Talking Taste with Takeharu Sato
‘Amekaji’ is, simply put, the Japanese interpretation of American style. A term – and look – that came about during the country’s midcentury shift in attitude, and taste. Young people, tired of traditional restrictions, became swept up in the pages of Men’s Club, Popeye, and, of course, Take Ivy, the sepia-tinted photo bible of idealised American campus life. Published in 1965, it shows a smiling cohort of healthy young aspirants strolling through leafy campuses in Oxford shirts, pressed khakis, tweed blazers and penny loafers. It may, or may not be what college students really dressed like (it wasn’t — Kensuke Ishizu, its creator, staged most of the shots), but it doesn’t really matter. Today, no one does American style better than Japan. Denim, militaria, prep and dressing for the outdoors.
“Japanese-Americana, Amekaji, should be the core ingredient of my style,” says Také, “since I grew up and worked in Tokyo. But let’s not forget British style. This is the origin of American style after all. I enjoy mixing some vintage British army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force items. Tricker's & Church's shoes with Drake's ties and scarves.”
A long-time friend of ours, Také is a stylist and creative director. He’s recently published a book: ‘An Obsession Made In Japan,’ about, in his own words, “crazy fashion consumption in Japan in the 1990s - 2000s!” Oh, and he has a food stall at the Blue Market in Bermondsey: Samurai Curry Rice, which is open every Thursday and Saturday. He’s already got some regulars.
On a midweek morning we meet Také inside his, unsurprisingly, beautifully-appointed flat, somewhere in Bermondsey. “It’s kind of grandma style,” he says, referring to the original 60s features, “but I like them… they give the room character.” He heads to his stainless steel Rocket espresso machine. “Do you want a Takechino?” If you hadn’t guessed, that’s a cappuccino… but made by Také. We notice that there isn't a TV in the house, a kind of aesthetic and ascetic statement in its own right.
“I pursue cozy-ness over stylish-ness,” he says, the coffee poured carefully into stoneware mugs. “I always want my interior to be 'hugging'. Hugging not only to myself but also the guests to my flat. Authenticity is also key to my selection, for example all my Hans Wegner & Artek items are 'authentic' in the sense that the pieces were made when Mr. Wegner & Alvar Aalto were active (circa 1950's-60's).
Along with the Wegner, Aalto and Artek furniture, below is a non-specific list of eight other beautiful and interesting objects that you might find in Také’s flat.
1.) Alden shoes (lots of them)
2.) Kungyokudo Incense by Gion Maiko
3.) An Eames office chair that is very comfortable to sit in.
4.) Sealed books by Olafur Eliasson and Diane Arbus (and the Da Vinci Code… life is about balance after all)
5.) A vintage Rolex Datejust from 1975, given to Také by his father.
6.) Various masks from the iconic 1960’s Japanese cartoon Ultraman.
7.) Speakers by Transparent Sound
8.) A 20-year-old silk-wool navy tie from Drake’s with original Michael Drake branding, bought in Tokyo at United Arrows.
“I didn’t know anything about Drake’s at the time,” says Také, showing me the tie, which is still in immaculate condition, “but I saw this tie and immediately felt a connection to it. So cozy. I was looking for a winter tie, and this is it, this is what I needed.”
“I feel craftsmanship, sophistication, timeless-ness and British-ness when I see Drake’s clothes,” continues Také, lining up a few small measures of sake from his personal stash on the kitchen counter, to see us on our way. “This is the origin to Japanese-Amerciana (GB to JPN, via USA), Drake's ties & scarves are always my favourite. For your recent items I am fond of the Donegal tweed coat in brown, and the waxed coverall jacket in green.”
We sip our sake in square wooden cups as the room fills with afternoon light, flickering off the leafs on the plants that sit by the window. We take it in turns to try out the Eames behind the heavy midcentury desk. You could definitely send a few ‘URGENT’ emails from here.
“This is a beautiful flat,” we say.
“Thank you,” replies Také, modestly. “I think so too.”