By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Jay Doughten opened Atsui Tokyo, a Japanese fashion clothing store located at 90 Madison Street, almost two years ago. “My interest [in Japanese fashion] piqued by spending time in Japan with my wife and respecting the amazing fashion-driven society as well as reading many Japanese magazines,” Doughten explained.
Inspired by the culture, he decided to open up a store downtown. He and his Japanese wife, Masako, felt that there was potential in Seattle because there was interest in Japanese fashion and Japanese products. ‘Atsui’ is Japanese for ‘hot.’
Atsui’s focus is on the up-and-coming Japanese designers, premium denim, and quality Japanese products. Doughten said that his store carries many mainstream Japanese labels such as Tiny Dinosaur and Hysteric Glamour.
“The common focus is that all our labels have the concept of quality fabric and the make provided by Japanese artisanship,” he said.
In fact, Doughten and his wife are so committed to selling quality products that they travel to Japan several times a year to meet directly with designers and companies. They hand-pick the different items that they want to offer in their store, and hope that their customers and friends appreciate them as much as they do.
He emphasized that Atsui has no particular type of customer, only those who appreciate their Japanese products and services. The store also offers necessities such as men’s underwear, women’s leggings, and a variety of accessories.
The store launched a Web site in February 2008, which allows people from all over the world to purchase their items. According to Doughten, they regularly ship to Europe and Canada, and have even shipped back to Japan on multiple occasions because their products are so popular.
“As for our future, we are going to continue to grow by adding new labels and products, and continue to increase our online items,” Doughten said.
He also said that the store will be launching a new Japanese raw denim line called Enduring Goods later this summer and is currently working with Johnbull, a Japanese fashion label that features artisanship in denim and outerwear.
On the opposite side of the Japanese fashion spectrum, Malia Peoples is a multi-racial (Chinese-Hawaiian-German-Irish) fashion designer who creates her own Japanese-inspired clothing. She said, “Japanese fashion occurs when a person expresses their own take on a style and owns it without apology. … Japanese street fashion is inspired, head-turning, and even downright bizarre at times. Nonetheless, it results in a sometimes dainty, sometimes sexy, and always spot-on look.”
Peoples definitely has a head-turning style. She described Japanese fashion as “the opposite of wanting to blend in.” For example, when you have Gwen Stefani featuring Asian women clad in flashy school-girl outfits with intense make up in her music videos, it often makes people wonder. The style that Stefani introduced derives from the common street wear in a Tokyo neighborhood called Harajuku.
When Peoples realized that her dead-end office job was not what she wanted to do, she chose a different path. She wanted to use her “creativity and unconventionalism” and combine it with her long-time interest in fashion design. With that, she took up sewing.
Peoples’ favorite Japanese designers are Takuya Angel and Mercibeaucoup. In fact, she follows Japanese street fashion and 60s Mod clothing very closely. Her designs are inspired by vintage fabrics that date back to the 60s and 70s.
“I design my patterns to maximize the preservation of these unique fabrics as they are found only once and in small yardages,” she said.
Her mission is to “single-handedly produce a long-lasting, well-made, thoughtful line of clothing that is on the forefront of independent Seattle fashion.”
And in the near future, she hopes to hire some local people to help her sew her designs. She also hopes to open up a few boutiques in Japan so she can sell her designs. (end)
Nina Huang can be reach at email@example.com.