Blending his love for vintage British design and Japanese quality craftsmanship, Chihiro Imai's Soundman manages to stand out from the crowd. We caught up with Imai san on our recent SS20 buying trip to Japan to discuss the past, present and future of a brand that has become an instant store favourite.
CC: Could you tell us a little about the beginnings of Soundman? At what point did you decide to start the brand?
CI: I was the general manager for the Japanese branch of New Republic, New York. I was responsible for all the production and design for the licensing line in Japan. This involved a lot of different elements from buying to design and a lot more! We had a strong wholesale team at this point and my designs were proving popular amongst our dealers. New Republic closed business for Japan in 1998 and so I had to do something else. With the continuous support of dealers and friends I started out on my own and created my brand, Soundman.
CC: What drew you to British Military design?
CI: For me I was originally really into Rock music that came from the UK. There was a big presence of this in Japan and I really admired bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and so on. I really loved the music but the guys in the band always looked really good too, this had a big influence on my appreciation of the UK.
CC: So you were originally into British music culture, and this lead to a fascination in British fashion?
CI: Yes and during this period when I was in my twenties, I had also began to collect British made suits from the 1930's and 1940's. I spent a lot of time with a tailor in Japan and slowly began learning how to re-make them from an experienced professional. So, I would say that I am not only attracted by British Army garments but in general the British Clothing culture, I would say that British design has a certain 'stylishness' to it that is applicable to lots of other countries.
CC: You are a vintage clothing enthusiast, what are some of the highlights from your personal collection?
・British Air Force '40s Cold Weather Parka, Royal Air Force Blue Ventile version.
・American Sears Roebuck's' 40s Horsehide Car Coat.
・Dead Stock '40s British Army Motorcycle “Dispatch Coat”
CC: When you design new pieces/collections do you have a particular man in mind?
This is a simple answer! Honestly, I give priority to what I want to wear, so that specific person is myself.
CC: One of our favourite pieces this FW19 is the Brush jacket. Could you give us an insight into the design and fabric choices for this piece?
CI: I really like the Military Anorak and I have owned a few pieces so far. I immediately purchased when I found the original jacket with D-Rings attached to the front. I’ve never seen this detail on a Military Anorak Jacket until I came across them at a 2nd-hand/vintage clothing shop I go to often. I couldn’t find the item details & background at the shop, so I used various networks to find the information and found that the jacket might have been worn by the rescue team. Re-designed with that information, I chose water-repellent cotton with a paraffin coating.
CC: What does the future hold for Soundman?
CI: It has been 21 years since I started my brand, but it has not yet appealed to enough to countries other than Japan, including the UK. In the future, I would like to further expand overseas recognition and sales.
Many thanks to Imai san for taking the time to sit down with us and answer our questions. You can shop the latest FW19 Soundman collection in store or by visiting our online store.