Interview with TOKYOMILKSHOP!
So TOKYOMILKSHOP and I have been following each other for quite some time now, first bonding over a love of Japanese streetwear and hip hop. I’ve been a fan of his page since day one. His attention to small details and visual storytelling is what truly sets him apart from the rest of the other pages on the internet. As a westerner that speaks no Japanese myself, TOKYOMILKSHOP lowers the barrier of entry for the average fashion enthusiast hoping to learn more about the Ura-Hara movement and overall culture in Japan.
While the subjects we both post about are often different, we share a passion for preserving and documenting culture through looking at the past, scanning, translating, and digitizing. If you aren’t already aware of the TOKYOMILKSHOP page, I highly recommend taking the time to go through his hundreds of posts, as there is a lot to be learned from his page. Without further ado, let’s get into this interview!
DM: Tell me a little bit about how you first got introduced to the Urahara fashion movement? What were some of your personal first experiences or items you remember?
TMS: Like how I would assume most Americans my age got into Japanese fashion, my first introduction is no doubt A Bathing Ape. I’m only 26, so I wasn't old enough to participate in the mid-2000’s boom of BAPE during its takeover in America. It wasn’t until maybe 2021 or 2022 I had an interest in 90’s/2000’s hip-hop and I became aware of Pharrell’s impact on music and fashion. While I was studying him closely, my research led me into studying NIGO.
From here, I continued to educate myself on the brand of BAPE and NIGO solely, which led to me understanding the nuances of Japanese street culture Ura-Harajuku and from there I was hooked. Having access to Buyee.com changed the game for me, and I was able to participate in collecting certain 90s Ape items that I would seldom see on pages such as Baardei on Instagram.
DM: Who are some of your biggest influences in hip hop and fashion?
TMS: I don't shy away from the greatness and influence NIGO has taught me throughout my journey. Take this however you want but, there are countless similarities between NIGO & myself. His approach to style comes from music and that’s how I am. In addition to this, NIGO is known to be a documented and self-proclaimed Otaku. My obsessions are driven by the ones who influence me and when I feel comfortable with a mentor/leader I stick with it. With that being said, NIGO would have to be my answer to both questions.
There are some honorable mentions when it comes to Hip-Hop such as Cam’ron the American rapper & leader of the Dipset crew from Harlem. But to give him credit for the entirety of Harlem style would be dishonest. I’m driven by cultural movements and phenomenons, and to me NIGO in 1995-2002 reigns supreme in my eyes.
DM: I feel like most people know Hiroshi Fujiwara from Fragment Design but to hardcore fans, there is so much lore regarding his career. To someone that isn’t as familiar with his impact in fashion and music, can you describe the importance of his work?
TMS: That's extremely tough to do, unfortunately, I wish I had a straight-to-the-point overview of the importance of Hiroshi Fujiwara but this would be an elongated answer.
I will say this, you are correct in saying most people aren’t informed by his long list of accolades but that’s one of the best qualities of Hiroshi Fujiwara, the man. Opposed to NIGO, he scaled his projects and business ventures to a comfortable contained level which makes the people who care stay engaged. There are genuine fans of his music and look at Fujiwara more as a musician than someone who designs in fashion. I admire that a lot, he has a massive amount of lore that rewards any enthusiast in Japanese fashion. As much as I studied him and collected many magazines about Fujiwara from the original Last Orgy in Takarajima to his expansion with Fragment design in the mid-2000’s covered in EYESCREAM magazine. There’s still so much I don't know, which keeps me excited and hungry to maintain consistency in my journey of obtaining knowledge and wisdom.
DM: A lot of people don’t know this but you used to make music! Tell me a little bit about your journey through hip hop and making your own music. Who were some of the artists that made an impact on you?
TMS: Thank you for bringing this up, to be honest at the time of writing this answer, TOKYOMILKSHOP is on the brink of 20k followers in less than a year. At this point, it's safe to say pretty much no one knows about my history as a musician and I'm totally fine with that.
I have recorded music since I was 13 and I was very fixated on becoming a recording artist, but even then I always had obsessions with other interests outside of my environment. When I left for college I had the opportunity to perform in one of the biggest festivals and musical events in Texas numerous times.
Ironically around the same time I got into NIGO & The Neptunes, I began to self-teach myself Piano and started to focus more on production. Today, I still make music but not as much as I would like to. My mistakes as an artist have helped the growth of TOKYOMILKSHOP tremendously, especially in the marketing department. Maybe one day down the line I will share some of the self-made photoshoots I did for my cover art and promo, where I would collect particular Bape pieces and style them myself. I took pride in my music and everything surrounding the artistry and it transferred to my approach in TOKYOMILKSHOP.
