When East Meets West: Menswear Fashion House Latokyo Returns from Japan with a New Q&A and Lookbook
We first introduced audiences to apparel brand Latokyo last year, following the brand’s return from a crucial occupational trip to Tokyo, Japan. This year, LA Canvas spent the month of April living in Shibuya, Tokyo with the driving force behind the company, where we lived like locals, partied at Shibuya’s hip hop clubs, ate pizza and drank IPAS at Beauty & Youth’s siiiickening flagship opening in Omotesando and connected with countless creatives over the month-long stay.
Latokyo returns once again to the LAC platform, this time, with a new comprehensive lookbook and a Q&A with designer and mastermind behind the brand, Gordo Johnson. We dive into how Gordo stumbled upon a Grind Magazine modeling gig, sauntered out of clubs at ungodly hours, shot a Grade A lookbook all over the streets of Shibuya and Harajuku, and every single exciting oddity in between.
“Tokyo always leaves me speechless. . .”
LA Canvas: Hi Gordo. What are the most common questions people ask you after you return from your Tokyo travels, and to be fair, what are the answers?
Gordo: The first question everyone asks me is, “So how was it?” which is always the hardest. Tokyo always leaves me speechless because of the experiences I have with the food, new friends, beautiful and unique women, night life and the moments I end up catching on camera. This was my fourth time going; I visited for the first time in 2014 for 10 days, went back in 2015 for 2 weeks and visited this time in April for a month. It was my longest stay, so we really got to live like locals and had a full month’s worth of crazy experiences. The other plus about this trip was that you, and all of our other homies, got to come. To live in Tokyo with all my friends was crazy.
LAC: Can you explain why Shibuya is this highly suggested go-to district of Tokyo for young foreigners and creative millennials?
Gordo: When you imagine Tokyo in your head and see that lights of the city with tons of people and on-going night life. . .that’s Shibuya. Besides all of its various attractions and being a hub for creatives, its right next to other dope districts like Harajuku and Shinjuku. Harajuku is a big shopping area for Tokyo where you’ll see people dressed really creatively and independently. Shinjuku is the opposite– more of a business district where professionals party into the night. Being in the middle, Shibuya is a cross of both.
“Fashion in Japan, period, is iconic.”
LAC: I’m gonna list several topics below. Tell me stories, anecdotes, thoughts, opinions and any comments on the topics in relation to your Tokyo stay.
Men’s fashion: Fashion in Japan, period, is iconic. A lot of people go hard with style like its one of the most important things to them. Theres a lot of support that goes towards the things that are meant to influence the population’s fashion sense, as far as what celebrities wear, to high end ad campaigns, to how things are advertised as a whole. I saw outfits compiled fully, head-to-toe of expensive streetwear suitors such as Bape, and a lot of designer pieces like Rick Owens, Yoji Yamamoto, Mark Margiela or some of the most creative and seemingly outlandish outfits with colored eye contacts and self-sewn outfits.
“You’ll see women with really wild, creative looks. . . literally down to the point where you’ll see actual teddy bears sewn into a girl’s dress.
Women’s fashion: I would say the same about women’s fashion. You’ll see conservative, upperclass and fashionable women sporting a trench coat, Jimmy Choo pumps and an Issey Miyaki clutch. You’ll also see women with really wild, creative looks that you can tell they made and tailored for themselves– literally down to the point where you’ll see actual teddy bears sewn into a girl’s dress who’s rocking rainbow hair. None the less, a Louis Vuitton or some designer bag in 90% of the hands.
Club culture: The club culture to me is insane. I’m use to everyone leaving the club by 1:30am, but in Tokyo, people don’t show up till 2. The work ethic in Japan is taken very seriously, so at the end of the work week, the culture does a 180 and it’s essentially very normal to party until you black out. There are literally business professionals, in suits, asleep on the sidewalk after a night of indulging at several local bars, as well as your average local guy or girl asleep on the street around the corner from the club.Its the epitome of “work hard, play hard”.
“If you go to a hip hop club like Club Harlem or Ibex, expect to see people with tilted NY caps, baggy jeans and basketball jerseys while they pop lock on the dance floor.”
At the same time, clubs are also a really good place to see all the sub- cultures in Tokyo fashion. If you go to a hip hop club like Club Harlem or Ibex, expect to see people with tilted NY caps, baggy jeans and basketball jerseys while they pop lock on the dance floor. Everyone is nice though; everyone just wants to drink and dance until the sun comes up.
