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Notes from Ametora

Wong Joon Ian

I just finished the really fun and deeply researched Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style by W. David Marx. (As an aside, I used to follow Marx and his fellow expat in Japan, Momus, on Livejournal!)

I want to write a longer post talking about how WASPs had their traditional clothing culturally appropriated and didn’t like it, but for now I just want to leave a few notes. (Here’s a thing that Google threw up on the topic)

I decided to try the Fourfold Book Index method from Dan Shipper’s Superorganizers newsletter. He says he folds a piece of paper into four at the start of each book and jots down page numbers with quotations or observations as he goes along.

When you’re done, you’re going to have a map of the book — and that’s going to help you understand it deeply, and help find things you need later on.

Dan Shipper, The Fourfold Book Index

So Ametora is the first book I’ve finished with this method. I started halfway through so it’s not the whole book. I’m still hacking my way through Robert Skidelsky’s excellent Money and Government, but I quickly outgrew one sheet of paper and started taking notes in a full-blown notebook.

Here are the things from my Ametora Fourfold Book Index:

1️⃣
p. 146 — Non-Orientalist explanation of Japan copying American style: Practical sales needs; obsessives evangelising.

Masayuki Yamazaki turned Harajuku into a fashion district. One of the most important 20th century fashion retailers.

p. 147 — Americans looked at the copies with bemusement or disdain. Is this what cultural appropriation feels like? And is so what does that say about global flows of power?

2️⃣
p. 183 — Deliberate undersupply of goods by A Bathing Ape. Compare to haute or avant garde brands who also use limited supply and high prices to maintain exclusivity.

Ura-Harajuku was a major pivot fro Japanese mens style. Local brands were the ones coveted by teens. Commes des Garcons had its moment in the late 70s.

p. 186 — $22 million revenues, A Bathing Ape in 1999. Nigo took the supply limits off.

“They had no interest in catering to foreign audiences”

3️⃣
p. 188 — Fujiwara did Head Porter. $700k in taxes in 2000. Nigo $500k in taxes. Both lived in Roppongi Hills residences.

BAPE broke America but couldn’t keep it going. In two years Nigo stepped down as CEO. And in 2011 IT bought the company for $2 million on $65 million revenues.

p. 196 — Global retail arbitrage powered the Japanese vintage scene. “Haunted the American heartland’s most antiquated and least profitable retailers”

p. 202 — Chicago $20 million revenue in 1996.

p. 205 — Farley Enterprises created an auction system for Japanese buyers on the Web.

4️⃣
p. 212 — Real McCoys Kobe … late 80s repro of the A-2.

‘Osaka Five’ includes Full Count and Evisu.

p. 215 — Kapitol and 45RPM fused Japanese technique with American forms. “American garments to centuries-old forms of Japanese craftsmanship … The two concepts have been entangled ever since”

p. 217 — Styleforum makes an appearance!

p. 218 — “Historical reversal … Americans have become just as anxious about wearing their jeans “correctly” as the Japanese were about Western clothing in the 1960s”

The internet gives rise to anxiety … or other forms of obsession.

5️⃣
p. 225 — US menswear culture resembles 60s Japan. Thom Browne’s instructions, internet menswear tutorials, Sartorialist, “evangelise fashion to heathens”

p. 226 — “English-language blogosphere was destined to discover Japan’s forty-year head start on the studied mastery of American style.”

p. 231 — “I think Ivy is becoming like tonkatsu”

Ametora … not necessarily extension of Japanese national character but traced to a specific historical context when that style entered Japan.

6️⃣
p. 231 — Why Japan care about fashion? Cramped apartments mean people don’t entertain indoors … “Clothes are the highest return on investment because unlike other culture they are seen by others”

p. 232 — Japanese ‘rules’ on fashion because an entire clothing system was imported.

“There’s no dictionary of trad in America because you have elder brothers, fathers and grandfathers”

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