INTERVIEW: WACKO MARIA
Founded in 2004 by retired Japanese soccer players Keiji Ishizuka and Atsuhiko Mori, Wacko Maria has quickly established itself as a major player in Japanese contemporary menswear. Their sharp tailoring, 50's and 60's inspired patterns and appreciation for American popular culture are all filtered through Ishizuka and Mori’s understated humour and aesthetics to produce a unique final product. We visited the brand’s Tokyo showroom and were lucky enough to chat with Mori about the roots and philosophy of their brand.
LN-CC: I guess first of all we’d like to know how you guys met and how you started the brand.
Mori: My partner Ishizuka and I were both football players - we played together in the Japan team and in the J-League together and have been friends since then. I opened a bar in what is now our showroom and we used to hang out here alot. We got talking and decided to start a brand together. We then got other friends involved and this makes up the team we have now.
LN-CC: And how old is the brand now?
Mori: It's in its 7th year now. So, since 2004.
LN-CC: Is the inspiration for Wacko Maria collections always sourced from similar places, or do you change it up each time?
Mori: We have a general theme that runs through every collection – basically we make clothes that reflect a love for girls, music, alcohol and hats. Individual collections often take inspiration from particular movies and photographers. Music is also a big source of inspiration.. often I’ll get the inspiration for a collection from listening to a record.
LN-CC: We have been really impressed by the quality of your tailoring, can you tell us a bit about this?
Mori: We are really focussing on this element of our collection in recent seasons. We are working with a 50 year old pattern cutter who is collaborating with us on all the tailoring.
LN-CC: Do you regard the casual and tailored as almost like two 2 separate lines?
Mori: At the moment we are thinking about if we should separate it into two lines or not.. to be honest we like the idea of mixing it up though.. slacks with a casual t-shirt and M1 Jacket.. personally that is the kind of thing that I like, and generally speaking we make them both elements in a way that allows them to work with each other.
LN-CC: The whole thing flows as one, and makes sense together though. You use a lot of Aloha and Hawaiian style shirts, is this something that you do every season?
Mori: Yes, we try to bring this into each season.. I’ve always loved these shirts, especially worn with tailoring.
LN-CC: Have you guys always been into tailoring since you were football players?
Mori: Yes… I’ve always been into it.. l’m obsessed with the “Blues Brothers” film.
LN-CC: Obviously the brand is very well executed but in its own flavour, who do you like to be positioned next to in shops?
Mori: Generally I’m not too interested in this, but I do think that in terms of tailoring, Tom Ford is really good at the moment..
LN-CC: Clearly music plays an important part in what you do, what kind of music influences Wacko Maria most?
Mori: I listen to all kinds of music but I am really into Jamaican music from the 60s and 70s, and American music from the 50s and 60s.. that is pretty much across the board in terms of genre.. from Jazz, Blues and Rock.. If its good I listen to everything… African, Latin… in reality I like music more than clothes!
LN-CC: You can really see that in the collection… the American and Jamaican influences really come through. By the way, were did you get the soundsystem downstairs?
Mori: It was bought in a vintage shop in Yoyogi, but its pretty expensive… they cost about 5,000,000 yen! They are the first ever Altec speakers, produced 1939. They were used in cinema halls, radio shows, this kind of stuff. The amp is Western Electrics – the brand is older than Altec. That model is from the 40's but the brand has been around from the 20's…
LN-CC: Are there any particular records that stand out as important to you?
Mori: So many… lots of 7inches.. I love Miles Davis's “Kind Of Blue” and “Something Else” as all time classics.. too difficult to pick out anything in particular though!
LN-CC: Where does the “Pussy Hole Gang” slogan that you used for AW10 come from?
Mori: Do you know Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? There is a gang in that film called The Hole in The Wall gang. We took that as inspiration and changed it around a bit…
LN-CC: What do your wives think of it!?
Mori: They think we are pretty stupid!
LN-CC: Hats are also a big thing for Wacko Maria… we've noticed that a lot of people in Japan seem to wear these panama style hats… more than in the UK. What is it about these hats that you love so much?
Mori: A lot of influence comes from films… and also actors and musicians like Tom Waits, musicians from the 50's and 60's, a lot of them wore hats. I like the idea of an old guy in a dirty suit but with a sharp hat…
Photography by Shinji Serizawa