The definition of a fashion brand is changing. In this multi-hyphenate age, it seems many labels, once content to simply make clothes and call it a day, are diversifying and adding string after string to their bows. A diffusion line here, a collaboration (or 10) there. These days, a streetwear brand is as likely to make graphic T-shirts as it is a line of affordable homeware. It’s made defining the increasingly fluid ethos and identity of labels just a little bit harder. However, cult underground brand Blackmeans – one of the coterie that form MR PORTER’s exclusive The Japan Edit collection – seems to be bucking the trend. The men behind the label, Messrs Yujiro Komatsu, Masatomo Ariga and Takatomo Ariga have been steadfast in their philosophy since founding the company in 2008, a philosophy that can only be characterised as “hardcore”.
Of course, it’s easy to call a leather jacket specialist with a penchant for rough-and-ready distressing and an alarming number of studs at their disposal hardcore. “Punk influence has transformed Japanese style and we as a brand continue to push its evolution through our creations,” the trio explain. Going further, they cite a long and winding list of influences that can be described just so – café racer motorcycles, post-anarchism, the mods and rockers’ scuffles on Brighton Beach in the 1960s, and the crust-, proto- and, you guessed it, hardcore-punk genres all leave their distinguishable mark on the label’s wares. But it’s another aspect of the brand’s outlook that we think is particularly worthy of the “hardcore” designation: an obsessional approach to its craft.
Japan might be notorious for its meticulous manufacture, but even in its homeland, Blackmeans has few neighbours who practise this all-or-nothing mode of making. “We pay tribute to punk rockers while also paying homage to the centuries-old traditions of Japanese leathercraft,” the designers tell us. “The marriage of these two influences plays a significant role in who we are as a brand.” A shining example of this is the moto jacket from our capsule, which has been crafted with an unrivalled attention to detail. Hand-cut, hand-printed, hand-studded and hand-distressed in a process that takes hundreds of hours, it epitomises the painstaking efforts the brand affords its pieces and represents a standard of production that’s increasingly hard to come by these days. And if that’s not the very definition of hardcore, we don’t know what is.