Jacky Yamazaki: Beaming the Details of Denim

Jacky Yamazaki is in charge of advertising and PR for conceptual multi-label store Beams. JUICE caught up with this dashingly suave adman recently at the Levi’s® x Beams Bike Shop event at Harajuku, Tokyo; which saw the launch of the new commuter line targeted at urban cyclists.

How did this collaboration with Levi’s start?
Well, it’s not exactly a collaboration, it’s how we launched the distribution. We always distribute for jean shops, and Levi’s stores, but this Commuters line is a special product. So we decided to launch and sell only in Levi’s stores and a bike shop called W-BASE. Since it was a very special topic and product, we decided not to sell it in every distribution, only select shops.

How is bike culture in Japan today? When did it become big in Japan?
Bicycle culture has been in Japan for a long time. It used to be more special though, only for the special “bike guys”. But we had this big disaster, last year in March and nobody could go home by train or car. Everyone had to walk. So, after that, a lot of people started cycling. It got very big and nowadays bicycle culture for normal working guys and mothers is getting bigger, and it’s still going on.

How is Levi’s® doing in Japan, right now?
Levi’s® was in Japan for a long time, and in the old days, Levi’s was a brand for men. Japanese people love vintage, so it was clothes for men. Jeans equals Levi’s® and Levi’s® equals men. Nowadays, it’s starting to launch products like Commuter and a lot of collaborations. Also, the ladies’ line is getting bigger and bigger and the stores are getting more fashionable, so now Levi’s® is more like a fashion brand for men and women, not just a denim brand.

How did your passion in fashion begin?
I started getting into fashion when I was in Junior High. At that time, Japan was crazy about vintage things, so I started going out to look for vintage clothing shops and second-hand shops.

What was the first pair of jeans you bought?
Levi’s® 501 without stonewash because I didn’t have a lot of money when I was in Junior High. So, a normal pair of Levi’s® 501 jeans. It’s in another second hand shop now!

What’s special about BEAMS’ identity?
There’s one thing that has not changed from the very beginning of BEAMS, 35 years ago. BEAMS used to be called an American lifestyle shop and that is the same, now. They don’t only get fashion, but also furniture and small things. And now in Japan, there are shops that cater to different lifestyles, but BEAMS has been doing that from the start. 35 years is a very long time in Japan and the young people used to come and buy casual wear, but now they come to BEAMS to buy suits and more adult fashion. BEAMS started bringing in more suits and working wear for 35 to 40 year olds. BEAMS has been growing with the customers, not just the youths.

Since BEAMS is an American lifestyle store, how do you apply Japanese culture to it?
BEAMS has its original line, which is made in Japan, and we also buy things from Japanese brands. BEAMS is made up of imported fashion and lifestyle products, as well as BEAMS’ original products from Japan. So for example, things from San Francisco are put next to things from Japan. Imported and local goods are put together on the same level, so that makes it equal.

Why is Japanese denim special?
One thing is that it comes from the Japanese personality, that we Japanese are very sensitive and we dig into details. The other thing is that we used to have this way to dye Japanese indigo. We used to do it for kimonos and very traditional stuff. Since we have that culture before, it’s not jeans coming in for the first time, but we already have that way to make it. That combination makes it not only an American culture, but it makes it more Japanese as well.

What do you feel about the Levi’s Commuter line? How do you view this collection 5 years from now?
I was very surprised when I heard that this line was not just made from a designer’s impression, it was made with the cyclists in Denver and Colorado. It was made by real cyclists and Levi’s design team together. That was my first good impression, and when I saw this line, it had Levi’s basic identity as well, not just the functions and cyclists’ design, but also Levi’s® design and feeling, so that combination is very good. In Japan, we used to ride bicycles, but we used to only ride on the roads that were meant for pedestrians on foot. Not in the car lanes. But we just had a change in the law, that cyclists have to ride on the road with the cars. It’s getting to be a big problem, because nobody wants to ride a bike on the road, because it’s dangerous. They changed it because it’s dangerous to ride in the pedestrian’s lane, and a lot of people drink and have music while they walk, and there are a lot of accidents. But now, people riding bikes are confused, because they don’t want to ride on the road. But once the rules and all that are clear for bikers, I think that the Commuter line would get bigger.

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 onward. 

Check out www.levi.com.my or follow Levi’s® on Facebook (facebook.com/levis) or Twitter (twitter.com/levisMY) for the latest updates on Commuter.