After recording music for over a decade you tend to be influenced by lots of artists and music has changed so much from when I was 13 till now. I pretty much went from my influences being people like Chief Keef, Soulja Boy, & Gucci Mane to Pharrell & Cam’ron. I grew so much throughout the years and educating myself on culture has always been prevalent in my life so you can just only imagine how much the music quality and content changed as I transitioned from a boy to a man.
DM: Your knowledge of Japanese hip hop and music are far more vast than most, can you tell us about some of the big figures in Japan that really pioneered the scene?
TMS: Fantastic question! When talking about Japanese hip-hop pioneers I can pretty much break it down and from what I’ve learned, it appears that Hiroshi Fujiwara was pivotal in introducing American hip-hop to Japan. Tiny Panx historically is one of, if not the first ever Japanese hip-hop crew. From here it trickles down to guys like Scha Dara Parr & Buddha Brand. From here the scene grows rapidly and it’s very tough to track down who break what records and achieved certain accolades first.
But when it comes to mid-80’s to early 90’s Japanese hip-hop I would tell anyone who wanted to understand the history to start there. If you are into Japanese hip-hop, you should know groups that blew up because of the pioneers such as RIP SLYME, M-Flo, East End x Yuri, Dohzi-T, RHYMESTER, & Mellow Yellow just to name a handful. I love everything about Japanese hip-hop and I’m so ecstatically proud as an American to see the culture represented with finesse in Japan. The lyrics & production are really on par with any legendary acts in the West and I stand by that wholeheartedly.
I even introduced a series on my page called TOKYOMILKSOUNDS that go deeper into the lore of Japanese hip-hop music and will expand into other genres as time progresses. I love those posts and the reception I get from them, especially when it’s Americans who don’t know these sounds from a can of paint and become fans of the music themselves. It’s such a rewarding feeling for sharing something I’m very passionate about. Thanks for asking this question!
DM: Japan played an integral role in the world of streetwear but often still gets put in the backseat compared to brands like Stüssy and Supreme. What are some brands or figures that you think deserve more recognition for their contributions?
TMS: Off the top, Bounty Hunter, North Hollywood, the history of realmadHECTIC, Undercover & Whiz!
These brands at some point in time in the Ura-Harajuku scene were competing with brands like Supreme & Stussy and held their own in the Japanese market. One of the biggest reasons you won’t ever hear about these brands in the West is due to the language barrier. At this point, it would be ignorant to not acknowledge what my platform has accomplished by being one of the primary sources for learning about the world of Ura-Harajuku.
Due to my translations from Japanese to English, I’ve been able to uncover a lot of history about these brands and bring them to the consciousness of hype-beasts and street fashion enthusiasts. In a perfect world, I would rather not talk about any well-known brands to raise even more awareness on the core of Harajuku brands but the algorithm doesn’t work that way, hell, the world doesn’t work that way. People don’t give a fuck at the end of the day, that’s the god-honest truth. In the West, brands hold weight due to status and celebrity power.
The Japanese market doesn’t solely depend on that and it’s a lot more personal and individually driven. No matter how many likes or views my content gets, I always prioritize sharing newfound knowledge and Im extremely grateful to have devoted enthusiasts like yourself who care to pay attention to that type of content just as much as the BAPE, Supreme, & Stussy posts. I even go the extra mile by showing these big brands in a different light than usual, so you won’t ever feel like you've seen this before and even if you have, my written narratives add a refreshing take on familiar brands and content.
DM: Many people are collectors and enthusiasts with this era in Japanese fashion, what made you decide to dive deep and start scanning magazines and books?
TMS: To me, obtaining things with no prior knowledge of them is an empty way of participating in anything. The clothes, sneakers, & collectibles are what they are because of the stories behind them. Without that, it’s simply a product, nothing more nothing less.
Think about it, look at Air Jordans. They are revered for the story of Micheal Jordan and what he was able to do while wearing those sneakers. Any real Air Jordan head doesn’t buy Jordans simply because they just came out or to reach a quota in their collections. If you talk to any of these guys, they can educate you so much on Micheal Jordan himself and what he brought to the game of basketball and pop culture. That’s why Jordan’s will never go out of style, the legacy and story expands every year and that’s very special.
In America, a lot of us are attracted to exotic materialistic ways of thinking. We look towards these materialistic things to show hierarchy over each other. Do what you want, but that’s not how I was raised, and that’s not how I live my life. I rather buy into the story over an item any day and that’s why I prioritize the magazines and do the work I do. As an artist myself, education is extremely key and by learning the past we can create a better future in this world, this is what TOKYOMILKSHOP stands for.
DM: Many people talk about gatekeeping in fashion and I think the barrier to entry with what you do can be intimidating to most. Your page has always stood out to me as being extremely informative and detail oriented. It would be one thing to post scans without offering context, what made you decide to start educating and informing people about these topics?
