We were fortunate enough to be able to grab half an hour with Takehiro Fujitsuka AKA Fuji, Brand Manager of Northern Fells favourite Manastash recently. This brand is close to our hearts. They use sustainable materials to create pieces inspired by the outdoors. Their motto is "To create functional, stylish and earth-friendly clothing based on the free wheeling lifestyle."
It was a pleasure to sit down with Fuji and hear more about what he gets up to.
So tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am Fuji, brand manager of Manastash.
For the customers who don’t know could you tell us a little bit about the brand Manastash?
Manastash is an eco-conscious outdoor brand established in Seattle in 1993 by Robert Jungmann who is currently running Jungmaven. Right now the headquarter is in Tokyo but the key concept remains unchanged: Always do our best to make the best possible clothing with sustainable materials, without sacrificing the look.
How did you end up working/ designing at Manastash? Tell us your story.
I have been in the team since the first day our company succeeded the brand about 10 years ago.
Since I was a kid, vintage clothes have always attracted me and as I’ve got older, I started to dig deeper to learn about the small details.
A great deal of the knowledge was acquired during my first career as a sales person in a store that specialised in military surplus goods. It was one of the best and most famous stores in Japan in that category and they had almost everything in there except guns and ammo.
The customers varied from military nerds who wanted to find collectibles to punk kids and heavy metal bands that wanted to dress themselves up properly. To deal with them, I really had to be able to answer any questions they may ask or understand exactly what they were looking for in seconds. The store was very busy (each of the sales person sold 20 - 50 leather jackets a day in the busiest season!), so none of the staff had time to help others during the busiest hours.
And then after another job, I started working for this company that I belong to now and with the knowledge I gained from my past career I naturally became involved in the designing process. This is part of the reason that many of Manastash styles are inspired by the classic military garments.
What can we expect from Manastash in 2017?
For 2017, we offer the styles inspired by early 90’s.
We always try hard to make something that is a bit off the mainstream but that make sense when you wear them.
You live Tokyo – what’s your daily routine?
Nothing much exciting. Wake up – drink coffee – cigarette – commute by packed subway for about an hour – drink coffee – work at the office – drink coffee – work a bit more – drink beer – packed subway – home – drink some more – sleep.
If someone were visiting Tokyo what 5 places would you recommend they go to?
- Shop: Hakusan Megane, 4-6-9 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
An Opticians with a long history. I used to work there and made eyeglasses everyday. They have some iconic acetate frames that were worn by famous people like late John Lennon and Elton John. Great quality. (www.hakusan-megane.co.jp)
- Town: Koenji
Koenji is a town in west side of Tokyo, and there are a number of good vintage stores in walking distance from Koenji Station which is around 10 mins from Shinjuku by train. I browse around here quite often to source inspiration.
- Eat: Omoide Yokocho (Shinjuku), 1-1-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Yokocho is basically a very small alley filled with tiny bars and restaurants. This one is located near Shinjuku station and was called Shonben Yokocho (which means pissing alley) when I was young. Not the place to take your date, but you can get good local food like Sushi, Tempura, Soba, Yakitori etc. and drink. It is fun to just walk the alley and see what is going on but definitely go there at night.
- Drink: Kamiya (Shinjuku), 1-11-3 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Very typical old-school dive in Kabukicho. They serve good alchohol and Motsuyaki (grilled giblets). Giblets and chicken are charcoal grilled and served, so the whole restaurant (it’s quite tiny) gets smokey and your body gets covered with smell of smoke. Good place to hang out with your friends after work or to dine solo.
- Shop: Disc Union
The record shop I spent the money I earned from a part time job when I was a kid. They buy and sell mostly the used records and tend to have several branches in the same town divided into categories (classical, jazz, Japanese, heavy metal etc) and I can still spend hours here just by digging through the records.
What do you do in your spare time?
Riding or working on my motorcycle & I also like cooking for myself.
If you go away for a weekend away what are your essential items?
Try not to drink too much on Friday night is absolutely essential!
Actually, I do not carry many items with me when going out, so what I would bring with me for a weekend away could be cigarettes, lighter, phone, bandana and some money – just a fanny pack full of things.
And I also wear or bring Perpri 40 Cardigan from our 2014 Spring collection. It is very light and packable, so I often stash it in the bag just in case.
So we heard you were across in the UK this year – what did you make of it and where did you visit?
I love the country but just never had the opportunity to go back since 2000. Manastash is now sold in the UK and we have friends there, so we finally got an excuse to be there this year.
It was a very short trip, but our friend David (Manastash Distributor) showed us around and drove us to the different cities from London to Leicester to Manchester. The stores were cool and the food at pubs was great. Also I tried Marmite for the first time and loved it!
Which is your favourite item in the current Manastash collection?
I personally love Polartec Base Camp Pullover. Polartec is expensive material, but it is light, warm, and does not pull, so we think it was worth using. We also have the Polartec Hoodie, but I always prefer the pullover.
Favourite brands on The Northern Fells Clothing Co?
What 3 things can’t you live without?
Good music, cold beer, and sole massaging machine.
What are you currently listening to in the studio?
I compiled the music that I play in my head during the long corporate meeting. 90’s vibe.
- Who was in my room last night /Butthole Surfers
- Honey Bucket /Melvins
- Execution Style /Mudhoney
- Jerry was a race car driver /Primus
- Green mind /Dinosaur Jr.
- Finest worksong /R.E.M.
- The difference between us /The Dead Weather
- Just /Radiohead
- Reverend Black Grape /Black Grape
- Know your Rights /The Clash
- Bottle of Smoke /The Pogues
- Ballrooms of Mars /Marc Bolan
Best bit of life advice?
I sat down and thought about it for a long time, but nothing came to my mind... Sorry!