Food: The food over there is one of the best parts to me. Seafood is my favorite type of food, so it was already a plus. Everything was really fresh and due to Japan’s strict laws on food, everything is essentially organic. You can even get a good quality meal at a convenient store like 7-11. A lot of small portioned food, but great quality. I’m open to trying any kind of food also, so that led me to a night where some girls took me and our friends EmceeShane of Slay Squad out to dinner. They had us eating chicken heart on a stick with a side of fermented beans. Not my personal favorite, but not bad. I also got to see Shane try his first beer ever.
Body language and overall way of communicating: Communicating is pretty difficult for foreigners, and using body language is almost a must– especially as a tourist just trying to find a bathroom, order food or just deal with natives that are doing their jobs. As far as wanting to talk to people you want to make friends with, everyone puts in a effort and likes American culture enough to get some keywords. When people really want to talk, they’ll find a way, even if its through Google translate which was a norm. That real”want to” factor takes away the frustration of communicating in a foreign country.
“The city is basically a giant mall with a constant food court.”
LAC: I’m still amazed, even more now than when we were actually there, at how eventful and convenient our area in Shibuya was. Can you describe what our immediate neighborhood was like?
Gordo: Our immediate neighborhood was dope and the best word to describe it is convenient. Literally seconds away from grocery/convenient stores like Lawson and Don Quijote; those stores have everything you would need to survive in them. There was a handful of some of the most popular Shibuya clubs tucked into our neighborhood like Club Harlem, Womb and Club Asia. Surrounding those clubs is about 50 love hotels. After meeting someone at a club or missing the train with your date and you can’t go home, love hotels seem to be the move. The huge Shibuya crossing was about a 7 minute walk away. Everyone usually meets up in that area at the Hachikō statue in front of the Shibuya station. The streets are full of food spots and stores like Adidias, Bershka, Candy/Fake Tokyo, Shibuya 109, Uniqlo, Tower Records, the Disney Store and more. The city is basically a giant mall with a constant food court.
LAC: On our very first night in Shibuya, things were already lit. Can you talk about our chance meetings while we were hanging in the streets around 2 or 3am. How did that first night shape the tone and interactions for the rest of the trip?
Gordo: The first night was for sure lit. Even though there’s thousands of people in Tokyo, you’ll see the same people you meet everywhere. Everyone in Shibuya could instantly tell we were new around there and we stood out, so when they’d see us excited and turning up in the streets, they’d just join us and want to get to know what we were about. We were just out filming the first night in town and this girl came up to us to see what we were filming and wanted to hang out, she ended up being the lead girl in the new Slay Squad video for “Cherry Blossom”. We met another girl in the street around 3am that we nicknamed Mary Wonton. She was kind of crazy [the I really like Mollys and acid type of crazy] and followed us around daily, but was pretty cool. A lot of the people we met the first week ended up showing us a lot about Tokyo and sticking around until our last days and shared some pretty sad and emotional goodbyes with us.
LAC: Can you talk about what happened the first night you broke your glasses in Tokyo?
Gordo: Ah man, my glasses haha. Well I’m a pretty big fan of the hardcore/metal music scene and when one of our friends told us that he heard a show going on, we had to go see what a Japanese hardcore pit was like. We made it to catch the last 30mins of the how, but the club was still trying to charge full price of ¥3,500 which is a little over $30. A bit steep for a 30 minute show. A really nice Japanese guy — who basically mirrored the exact look of an LA cholo, bald head and wife beater t-shirt and all — saw how bad we wanted to get in and paid for all of us after putting us on his guest list. It was wild. We literally ran in, started moshing on everyone and in seconds, my glasses were gone. I found them later in a corner smashed. Luckily, the RayBan store around the corner from our room fixed them the next day free of charge.
LAC: Can you talk about the festivities that lead up to the second night you broke your glasses in Tokyo?
Gordo: Hahaha well, Slay Squad was fortunate enough to have their first show overseas at the infamous Shibuya club “Trump Room”. I was their videographer for the trip and I guess got a little over excited filming the show because again, I filmed from the pit. By the end of their set someone handed me my glasses smashed up even worse than the first time. Rayban blessed me one last time the next day and told me I should remember I have glasses on my face and that they wouldn’t fix them again.
The show was really fun though. t was towards the end of the trip so a lot of people there knew who we were and sang along to the lyrics. It was a really dope experience to do that on the other side of the world.
LAC: So I went with Kei to go pick up the first time we purchased weed– which happens to be very, very illicit in Japan, with indefinite, multi-year sentencing for anyone caught with the substance. Luckily, we had some fantastic blunts unscathed. Can you talk about how you managed to be the guide toward the plug and how that generally came about?
“¥5,000 for a gram. . . which is nearly $50 — of course I took it and enjoyed it.”
