Mr. Matsuda, left; Ryan, right.
By Peter W. Anderson.
Photos by Albert Thomas and Dan Chaparian.
I had the opportunity to exchange some questions and answers with Yuki Matsuda, founder of Meg Company, whose Yuketen and Monitaly collections at (capsule) NY were a highlight of the show. Yuki, Ryan Keenan, and Mino Nakanishi were gracious hosts and provided us with a lot of information at (capsule), and we're very much looking forward to seeing F/W2010 from both lines in stores.
Peter W. Anderson: You mentioned that Yuketen's style is mostly 50s/60s American-based. Is there a particular, specific setting in mind for Fall/Winter 2010?
Yuki Matsuda: Yuketen Hunt boots' inspiration derives from the 1920-30s; Maine Guide Boots are better classified as 1940s-inspired; Ring Boots are from the 1960s, etc. So, each Yuketen style has its own historical reference and thematic era. Yuketen FW2010 is the most well-curated collection ever in our history. We've ramped up our small moccasin factory, investing in new patterns and hand tools so that we can confidently make the best quality boots and shoes in our 20-year history.
PWA: A lot of designers seem to have some musical or subcultural underpinnings in their collections. What do you hear when you think about Yuketen?
YM: Neil Young, CCR, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, etc....
PWA: Yuketen is well connected to some of America's unique heritage manufacturers. How did you and Meg Company develop those relationships over the years?
YM: I think our philosophy [found on www.yuketen.com] adequately explains all that Yuketen has become--it's the summation of my vast American experience. It didn't happen overnight and there are many artisans, whom are now my close friends, with many more years of experience than me. I'm always grateful to learn more about producing beautiful handmade products.
PWA: Meg Company is headquartered in Hermosa Beach, California--Why there? What's your favorite spot in Southern California?
YM: I would have to say Hermosa Beach. It was the first place I visited the beach and touched the ocean when I immigrated to the United States. Hermosa holds a significant sentimental value for me.
PWA: As an east coaster myself, I'm jealous of your beaches. I go to the shore in Jersey. Why did you decide to settle in Hermosa Beach when you immigrated?
YM: I like down-to-earth places and simple living. Aside from being a surf mecca in the 60s, Hermosa Beach was also a hippie town. The California beach culture has thrived in Hermosa for decades. Even today, despite all the reconstruction developments, Hermosa Beach still has a good, old-beach-town feeling. The building that we work from has good "old soul" too. In the 50s and 60s it was a car dealership and repair garage. Now it is the home of Yuketen and Monitaly and Meg Company's other creations.
PWA: Is there a design process common to deciding the details on different Yuketen shoes? For example, F/W2010 deatures a ghillie lacing and an ankle strap on the Maine guide boot--how did you decide on that?
YM: Variation and aesthetic are important for every new collection. I think the strap and ghillie additions look great! That's why we made these boots and released them for FW10. Great design paired with great comfort and great fitting is Yuketen's uniqueness. These are the secrets to Yuketen's success.
Bootsy--player of the year.
PWA: With all the eclectic details from different shoe styles, are there any combinations you've tried that didn't work out?
YM: Many trials and errors---which I prefer to keep to myself and learn from those humbling experiences! I prefer to concentrate on past successes. Yuketen is only focused on the best of the best handmade boots, shoes, bags, and accessories. We're creating quality without compromise. It's true that sometimes my designs are an eclectic yet tasteful mix of details while other times my designs are firmly rooted in tradition. I try to stimulate my imagination on many different levels.
PWA: Any new stockists of Yuketen for 2010?
YM: Yes, we're pleased to announce that Inventory Magazine will be carrying Yuketen online and in their Vancouver-based retail shop. Also, Blackbird from Seattle have placed their initial Yuketen order for 2010. Barneys New York will be a big stockist. People can check www.yuketen.com for all current stockists of Yuketen.
PWA: I think my favorite Yuketen accessory was the daypack/backpack. Any confirmed stockists for that?
YM: Ha! That's great! Thank you for complimenting our Yuketen wool backpacks. I love that design too and it has become a staple for Yuketen accessories. We also make a canvas version for the spring. Vinnie's Styles in Brooklyn ordered every colorway of the wool backpack so you'll definitely have luck finding one over there.
The Yuketen triangle pack.
PWA:A lot of us at styleforum.net are less aware of Monitaly than they are of Yuketen. Other than quality and soul (Monitaly's seal fetures the slogan "Every stitch has a soul"), is there a driving philosophy behind Monitaly from year to year?
YM: I'm determined to make clothing that I would love to wear. My background is in vintage so I've seen so many great vintage clothing pieces, but vintage fit is usually two-dimensional or disproportionate, and it's not comfortable to wear in any practical manner. But I know how to fix these discrepancies, so I decided to overcome my frustration with ill-fitting clothing by making my own. My goals for Monitaly are great fit with impeccable attention to detail. Made in U.S.A. is very important to me too.
