because of the nature of jacquard. When indigo dyed jacquard fades, it is absolutely stunning. The different hues of indigo appear in different parts of the pattern with time. We love patina and this fits very well with our brand ethos and culture.
Atsu Tagaya of Stevenson Overall Co.
MS: Why do you choose to show at CC show?
Atsu Tagaya: The CC show is the only trade show that attracts serious international buyers and stores to come to Japan to visit the exhibition for buying. Also, they have cornered a niche very well and have been able to create a collection of brands that appropriately represents this niche market.
MS: How was the show for you?
AT: It’s a great opportunity to meet with buyers that you wouldn’t otherwise think would show up at CC Show. Stores with great reputation from the United States, including a store from Texas as an example amongst others, which opens the doors for us into new markets that we feel we are currently under represented in.
The theme of the upcoming Stevenson collection is “Weekend Warrior”.
- Rising Dragon Souvenier Jacket or Skajan (in Japanese): Produced as a single layer, the way they were historically made. We wanted to create a piece that was more honest to history. This is something that is not really readily available on the market from what I’ve seen. A black nylon that is thin and wearable through the warmer months. It also has a very elegant look that is different from the standard. Wanted this piece to look more like a flight jacket than a souvenir jacket, and while it seems that souvenir jackets are trending hard at the moment, we wanted to create a piece that is a bit different from the standard.
- Tropicana Zip-up Hoodie & Easy Shorts: Taking a seersucker fabric made original by Stevenson, they have appropriated it onto a hooded sweatshirt, a combination of fabric and aesthetic that is completely fresh and new to this niche market. Taking cues from the Hawaiian Aloha print shirts, this is the birth of a brand new product with the use of the seersucker fabric on a hooded sweatshirt silhouette.
- Zip Front Guayabera Shirt (“Cuba Shirt”) with Palm Tree Design: An original jacquard fabric was developed for this product. Atsu was wearing a vintage piece similar to this piece, and fell in love with it. Worn with just a wifebeater or a t-shirt, this piece is perfect for the warmer months. Comfortable as hell and easy to wear with a zipper, this shirt pairs perfect with olive drab pants or chinos and provides an easy feel look perfect for the weekend, playing into the “weekend warrior” theme.
Images by Sadia Rafique.
For more information on the CC Show, head to their website.