From vintage Americana to NEPENTHES and Needles
An undeniable OG of Japanese streetwear fashion, here’s how Needles got its start from American manufacturing.
Tokyo-based label NEPENTHES has been around since 1988, founded by Keizo Shimizu. It was originally a distribution company in Japan specializing in importing U.S. goods from brands such as Ralph Lauren, New Balance and L.L. Bean. A year later, he opened the brick-and-mortar NEPENTHES stores in Tokyo, stocking all of these these American-made goods. Soon after, Shimizu linked up with Daiki Suzuki and and pair began designing and developing original pieces for the brand. (Suzuki would end up in the U.S., opening a NEPENTHES outpost and launching Engineered Garments).
At the time, American clothing was highly-coveted in Japan - in fact, there was a craze for Americana. Shimizu would make frequent trips to the States, hunting down vintage pieces from deadstock denim, military apparel and everything that would end up in the NEPENTHES store.
By the ‘90s, a bunch of American brands were starting to move its manufacturing overseas, so these American-made pieces were becoming harder and harder to find. Because of this, Shimizu founded Needles as a sub-brand in 1997. Originally, he founded the label inspired by just one item - a loose-fitting suit jacket that was inspired by one worn by a young Miles Davis in the ‘60s. Now, the label is home to a range of different styles - all inspired by American and Japanese fashion and culture. One of Needles’ standout items is the tracksuit featuring a butterfly embroidery which is inspired by the tattoo on Steve McQueen’s chest in the film ‘Papillon’.
You can expect a range of different pieces and styles inspired by vintage Americana, with a Japanese twist. There’s no arguing that Shimizu was (and still is) at the forefront of this style - one that’s become a staple in Japanese streetwear.
Words / Helena Yeung