An Interview with: Miyuki Zoku

The Miyuki Zoku were a youth tribe in Japan during 1964, made up of students who first brought the ‘American’s Ivy League Look’ to Japan. The name Miyuki Zoku arises from the store front they loitered outside, located on Miyuki Street. The Zoku simply means social group.

However, the movement was short lived due to authorities stopping the group hanging out on Ginza streets a month prior to the 1964 Olympics.

In 2010, forty-six years later, on the other side of the globe, Vik Tailor, an interior design graduate started a store inspired by the Miyuki.
Located in the Corn Exchange in Leeds, Miyuki-Zoku is a minimalistic store with a great eye for detail. The store’s own label MKI has an ever burgeoning reputation and Vik should be very proud of it’s progress.

We were fortunate enough to spend a bit of time in the store, and have a quick chat with the director himself, Vik Tailor.

So, your store is inspired by an old Japanese youth tribe, can you tell us about this?

Yeah, the youth tribe is called Miyuki Zoku, they formed in 1964. They were more like a movement really, they were the first to bring Ivy League fashion from America over to Japan. So, in my eyes, they revolutionised fashion in Japan at that moment in time. That look corresponds and it has gone through the ages.

It’s really come back around in the last two years though. When we started the store, we wanted to pick that up and drop it into what we do now.

Where and when did you get the idea to open your own store?

Well I spent five years down in London before I moved back here to do this, I was working for Paul Smith. I then graduated in interior design and started to work for a design company but the franchise that I was working for didn’t have much room for me to grow, so I decided to come back to leeds and kick start my other passion which was clothing. I’d spoken about it for a long time, but that felt like the right time to go ahead and do it! When we set it up, we knew that people wouldn’t remember the name Miyuki Zoku, so we thought it would be best if we took the M, the K and the I out of Miyuki and that’s where MKI comes from.

The store has it’s own label ‘Mki’ talk us through the process of making the clothing. From the idea being born to the completed product.

Well when we first started the store it was full of bought in labels so we didn’t actually have our own label at that point. We saw this great product coming through and thought ‘we’d love to do that!’. We started with a one off project, our ‘diamond bomber jacket’, found the right manufacturer and the right fabrics and we sourced everything individually to create this one product. We had so much fun throughout the entire process that we believed we could do another project straightaway. Then it became another, and another, and another. Now we just do projects left right and centre which creates our ranges. This means we don’t have full collections in store, just little projects that all add up and form the label.

As well as selling MKI, what other labels do you stock?

When we first opened it was all underground labels, products that mainly came from Korea, but the price point was high so it didn’t really do that well. When we started our own label, we sort of sieved through all the ones which weren’t working.
Now we have Commes Des Garcons, we’ve kept hold of Saint James, amongst others which were working for us.

Obviously your store takes inspiration from the Miyuki Zoku in Japan, but is there anywhere else in the world which you consider to have an inspirational style?

Yeah definitely. There’s Berlin and Copenhagen in Denmark. There are various cities, providing big labels in all the big stores, that do so well because they are inspired by their location. So if you’re in London you become inspired by London, Berlin you get inspired by Berlin. That’s why all these brands, Norse Projects for example, are coming out of these places. There’s a lot in Scandinavia at the minute.

On a personal level, what does fashion mean to you?

It’s about self expression I guess. It’s a tricky one. As a store we don’t follow trends here and we know what looks right, well in our eyes anyway! We have a belief on what looks cool, we run with that. So fashion to me is what you personally feel comfortable and what you look good in as well.

What is the most treasured item in your personal wardrobe?

Ah, good question. Probably my double goose! I’ve got a ‘double goose v bomber’ which I couldn’t afford when I was back at university, it was about £700. I wanted it every winter, cause it’s a really fat padded leather bomber jacket and I finally managed to get hold of one when we first opened up the store. So yeah, that’s probably my favourite!

How do you go about considering new brands to stock?

First off, we look at what other stores in the city and surrounding areas have got, and then obviously we don’t go for them! It’s our aim really to sell brands that aren’t elsewhere in the city, for example Saint James. It makes it hard, we have to delve a little bit deeper and do a bit more research than perhaps most places do, to find those sought after underground labels. We don’t use agencies that have a lot of brands because we know a lot of stores will have them. We go straight to the brands themselves to try seek out exclusive deals, it is hard work but we find it works out better for us.

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Would you class the Mki clothing as streetwear? Or do you think it has a more formal edge to it?

I think we’re kind of in between, in fact, we are probably right on the boundary of it. I normally describe it as contemporary streetwear, it’s not street as in skater street, surfer street. It’s not formal either, you wouldn’t go to a wedding in it! It’s sort of slapped right bang in the middle. It’s more like a cutting edge streetwear, premium streetwear I guess would be the best term for it!

Streetwear, like anything, has evolved over the years. Can you tell us how you think it has evolved?

In my time, when I started to get into fashion, the brands that were big then are the same ones as they are now. It’s weird. Supreme was big. Stussy was big. Since then, there has not been an emergence of brands coming out and taking over like the way in which Supreme did. There has been a lot of imitation, a lot of copying, but in this day and age I think it is really hard to try and break free and do something different. I mean we’re definitely trying to do our own thing, but it’s hard to be really original.

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Your store is relatively new, have you seen any changes to your customer since you have opened?

Yeah definitely. From two years ago when we first opened, if you would have picked a product up from then and held it up against what we have now, it’s completely different. I’ve grown up, the teams grown up, the store has grown up! We used to do drop crotch things, that was what we were into, that was what was cool back then in Leeds. Now though, we’re kinda just doing our own thing and that has smartened up a lot, it’s gone a lot more formal. Our customers are still 18-35, we get a lot of students come in and they all tend to look at similar garments. Our other customers are just like-minded people to us I guess. They’re into their clothes, a little bit older and really into their quailty!

How do the other creative industries, such as film, music and art, influence your store?

I think the music scene definitely does. In Leeds especially, there’s a big hold between music and fashion. Everyone likes to be seen in certain garments when they go out. So I think the correlation between the music and fashion is massive there. If we wanted to match ourselves to one it would have to be house music I guess. Purely because Leeds is a big house city.

We do draw inspiration from it, but it’s not like we see a hip hop star and think ‘that’s cool, we wanna look like them’ not in that way, but the various scenes do definitely influence what people want to buy.

In this modern technological society, everything has a facebook, twitter etc. Do you feel that as a store it is important to have an online presence?

Yeah 100%. We didn’t think so at the start, we did have a holding site which slowly developed but we now have a e-commerce site. Online is massive for us, it’s what we want to work on.

Social media though, that’s what is amazing for us. Facebook, we couldn’t live without it. We’re just starting to get locked onto other mediums now, such as Instagram and Twitter. It’s more things to keep up on, but they work for us!

What future plans do you have for your store?

Next on the list is probably wholesale, we were looking into opening store number two, but I think we’re gonna put that on the back burner for a while. I don’t think we’re quite ready for that commitment just now. So wholesale is what we’ll look at and we’ve got it in mind to do a new range of leather jackets. We have found a new leather supplier and if it works out well, we are going to create a range of premium leather, bomber, biker and varsity jackets and take them to other stores. Hopefully that will be the start of our wholesale business!

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