With more than 22 companies under its roof, the Japanese Goldwin group believes sports and outdoor is not only an asset base but a holistic lifestyle that guides all of the companies’ behavioral patterns. Starting in 1951 as a knit fabric manufacturer, the company quickly decided to switch to high-end sportswear after one year and to support the most promising athletes of its country. Hence its name, which means “golden victory.” Today the group holds Japanese brand trademarks for Ellesse, Helly Hansen, The North Face and Speedo among others and generates an annual turnover of nearly €468 million (¥61 billion) with the help of 2,251 employees.
Its laboratories are internationally known to be the cradle for some of the most promising innovations for sportswear and outdoor products. We asked Takao Watanabe, who has been working for the company since 1982 and is today vice president of Goldwin Inc., about the greater vision of group–now and in the future.
What does sportswear and outdoor wear mean to you?
For me, sportswear promotes the discovery of an unknown self and pursues the possibility of human evolution. I think that sportswear supports acts such as flying, running, climbing and is a medium for giving new awakening.
Goldwin runs fully equipped R&D centers, laboratories and motivates all team members to seek innovation. With this in mind: What does it mean to work for Goldwin?
I recognize that our development mission is to combine a high level of expertise that stimulates the sensitivity of consumers and design, functionality and aesthetics that go through the common sense of the sports industry at a high level.
Is Goldwin a typical Japanese company?
I cannot understand what it means to be a typical Japanese company, but I can tell that we think to work at our company as well as creating our own work. Each employee feels significant for contribution to society in terms of enjoying and supporting sports with awareness and aesthetic sense as an artist.
How important is sustainability for the company?
In order to be endorsed by consumers in any age, we must clearly show what we are aiming for based on what kind of beliefs. To continue the highly transparent and human-like business, we always concentrate on refining our sensitivity while putting ourselves at the forefront of change with a sense of tension.
New technologies are of special interest for Goldwin. How do you decide what are relevant innovations for the future?
Technology has the potential to solve the big problems and make life better in the world. Currently we are developing the synthetic structural protein, which can provide innovation to solve part of the global energy problems and environmental problems, we believe. We have already released the world’s first prototype of outdoor wear developed with the synthetic structural protein in 2015 and are currently carrying out the field tests of it.
The accelerating pace of technological change cause issues concerning intellectual property arise. What is your opinion about that?
There are situations where the existing rules and the system are not catching up with the speed of technological innovation. It is considered to be a possibility that the ethical principal will be stepped out under the practical law. In Japan, it has been said that it is good to have aesthetic sense in management from long ago, and it is required to discipline one’s own actions and judgments based on morality and ethics.
Talking about your partnership with Woolrich International through which Goldwin Inc. has become minority shareholder of Woolrich International. What can we expect?
For fall a new premium outdoor men’s collection under the name of Woolrich will be launched: it brings a new style of outdoor apparel for the next generation, combining technology applied natural science and the most traditional outdoor brand in US representing the US East Coast culture. The mission is to provide uncompromising functionality, approaching with an attitude that always looks for the complex and mutual relationship with nature and seeks new discoveries, to design with a modern interpretation and high sensitivity. We aim to combine the outdoor industry to coexist with nature.
How do you achieve this coexistence?
Many people who enjoy outdoor life understand the ecosystem of the nature world and regenerative design well. Biological survival strategies are always reasonable and help each other. We also want to actively learn the design system of the nature, advance development of micro plastic free material, and try to maintain and improve biodiversity.
Also, we believe that the design of our outdoor wear should be delicate and polite, precise and concise. We will never design unnecessary functions and designs to follow short-term trends.
You say that your corporate philosophy is “creating a rewarding lifestyle through sports.” What does that mean?
I recognize that lifestyle is a solid way of living for individuals. What I value as a steady act of expressing my way is to provide new discoveries for those who live now and those of the future generation.
What is your vision of outdoor fashion for the future?
The North Face, the core business of Goldwin, is collaborating with fashion brands such as Comme des Garçons, Sacai, Hyke and Supreme. Each collaboration has its own characteristic and we have worked on the premise that both can create new value. I hope that a lot of people get interest from those collaborations and notice the essential fun of outdoor. I would like to create products that can invite a lot of people to the outdoor world and provide experiences that face nature, therefore develop a beautiful, functional, well thought out simple product which provide some motivation to think deeply about environmental protection and climate change.
Next stop: Mars. What is the great vision of Goldwin?
Human life rhythm that alleviates stress.
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