Japanese desigener Eiichiro Homma is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring faces in the urban outdoor world. We talked to him about his creative brainchild, his own brand Nanamica and The North Face’s Purple Label.
When it comes to the mental origins of outdoor giants The North Face’s urban outdoor line one has to turn to Japan. There, the The North Face brand belongs to Japanese company Goldwin Inc., that itself has developed its own premium ski- and sailing collections under the helm of the Goldwin brand. In 2003, Goldwin together with designer Eiichiro Homma launched the sub label The North Face Purple Label, that has been only distributed in Japan and South Korea ever since. At the same time Homma founded his own brand, Nanamica. Out of his long-time experience in working with Goldwin the Japanese designer (who by the way has studied sociology and psychology instead of design) developed a completely new idea of outdoor.
Already back then he had realized that people also wear performance gear in their daily lives and the strict separation of both segments was a contradiction of what his observation of everyday life had shown.
Innovation dictates how apparel is designed, and this is the reason for Homma’s huge interest in technical advances. He develops new materials with big fabric players such as W.L. Gore and Polartec. Just two years ago he launched the “Moon Parka” for The North Face’s Purple Label made of synthetic spider silk–in collaboration with the Japanese biotech start-up Spiber, and the first sales-driven jacket of its kind.
Here, we talk to Homma about his work.
When did you start your Nanamica business and why?
I started Nanamica back in March, 2003 with over 18 years of experience designing functional outdoor and marine clothing at Goldwin under their licensed brands. I had the intention to establish my own brand since I was a young man. Even in 1980s outdoor and marine wear were already deemed daily lifestyle wear. In addition, my partner’s expertise was also in designing both fashion and functional clothing; I believed those two elements combined would bring something to the market different from others and before.
What is different exactly?
We do not follow trends and do not change our aspects dramatically but simply add some subtle features into our garments, which people may only realize when they put it on. We believe our garments should be good tools to support a human’s life.
Why do you think urban outdoor collections are fitting to our life today?
Now people enjoy their lifestyle so outdoor sportswear could be a good tool to support their daily routines and activities. Typically our customers are those who are working in creative capacity, are well travelled and who enjoy a well balanced mix of sports and a little sociality.
Why do you find it inspiring connecting performance with fashion? What do you consider your collection: more fashion or more sports? Or is it a silly question?
Nanamica should be considered as a high level mix of fashion and function. By combining classic looking clothing and the latest technology of functionality, we could create the best gears for our everyday lives.
Your interest in innovation is well known. With which fabric companies to develop innovations?
Yes, we work with a number of companies to deliver the very best in fabric technology to our customers since high-level fabric mills are still in Japan. For example we worked with Gore-Tex to develop Windstopper or use natural fibers like cotton. Also with Coolmax, Kodenshi and Polartec for numerous fabrics including Alphadry which is commonly used by Nanamica.
Is it difficult finding a manufacturer being able to produce your collection?
Since we produce a collection in collaboration with The North Face, they require almost the same level of functionality and quality for our products. So we share the same level of high tech factories.
In which countries do you produce?
Our production is fairly evenly split between Japan and China.
In which countries are you selling your products, which ones are the most important?
Our f/w 2018 collection will be available in 24 countries. Our most important market is still Japan, of course. The UK is our biggest market outside of Japan.
Are you selling more over your webshop or wholesale?
Since we still value and enjoy face to face interactions with customers at our stores, our webshop is currently only set up for and servicing the domestic market here in Japan. As a result, our wholesale business is bigger.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspiration from observing people on the train or street on their daily commute to work and myself as a user of Nanamica garments.
Find more topics in our brand new Outdoor Issue.