Please tell us the reasons behind ending mastermind JAPAN.
I didn’t have a great understanding of the fashion industry nor did I have any networks but because I had my customers, the brand could continue. When I was sure that the brand would be celebrating its 10th anniversary, I wanted to give something back to my customers.
What came to mind was that, the important thing was to not devalue the brand or have the customers regret that they purchased our items. No matter how great the brand, it is impossible to maintain popularity forever. To force popularity to continue will cause negative consequences down the road. In that sense, I could not see the brand being around for another 10 years. I thought it wise to close our curtains while our brand was still valued. I didn’t want to suddenly close business and have it impact my partners so I announced 5 years ago that the brand would close this year.
The word “mastermind” has 10 letters and 10 seasons in 5 years was just right. From the 11th season on, I chose to add a season title to my collections using an alphabet from “mastermind.” I started with “majestic” and will finish with “dreaming.” All my season titles are 8-letter words because in Japan the kanji eight symbolizes good luck and success. I feel like I am living a dream and I have the same sensation from 5 years ago. This seems like such a long and big dream.
How did you come up with the brand name “mastermind?”
I wanted my brand name to begin with the alphabet “m” and have 8 letters as my first name is Masaaki. I felt like the word “mastermind” has two meaning that were opposite from one another. One meaning could symbolize for example, a leader of a terrorist group, a mastermind of the black world and the other meaning is someone who has an exceptional talent. This duality seemed to fit me well. I am not saying that I am exceptionally talented. I have always been surrounded by people with more experience than me telling me that I would be successful. I was lucky to be adored by my elders. To be honest I just wanted to meet their expectations. I am not a mastermind but I wanted to be one and not lose against the name of the brand.
My father is a hairdresser and has been called “master” by everybody around him. I think my father wanted me to take on his hair salon. The naming of the brand has a hidden message to my father that I have taken on his master mind. That is how I came up with my brand name. There are other words like masterpiece that begin with master but mastermind was the right choice for me for various reasons.
Your brand became very popular but you did not open your own store.
I actually had my own store when I first started the brand but no one came to my store so it was a traumatic experience for me. Since then, mastermind has adopted “Open Price” system (wholesale prices to be fixed, but retail prices to be open.) If I owned a company store, the retail prices would automatically be set, which is what I wanted to avoid. Many of my partners such as Isetan, BEAMS, Hankyu, ZOZOTOWN and others hold amazing projects for us and take on lots of risk to sell our products. I didn’t think it was necessary to create my own store as a means of “introducing the world of the brand.” It’s strange for me to say this but I don’t want to hold a stock of such expensive clothing and worry about sales 365 days a year! In a way I consider the stores of my business partners to be like my company stores.
Many young designers and buyers say they have learned lots from you.
Did I say anything to make them feel like I was more superior (laugh)? We have many great designers as role models such as Yohji Yamamoto, COMME des GARCONS, and ISSEY MIYAKE who have established a presence on a global stage. On the other hand, we also know the world of Harajuku based designers whose motto is come to Japan if you want made in Japan apparel. mastermind JAPAN does not belong to either group, perhaps we sit right in the middle. The two types of designers stated above are not the only means to be successful in this world. I think each designer should choose a method as they please. The important thing is to have many options. I personally feel that our brand has contributed to creating a third type of designing methodology.
Do you think this lead to your current success?
I am not sure if I am successful or not but I am probably the happiest designer in the world. So even if I were to be in an accident tomorrow or have a heart attack, I have no regrets in terms of my career and work. I don’t think there is a designer as happy as me.