PWA: I appreciate your attention to production, with Yuketen in the U.S. and Chamula in Mexico. People seem to have more interest these days in the stories behind the things they own/buy, from food to clothes. Do you have a certain prized possession--clothing, a book, a photo, anything--that has a great story behind it?
YM: I like things made slowly with care and attention to detail. That's why I collect a lot of vintage shoes and clothing. As you know, back in the old days people cared and appreciated how to make things by hand and were therefore proud of the products they created with their own hands. I have the same feeling. I care about what we make and I'm always thinking of ways to improve our products, and in many respects, I think what we are doing is like fine art. But at the end of the day, the most important thing to consider is how much I care for each product we make. Best clothing I have? Vintage 1940's Kamehameha Hawaiian L/S Shirt. Best book I have? Chinese philosopher Souji. There are great stories behind these two prized possessions of mine. I'll leave that to your readers to research for themselves.
PWA: Is there an official story behind the name Monitaly?
YM: Monitaly is my daughter Monica + Military + Italy together. I love my daughter! Military Spec is very important for our designs. Mil-spec fabrications are the best of the best products for durability and functionality. I love Italy for the great food, artists, history, architecture, and beautiful little towns like Firenze. Similarly, the name Yuketen I created with a play on words made from my name and mixed up with some old friends together.
PWA: It's cool that you keep your businesses' names so personal. I'm a fan of Mil-spec and surplus myself--I noticed you have some mil-spec oxfords and boots coming out for Yuketen F/W2010. Is that a new model for Yuketen or something you've done for awhile?
YM: We're re-releasing the Mil-spec oxfords/boots for F/W2010. Those models are built on a beautiful last. I hope someday I can show you some my shoe last collection. I love shoemaking components.
PWA: I dug the Hudson's Bay blanket-style fabric on the Riders Coat. Where did that idea come from?
YM: My fixation with vintage Hudson's Bay clothing and a 1930's German Biker Coat. Two completely separate worlds colliding to make a beautiful garment. I love this design.
The coat in question.
PWA: Similarly, why the mixed-metal buttons on the Blazer jacket?
YM: I just think it looks great. It's also a subtle plug for brand identity. You can tell this is a Monitaly jacket without seeing the label inside.
Myself in a Monitaly jacket. Note mixed up buttons.
PWA: You travel a lot. Where's your favorite place to travel in the U.S.?
YM: I love to travel all over the world. I like them all. Every town has their own feeling and I enjoy the good, the bad, and the ugly.... You know what? Any place I have a friend is the best place for me!
PWA: Your literature refers to your use of "naked" leather--is that the leather used in the backpacks/mailman bags (a light tan, undyed--looking leather) or a term you apply to all your leathers for their natural quality?
YM: Both. Our natural vegetable tanned leather bag is true naked leather, without any dye. Also, 95% of leather used for Yuketen is naked leather. We define naked leather as a natural finished leather whereby one can distinguish the characteristics of the hide. Naked leather is not covered by plastic coating or any kind of heavy finish coating on the surface of the leather. Naked leather is naturally beautiful because it is not altered except with dye. Did you see our Hunting Boots? That is naked leather too. Naked leather makes great looking boots. You should see our Maine Guide Boots too. They are the most handsome looking boots we've made and I get compliments anywhere I go!
PWA: I did indeed see the hunting and Maine Guide boots. A lot of your stuff, like those boots, conjures up outdoors scenes--your F/W lookbooks back that up with hunting scenes veiled in snow. Are you an outdoorsman/hunter yourself?
YM: No, I live at the beach. I wish I could be an outdoorsman like Mr. Yuketen! But for me it's only hiking and fishing.
PWA: Any Monitaly stockists I can recommend to our audience?
YM: It's safe to say that Opening Ceremony will stock the Monitaly F/W2010 collection. Opening Ceremony is a huge supporter of Meg Company's productions.
PWA: Meg Company does more than Yuketen and Monitaly. Would you like to expand on any other Meg Company productions?
YM: I think Monitaly and Yuketen are our most important brands. Although Chamula Scarves and sweaters are beautiful, too. We had scarves at Capsule NYC. Chamula products are hand-woven or hand-knitted by native Mexicans from a small remote village in southern Mexico. I love our scarves and merino wool sweaters and usually wear a different one almost every day when it is cold.
PWA: Lastly, did you get a chance to look around at the capsule show? Any lines or pieces that caught your eye?
YM: CAMO from Italy is very fresh and original. The designer, Stefano, is young, humble, and a great up and coming designer.