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Q&A - Naotaka Konno of Magic Stick

Magic Stick has quickly become one of our favourite brands, with the outstanding 'Made in Japan' quality and continuous boundary pushing, the brand has been getting some notable global recognition of late..  

With the new SS19 “Not Applicable” collection just launching at Laced, we recently took some time to sit down with the founder and designer of the Tokyo-based label; Naotaka Konno, to get some insight into the brand and the man behind it. 

Nao has nearly 20 years experience in the Harajuku fashion industry; from retail, buying, product development and design as well as event management, editorial features and special projects, and has probably organised a party or festival for your favourite rapper or your favourite rapper's favourite rapper... 

Since founding Magic Stick in 2010, Nao draws on all of his experience and connections and adapts it into the superb silhouettes, high quality materials and techniques used in the production of Magic Stick.

Since being selected to represent Japan for Nike's 2017 Air Max Day "Vote Forward" campaign Nao has gone on to collaborated with Nike to release two limited edition "VIP" Air Force 1s under the Magic Stick name. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, both of these releases were a Japan exclusive and sold out pretty much instantly!...

  

Q. How does your background in music influence your clothing designs?

A. Not so much from the actual music, but more from the background and lyrics of the songs. In general, I look to the video clips and styling of the artists from the era to find the trends.

 

Q. What kind of things inspire you to create your designs? 

A. I’ve always enjoyed the nightlife so when hanging out with friends and meeting new people I find new ideas and graphics can come from the conversations.  I also come up with designs and ideas by looking to people on the streets and friends.

 

Q. Do you get influenced by other designers and brands? If so, who? 

A. With the excess of social media it’s hard to avoid but I try not to look at what others are doing too much. I find inspiration in the street styles of Harajuku in the 90s/00s and recently I’m more inspired by the visuals created by stylists rather than any actual brands/designers. Also being Japanese, I like Gundam - the colouring and mechanical designs.

 

Q. You represented Tokyo in the 2017 Vote Forward Air Max Day program – tell us about that experience.

A. As well as the design aspect, I was able to experience how important it is to lead. The weight of representing my home country was so heavy it almost made me ill. Because Nike is a brand I have liked since childhood, Nike HQ was almost like Disneyland to me. The design sessions and the innovators from around the world all had an individuality and to communicate with them has definitely impacted some of my designs now.  Also, through the process I felt how “scary/important” social media has become.

 

Q. And since then you’ve gone on to release 2 ultra-exclusive Nike AF1 collaborations – what was that like?

A. I say that this was a reward from Nike Japan for the Air Max Day. Of course, I would like to create a lot of other Nike styles but to have designed/created something that is iconic to any one from any era, I am super happy.

And to see the response - everyone lining up, purchasing online, that was really amazing too.

 

Q. What’s your favourite pair of sneakers and why?

A. The air force 1 VIP I designed are the best, haha

I often discuss this while drinking and the answer always changes. It’s like asking “what do you want to eat on your last day on earth?”

I love Jordan 1-6 and the Alpha Project era and recently I’ll grab any new colourway of the React because they are just so comfortable.

 

Q. You’ve recently re-opened the Magic Stick Tokyo flagship store after renovations – how important is it for you to have this retail outlet.

A. With online shopping becoming more and more mainstream, I feel it’s important to be able to feel the fabric, see the pattern and construction and be able to try it on to experience the cut. Half an inch can make a big difference in the way things look so I want to make sure people understand that.

We aren’t a print brand (only screen printing on stuff) therefore the reason why we renovated the store, was to give people who visited an insight into what the brand is all about.

It’s an opportunity to experience Magic Stick through the music we listen to, the smells we like, what we think etc...

 

Q. And now onto the current SS19 “Not Applicable” collection – what was the inspiration for this collection?

A. This season includes revamped 90’s street style and modern art that I currently like (I won’t mention the artist because I don’ t want him to get famous) which has influenced the “images and the colour”.

I make sure there’s a showpiece item as a brand but I also want to make sure that there’s a classic piece, where we re-designed things that can be wearable.

These days brands can be assigned to a specific genre or categorized (especially in Japan) but Magic Stick is Magic Stick where it doesn’t belong to any types of genre = “NOT APPLICABLE”

 

Q. What’s next for Magic Stick?

A. As we approach the 10th year for the brand we would like to collaborate with some global brands and to put on a music event as music is the roots of Magic Stick.

We have a few pop ups in Europe on the agenda.

Without changing the street foundations of the brand we are aiming to elevate the brand to a high end consumer.

We have a lot planed for 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

If you come to Tokyo, please stop by the store to feel our vibe.

 

Magic Stick SS19 "Not Applicable" is available now in store an ONLINE.

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