On Hollywood Road

Turning Japanese, pt.2

Posted in Uncategorized by Alex Daye on March 27, 2012

Yes, it has been a while since our last blog post. A really long while, sure, but we have been working hard on a very exciting project and haven’t wanted to share too much until the details are all confirmed. But we’re finding it hard to keep under wraps since we basically blab about it to everyone we see anyway, so without further ado we’re happy to announce our Moustache Tokyo tailoring pop-up shop. In the time honored tradition of traveling tailors, we’ve accepted a very generous offer from a Japanese customer of ours to come set up shop in one of his establishments for a week at the end of May. We’ll bring a trunkload of summer suits, along with a bit of our ready-to-wear and accessories, meet with customers, take some orders and enjoy the fine Japanese spring. We’ll then send the orders to our Hong Kong workshop and return again the following month for fittings. In addition to this being very big news for our business, it also gives Ellis and I an excuse to spend some time in a city that has long been a major inspiration for us. In fact, we were lucky enough to spend some time looking at some possible locations for the shop last week. And while it was super cold and dry- two conditions with which Hong Kong people are NOT overly familiar- the sun was brilliant and the air was clean. Yes, a truly alien environment. Our host, a very congenial architect / developer / project guy, showed us some properties ranging from super chic to bobo before we all decided that Iki-ba, a two-month old Isakaya / smoking library, and the lot surrounding it, was the perfect Moustache fit…

Iki-ba is located just behind Omotesando in the Jingumae area, a lovely quarter of winding little streets that feels more like a village than the shopping mecca at the heart of the world’s largest city that it is. I keep telling people how crazy it is to go to a city three or four times the size of Hong Kong and find it relaxing, but it’s the truth! There are times walking around Tokyo when it is quiet. I can’t remember the last time it’s been quiet in Hong Kong.

Mr. Kurosaki and his team have filled the surrounding lot of Iki-ba with smaller structures like this old camper from Portland, Oregon

And this romantic little dollhouse / table for two

And this, the wash room, with of course a fabulous Toto Toliet

And this, the beginnings of a garden to be served at the barbeque inside.

Our plan at the moment is to actually build another small, temporary structure- most likely a wooden frame with a canvas stretched over and around it. We are hoping to coax our long-time collaborator and very dear friend James Dignan to make it a proper happening: whilst we are fitting and meeting with customers inside the tent, he’ll be outside painting another masterpiece of a mural. Luckily, one couldn’t choose a cuter or quirkier campus to retire to for breaks than inside Iki-ba.

Downstairs at the bar / barbeque, one can order cold beers, sake and lots of yummy Japanese snacks

And wouldn’t you just know it that to order you must buy a ticket from this super cute vending machine?

Upstairs is the library / smoking room, fully stocked with vintage Japanese cigarette brands like Peace, which come in a tin can

The library is filled with lots of great vintage school desks and chairs

And beautiful old Japanese manuscripts

An added bit of kismet: for their graphics and signs, they were inspired by our wrapping paper! How could we not love them?

We didn’t spend all of our time at Iki-Ba, though we could easily have done so. We also had the pleasure of a tour of some fine Japanese bespoke establishments, and guess what: they’re kind of amazing! (I know- who would have thought?)

Our first stop was the delightful Caid Modern Tailoring, specializing in mid-century-ish American tailoring. Yes friends, it was like stepping into Japanese Mad Men. Only much more authentic. Mr. Yamamoto, the amazingly attired tailor, immediately pulled out a Henry Mancini record to play on his old record player, which by the way might have been the best sound from a record player I have ever heard. Proceeded to pull out a stack of GQs from the 1960s. Most of the customers suits were wrapped in plastic, but if you take a look on his website you can see some fine examples of his work.

Sadly, we were too mesmerized by the shop interior to remember to photograph it, and their website does not really do it justice. We were a little more focused on our next stop, the British Version of Caid, Tailor and Cutter. Of course, also immaculately decorated. What tailors in Tokyo get that so many in Hong Kong don’t is how important the process is, the environment, because customers are going to spend quite a lot of time looking around. Obviously the suit is the reason d-etre, but isn’t it a sign of respect to one’s customer to play nice music and have beautiful and interesting things to look at. To really make the bespoke process a memorable and pleasurable experience?

The interior at Tailor & Cutter

More English than England!

Another amazing point: the men working at these companies are quite young! The average tailor in Hong Kong is around 70 years old; in Tokyo, it would seem, it is around 35. As at our next stop, a true gem called Brift H, a shoe repair salon the proprietor of which could not have been older than 30.

Now some that are accustomed to a HKD 20 shoeshine outside the peddar building might think twice before dropping off his brogues for a treatment many, many times that price; let me just say that I would pay good money just to sit inside and smell Brift H. Tokyo in general seems in the midst of a shoe care mania. I can’t recall walking into a single store that did not have very prominently displayed a variety of brushes, cloths and polishes.

Brift H just had a really, really good one.

Our last stop was actually not part of the official Bespoke Tokyo tour, but I thought I’d include it anyway since we do a bespoke Denim business here at Moustache and this little place was just so damn cute. We were strolling around Daikanyama the next day, our heads reeling from our visit to the new Tsutaya bookshop there, when we stumbled upon a charming little house with two bicycles parked outside, a la Chez Moustache. And while it was too small to take any photographs given that there was a fitting in progress, I did think their business card worth sharing.

Suffice it to say, the bar is high in Tokyo for bespoke, as well as everything else, but we are humbly enthusiastic about joining the game!