I talked to vlogger and fashion designer, Reggie Casual for Tokyo Weekender, read it here. Reggie’s videos are a gulf of information and insight into Japanese fashion. While I enjoyed watching them and I think The Casual is one of the most unique vlogs in Japan, I couldn’t get away from the obvious influence of the black aesthetic on this country’s pop culture. Granted, The Casual is about Japanese fashion, but for him to not address the obvious is what initially made me want to talk to him. It’s not as if Reggie (who is an American from Los Angeles) wasn’t aware of the omission, but why didn’t he delve into it, specifically? “I don’t want to alienate anybody,” Reggie said. At first, I thought his reasoning was ironic. All forms of African-American fashion have been a result of necessity or alienation, though Reggie had a lot more to say. Undoubtedly, on a global scale, black owned clothing companies like Cross Colours, Karl Kani, Fubu, and a host of others from the 90’s were hugely popular and influential, yet they went away at the turn of the century. It was a point made poignant in Sacha Jenkins’ documentary Fresh Dressed.
In America, black owned businesses need a white stamp of approval to become legitimate, just as white artists making black music and white urban brands need a black co-sign to be considered authentic. But, long before black dollars and the power of black ingenuity and creativity was even considered profitable, white brands set the price of their own worth. Another way of saying that, is that they had a high opinion of themselves, which is an inevitable conclusion when compared to the people that they enslaved and used to build their wealth. Given our unfortunate capitalistic reality, Reggie spoke to the idea of freedom in the form of financial independence. “The biggest mistake that we ever made as a culture, as an ethnicity, is not putting a value on our culture. We keep it to our selves. 99% or 80% of the time we try to keep it to ourselves and say it’s not for anybody else and we allow everybody else to monetize it,” he said. While the world needs a new radical and potent vision of itself, a vision that disposes corporate world leaders, borders, and laws, a vision that nourishes the curious and imaginative minds that we are born with, not the fearful, greedy, and separatists model that we are conditioned to embody, all popular cultures intersect and the merging of them, white, black, asian, or otherwise, are fundamentally human.
“I was watching the Breakfast Club a few weeks ago with Dapper Dan on there and he said, ‘I don’t want people to wear my stuff because I’m black. I want people to wear my stuff because it’s fresh.’ That really resonated with me. How do we make stuff to where we can say, ‘Yeah, its black owned, but also it’s accepted by the masses.’ Here in lies the problem with the black community: They may support Karl Kani and Rocawear, Sean John and all that, but they’re just as likely to support Louie Vuitton and Gucci because of the name recognition. The divide is: ‘I’m supporting this [black brand] because this person is from my community, but I’m supporting Gucci and Louie Vuitton because of name recognition, because of what it means.”
“And that’s the issue that I’ve always had, that’s my problem with that. I steer clear of brands that you [can look at and] know what I’m wearing. People always asking me, ‘Yo, where’d you get that? What brand is that?’ And I’m one of those dudes that never really tells. I’m just like, ‘Yo man, that’s a discovery process, you gotta find it own your own’ because I don’t mind wearing anybody’s stuff. If its dope, its dope. I’m going to wear it. If we start leveraging heritage brands versus black brands, then we’ll say, ‘I’m going to support this brand because it’s a black brand and I’m going to support this brand because it’s a heritage brand. It’s a Louie Vuitton. It’s a Dior. It’s Hermes. Then what you’re doing is playing politics within yourself. You’re thinking that the black brand is still lesser than the heritage brand because its not been given the stamp of approval by the white community. So what you need is a segue in between that. You need somebody to say, ‘My clothes are just dope. What I have is dope.’ And that’s what Virgil [Abloh] is doing.”
“I’m very critical of Virgil. I think a lot of people get that the wrong way though. It has nothing to do with me not liking Virgil. And it has nothing to do with me being a critical guy in fashion. It’s more of culture a thing, an ethnicity thing. I’m harder on the people that look more like myself. I’m going to be more critical because I want them to be better. I want Virgil to be a better designer because I don’t look at Virgil or Pharrell [Williams] as my competition. I see them as my peers. I’m just not as big as they are. When I look at them like that, all I want is for them to do better, because there are going to be people who are far worst than me who are going to be vindictive about it. It’s just like us living in Japan. You know that there are going to be people who are vindictive of you simply because you are black in Japan. That bothers them. The same thing happens with Virgil. There are people who are mad at Virgil, who don’t like Virgil and won’t say it. They’ll simply say, ‘I just don’t like his designs. Louie Vuitton is going to fail with Virgil. Louie Vuitton is over.’ Meanwhile, Louie Vuitton has 29% increase in sells and a large part of that has to do with their apparel sector. If you know anything about fashion, the apparel sector loses money. So for Louie Vuitton to make more money off of apparel sells, speaks a lot of how much Virgil’s sphere of influence is, particularly, because they have Virgil and his name means so much,” Reggie said.
In regards to the influence of black owned clothing companies, he said, “I understand the influences that those brands had, but they weren’t as impactful as say a Supreme. The way those brands like Karl Kani and Triple 5 Soul were impactful was within the hip-hop community during the 90’s, but hip-hop wasn’t nearly as big as the punk and skate movement. Those brands had their time and they left. They never evolved into something else. More so than anything, their silhouettes and their vibe was maintained in Japan through hip-hop.” Admittedly, Reggie said that he has yet to talk about black culture’s heavy influence on Japan, but it was a conscious decision. His vlog has a sizable following, though it’s still in the incubator stage of garnering a larger audience. For now he’s schooling fools on fashion and keeping it casual.