(Next Shark) If you want to learn about the vast world of Japanese fashion, Reggie Casual can break it down for you in three essential tenets.
The three terms he told me, in a speech so thoughtfully constructed that it would be easy for anyone to tell he is discussing his life’s study, are aptitude, consistency, and monodzukuri.
Aptitude, according to Reggie, signifies “thinking about knowing how to put pieces together. And being brave enough to put things together that might be slightly different than what you already perceive to be the right thing. In Japan, there is a focus on what it is that you want to do and how you want to do it, and how you can expand upon it.
Consistency is key. According to Reggie, Japanese brands have little regard for trends or dramatic differentiation from release to release. “You’re getting similar pieces, but you’re expanding on the idea or you’re adding an element from another culture that is intertwined with the culture you already knew. To remain consistent is the most important thing.”
The third tenet is monodzukuri, a term that in essence means “making things, but more specifically it means craftmanship, and even deeper than that it means going so far deep into what it is that you want to do that you’re aiming for perfection, knowing that you’ll never reach it.”
This is part of what we discussed over a Google Hangouts call; the importance of the world of Japanese fashion. Many may regard it to be monolithic; it is not. Reggie, a studied expert on the subject matter, would still have a hard time suggesting to anyone what their entry point to Japanese fashion should be: “If I were to try to give people a guide to what brands to actually look at in Japan to get right into Japanese fashion, I wouldn’t be able to do that easily,” he says. “There’s so many elements to it; this is why it’s important to focus in.”
We also discussed the elephant in the room. Reggie Casual, who speaks perfect Japanese and lives in Tokyo, is a young black man. “It’s a ridiculous story of mine,” he says. It’s also a chip on his shoulder; throughout his life, he’s dealt with harsh judgments from people in the West. “I’ve been called a weeb, a Japanophile, all of these things,” he says. “It’s unfortunate that in America we’ve been divided to the point where a person who looks like me, who’s studied Japanese, who has a respect for the culture, who knows the history, who can read and write the language, can be called out as a person who’s ‘just obsessed with Japanese culture.'”
Indeed, he understands the hesitation many feel, particularly in the West, when seeing a black man speak as an expert on Japanese work. Asian Americans often seek to protect each other by fighting diligently against the exploitation of what they see as theirs. But Reggie is not trying to shallowly appropriate Japanese culture for his own gain, nor is he trying to escape his blackness. He’s simply working in his field; he has spent a lifetime studying what he talks about, and aims to use that work to empower the culture and those who belong to it.
Reggie grew up in California, with Asian caretakers who introduced him to the East at an early age. As a teenager keen on hip hop, much of his fanaticism was focused on people like Pharrell, who became known for establishing a connection with Japanese designer Nigo of “A Bathing Ape.” Where people in Reggie’s circles were more interested in what he refers to as “pop culture,” Reggie was focused on studying Japan as a whole. “I was just interested in the history, the language, really getting into it and stuff like that.” He majored in Asian Studies with a focus in Japanese language & history. After living in Japan for two years, he headed back to L.A. to study design, and then returned to Japan, where he has been living for three years.
His lifelong love of fashion is now his area of expertise, particularly in Japan, where he currently resides. He is paving a niche for himself as someone who seeks to bring East and West together in the fashion world through information and artistic expressivity. His channel used to focus primarily on “streetwear” (a general, ubiquitous term in 2018) but he is now focusing on covering fashion as an overall idea, taking on a scholarly role with hopes to break down societal walls and begin to form an audience focused on learning and sharing.
“I feel like my job in all of this is to extrapolate that, to tear down those walls and say ‘Alright, let’s go ahead and put this in different areas,'” he tells me. “The culture is still on logos; Supreme, Neighborhood, this brand, that brand. I feel like it’s time for us to grow, because the fashion industry won’t take people who engage with streetwear seriously if we don’t have scholars.”
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His YouTube channel, “The Casual,” has reached over 100,000 subscribers and grown into its own website and brand. Many of his fans still believe him to be highly underrated, a feeling he shares based on a myriad of circumstances. His content is not like other fashion/streetwear YouTubers; there are no hauls, no clickbait lists. The videos are mainly informational and documentative. And as the years pass by and the American populace, particularly hip hop-obsessed males, become increasingly fascinated with fashion and its globalization, it is becoming increasingly clear that Japanese fashion is important.
Take Commes des Garcons, for example; headed by designer Rei Kawakubo in 1969, the label has established itself as one of the most influential in global history. The 2017 Met Gala theme was dedicated to Kawakubo in part as an acknowledgement of this, according to Reggie: “It was, ‘Let’s put some recognition who changed the entire scope of what fashion could be.'”
Another brand that has influenced American markets significantly is A Bathing Ape, otherwise known as Bape. Founded by Tomoaki “Nigo” Nagao in 1993, the brand has been a part of the hip hop landscape for years, including collaborations with Pharrell Williams and famous (infamous?) shout outs by everyone from Soulja Boi (“I got me some Bathing Ape”) to Kanye West (“Especially in my pastel, on my Bape shit”) helping propel them as one of the most successful streetwear brands of all time. “Bape is the Fischer-Price Japanese streetwear brand,” Reggie tells me.
But the big names are what they are; while Reggie welcomes any entry point into this world, he wants to guide you to the lesser known labels; to help you develop a vast palette past the ever-present primary colors. “You should check out Wacko Maria if you’re into an alternative rock feel; you should check out Sophnet if you’re into Bape and you want an upgraded Bape but it’s more sport.” He goes on to list brand after brand; names like FCRB, Cav Empt, Undercover, Yohji Yamamoto, Hysteric Glamour. Some of these are more famous–Yohji Yamamoto has become famed in the streetwear world particularly for his Y-3 line– but most of these are lesser-known, more exclusive to Japan. And all of them lie behind the surface, where Reggie Casual welcomes you with open arms to guide you through the landscape.
Reggie is apt to it all; he can tell you what brand does what and how, and how you can blend elements of them all to form your own style. He is consistent; despite his viewership being behind what other, more popular fashion YouTubers have accumulated at the same time, his following remains devoted and the quality of his work continues to grow. He also seems to feel a sense of monodzukuri; he is so devoted to continuing this work that despite any hindrances, he is still grounded in it. And he’s not going anywhere.