TMS: As I just said, history can forward the way the world works today and tomorrow. I’m aware of all the shit that is on Instagram, there are so many distractions and negativity in the world. When it comes to fashion, there is a void of education and why things are the way they are. Respect to Hidden. NY and his success but his format is what ultimately made me decide to add context to my scans. It’s not his fault entirely and I haven’t spoken to him to know how much he knows as a person. Nonetheless, he has a huge platform and people misconstrue a lot of content on his page due to the lack of context added.
This thought is what made me decide that this is the role TOKYOMILKSHOP will play in all of this, we are going to do the dirty work and package entertaining visuals with stories behind them. I truthfully take joy in learning all of this and it’s such a wonderful feeling to share with the Internet what I’ve learned. I’m often appreciative of Japanese natives who comment and give personal experiences with my content. This only happens because I initially shared a story, to begin with, it makes the people who were a part of that time feel engaged and relive memories. It’s an underrated act that I do constantly, I love the TOKYOMILKSHOP community.
DM: As someone who truly believes that almost all of the present and future is inspired by the past, explain the importance of going back in time, preserving, and archiving these magazines and other forms of physical media.
TMS: Hahaha, I might have just answered this, and maybe I’m going on tangents answering future questions but I can’t elaborate much more on the importance of learning the past.
School is built around lessons and study plans on history so that you can move forward in life. As technology advances, we are getting further and further away from how things were before our time. There are so many forces and people in this world and everyone has a role to fill. As for now, this is my role, as a historian.
DM: How has archiving and the Urahara lifestyle influenced your life or outlook?
TMS: Man, it’s something else I mean I honestly haven’t got the ultimate experience yet. As of right now, I have yet to travel to Harajuku to see the state of the culture in 2023. Nonetheless, what I’ve been able to learn and do have transcended my brain in so many ways I can’t necessarily put it in words. My awareness of the world of fashion shifted in the greatest ways possible. I’m on the path of mastering my lifestyle by using the philosophies of the Ura-Harajuku lifestyle. Learning, applying, & obsessions are all cultivated to make me who I am and it’s been a hell of a ride so far. As crazy as it is to think, I’m really in the genesis stage of my journey at 26 years old, my life is just now starting a new chapter.
DM: What is something your present self would tell your past self when you were just getting into the scene? Do you have any tips for people who are interested in starting to archive physical materials?
TMS: I would say continue to stay open-minded and don’t be afraid to go completely left. Don’t give a fuck about views and likes, stay focused on the passion and you will be rewarded for doing so.
Don’t go searching for a particular issue, learn the bases of what you looking for and just keep collecting, you will be surprised by what you will find by doing this. Operate like a business and have a structure in how you archive, and stay organized.
DM: Recently I see you’ve been working on some big projects with our friends at Sabukaru Online as well as Stash’s Blue Works Studio, what are some things we can look forward to seeing from TOKYOMILKSHOP in the future?
TMS: Sabukaru Online was the first platform that believed in me and helped mold my approach to writing and talking about Japanese culture as a whole. I can’t thank them enough and I will never forget what they have done for me, it’s been almost a year and our collaborations are still going strong! I look forward to doing bigger things with them as TOKYOMILKSHOP transitions into a company.
Working with Stash has been a wild experience as well, shout-outs to my main Thomas Rampino for having an excellent vision and seeing my passion from afar. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with them as well and it has taught me a lot by doing so.
Look forward to seeing TOKYOMILKSHOP enter into the realm of products and projects. I’m currently in business formation and setting up TOKYOMILKSHOP as a brand that translates the philosophy of Ura-Harajuku into projects and clothing. I’ve been very secretive about the development of this and I’m proud to have gotten a lot done behind the scenes to make this a near reality.
Just continue to watch for future announcements on this development. I’m making sure this is not simply cashing in on my following, I am very set on making anything I do for the narrative of the brand so far. I have a reputation at this point and entering the realm of fashion wasn’t initially something I intended. With that being said, I have to do this correctly and stay patient.
DM: Describe to me what TOKYOMILKSHOP looks like in its final form? What are some of your goals?
TMS: TOKYOMILKSHOP will be an empire that celebrates the culture of Ura-Harajuku and will become a major part of the scene in the coming years. It will be the bridge between America & Japan culturally. This account is simply planting seeds to grow into something way beyond the imagination. Anyone who has had the pleasure of getting to know me knows that I’m very special and have many gifts to share with the world. TOKYOMILKSHOP will allow me to bring all my ideas to the forefront without being solely focused on me. We are already a flourishing community and I have intent on serving the people for years to come. I get very excited thinking about the future. I will say this one last time, look at what I’ve been able to accomplish in under a year!
Thank you for the interview, and even more so for your companionship. You are certainly one of the pages who inspires me and it’s a pleasure to do my first interview as TOKYOMILKSHOP for you!