Gordo: This last time during a modeling gig I got booked for, I met a kid who made a living off of modeling and picking up weed for older people. He was really cool and liked what I was about and ended up giving me some and was able to pick up for all of us. I don’t really smoke, but with those prices compared to Los Angeles prices– ¥5,000 for a gram for example, which is nearly $50 — of course I took it and enjoyed it. I hope that kid stays out of trouble though.
LAC: What did you do in your alone time in Japan that none of us were really around to witness?
Gordo: I had my camera in my hand at all times so often I would go walk around to take landscape pictures, do some time lapses, take pictures of the city life and architecture. I love the scenery out there and architecture. Getting spotted in the streets to model for some magazines was really cool too, I couldn’t take any friends but during that, I got taken outside of Tokyo for the shoots. I couldn’t really understand the people I was working for so I’m not even sure where I was but those were the only times this trip I got to leave the city. My other friend Brandun Deshay from Chicago came out to Tokyo for a bit, we got invited to the Xlarge Japan office. It was cool to see the office of a clothing company out there and how they operate behind the scenes. They laced me with a bunch of gear. I also met a a lot of cool girls out in Tokyo too, they took me to some pretty cool places to eat. One of my favorite spots was this really good Thai food spot in Shibuya that I would have never found on my own.
LAC: This ties in to club culture, but I feel it mandates its own question. We spent a lot of early mornings in club Harlem, man. Can you give readers a visual, musical and atmospheric idea of what that place is like?
Gordo: Club Harlem was for sure one of my favorite places. It was about a minute away from our room and the best club in Shibuya to get your rap music fix. It’s also one of those clubs where the majority of the people there look like they’re from Brooklyn in the 90’s, but Japanese. The music was actually really good from classics to current rap with no EDM mixes *prayer hands.* Everyone would show up at about 2 or 3am and just get wasted and dance to every song– really friendly and no politics or beef, just straight fun and partying. All the foreigners would somehow find themselves in the same dance circles with a bunch of Japanese people excited and hyping us up. Next thing you know, its 7am and there’s people passed out in the club and outside on the street. It’s typical though, no one messes with anyone. The worst thing I saw in there was a guy who was passed out in a chair for about 3 hours then suddenly woke up and pee’d in the middle of the dance floor, he got thrown out.
Gordo is on the left in the all jean fit with the leopard button up.
LAC: You got stopped in the street multiple times for modeling gigs throughout the month and mentioned one above as well in our search for herb. Can you paint the picture of how those interactions went down and what those shoots were like? I heard you modeled for one of Nigo’s brands and just got a spread in Grind Magazine!
It wasn’t until mid-shoot that we noticed we were all wearing “Human Made” by Nigo who is also the founder of Bape.
Gordo: Yea, it was wild. I heard it happened occasionally, but didn’t think it would happen so easily. I was just hanging at Shibuya crossing when I got asked by strangers if I’d like to model. I didn’t take it too seriously at first, but said sure. A week later they contacted me to meet up. I got there and there were 3 other foreigners, including that weed connect ,and they took us out of Tokyo on a limousine bus. I’m still not sure where we were, but I think it was a city called Saitama to a empty billiards hall. None of us fully knew what was going on because we couldn’t communicate much with the director/photographer/stylist/etc. They gave us drinks and food and treated us as what I’d guess it’d be like to be a model. It wasn’t until mid-shoot that we noticed we were all wearing “Human Made” by Nigo who is also the founder of Bape. We all got compensated and just recently I’ve gotten messages from Tokyo friends that I’ve been spotted in the magazine.
On my way walking home from that shoot, I got asked by another stranger to model and did some shoots for that magazine as well. For that shoot, I was alone and they had me doing all this stuff like standing on rooftops, drinking beer while acting drunk in a park and chillin’ in a car. It was cool to be in a car over there driving on the other side of the road, and they let me be backseat DJ while they took pics . Still not sure what magazine that was, but again got compensated.
LAC: What can you share about your creative vision for this most recent Latokyo lookbook? Where was your head at in terms of aestheticism, scenery, models used and so forth?
Gordo: My first few times in Tokyo I was really inspired to shoot lookbooks and do the most, this time, I was just as excited to be there, but really just wanted to hang out as a local. I was more caught up in hanging out and getting the vibe of what it’s going to be like living there next year than wanting to shoot a lookbook. Then all of a sudden it clicked: I made this lookbook and the editorial shots just that. It just plays off of the vibe of being a local in Tokyo, but still standing out as a foreigner in the typical street/neighborhood scenery. I gathered some foreign friends and just hit the immediate areas. With Latokyo being more of a couture and atypical style of apparel in the States, this shoot shows the street aspect of the brand and how in an area like Shibuya or Harajuku, it can be worn as casual, everyday streetwear.
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