Consistency and the pursuit of originality forms the foundation of his practice
WOOLRICH, America’s oldest outdoor brand, invented the buffalo check and has survived various eras. The free and independent American soul continues to be passed down to this day. This is the final installment of our special series of interviews with pioneers in their respective fields who share the same mindset as the brand and are active in their own fields. Last but not least is the artist, Meguru Yamaguchi, who has created his own unique style in New York. His way of life truly embodies the phrase, ‘WE ARE ORIGINAL’ and we hope you check out these words that remind us of the greatness of just being yourself.
―Having worked and lived in New York, What kind of brand is WOOLRICH recognized as?
Last year I had the opportunity to make artwork with WOOLRICH, and when I was first approached, I told my American friend “I might have an opportunity to work with WOOLRICH”, and he said “It’s a great brand, you should definitely do it.” As America’s oldest outdoor brand, WOOLRICH has a legacy for today’s Americans as well.
―How was the WOOLRICH shirt you wore?
For someone of my generation, it reminds me of the black-and-white Buffalo checkered shirt worn by Takeshi Furuya from Dragon Ash in the video for “Life Goes On”. It was cool, wasn’t it? What he wore in the music video was not from WOOLRICH, but I was able to wear the same color scheme and patterned shirt, which made me feel good. Moreover, Mr. Furuya has also appeared in this project so I was very happy.
―What did you admire about America and how did you come to live there?
I was really influenced by the excitement of the Urahara street culture in the early 2000's.. I thought the street culture was cool and free. As I was digging deeper into the culture, I came across hip hop, which had a further impact on me. I was inspired by the KAWS exhibition at PARCO, but I also wanted to see the roots of hip hop, so I went to New York. I thought, "I'm going to make it in this city, I'm going to make a name for myself.” I’m still on that path now.
―Tell us about an unforgettable episode in America!
One day, while I was eating at a Japanese restaurant, a guy named Walter, who runs an art studio in the Bronx, approached me. I went to visit his studio, and he eventually let me work at his studio for seven years until this past March. He even let me use the studio for free. The studio was located in Mid Bronx, 167 St., which is an area with no tourists, but next door was the well known artist, Kool Herc’s studio. He would speak to me and say ‘Yo Genius!’ . I never expected to meet the father of hip hop, so I was very happy.
―The Bronx is an area with a thriving Afro-American community, isn't it? Was it hard for a Japanese person to fit into the environment?
They are kind because they are a minority as well. They understand how I feel as a Japanese person, and they immediately greet me with “Yo! Brother! What’s up?”. In such a community, Kool Herc considers everyone around him like family. He calls us “sons” and everyone calls him ‘Dad’. That’s how I felt the soul of America in him. At first glance, they seem to be exclusive, but once you get inside, they treat you like family. It's like the good old Japan of my elementary school days, when the community was closely connected. It was a strange feeling for me to feel Japan in New York, especially after leaving Tokyo to go to New York. I moved to a new studio in Brooklyn in March because of the pandemic, but the seven years I spent there was a very precious time for me.
―How was your unique artwork born?
My father, who was a designer at a clothing company, always told me, “If it’s not original, it’s meaningless”, and those words naturally became part of my mindset. My artwork, which is made from brush strokes, was something I came up with in the city while living my life in this way. I’m still in the process of developing it, but that’s my main idea. There are a lot of things that overlap with WOOLRICH. I want to continue to evolve with that mindset.
Vintage Buffalo Check Shirt
[Reference Item] by WOOLRICH
Meguru Yamaguchi A Japanese artist who lives in New York and has gained worldwide recognition for his original art that sublimates brush strokes into three-dimensional objects through cutting and pasting. He has been actively collaborating with companies and brands both in Japan and abroad. He recently returned to Japan after a ten year absence to present a solo exhibition at PARCO in Shibuya, Tokyo, which was well received.