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  • Interview with the “ALMOSTBLACK” designer about the secret to collaboration with artists Vol.2

    • Representative Attorney / Legal Director
      Representative Attorney / Legal Director

      KOMATSU Junya

    • #fashion

    Many fashion designers are interested in collaborating with artists.
    A brand that has received high praise both at home and abroad.ALMOST BLACK" has collaborated with many famous artists, and each of its collections has been met with great acclaim.
    How did this unique collaboration come about?
    Behind this was strong collaboration between the designers and lawyers, as well as extraordinary enthusiasm.
    "ALMOSTBLACK" designer Shunta Nakajima and ourJunya KomatsuWe asked the lawyers to share their secrets for achieving collaboration.

    They talked about how they met and how they worked together as a team.Vol.1Please also take a look.

    ALMOSTBLACK has collaborated with many artists. What is the key to making these collaborations happen?

    Mr. Shunta Nakajima(below"Nakajima" ):
    I think the only thing you can do is convey how much you want to do it.
    For example, when we collaborated with Kazuo Shiraga and Fujiko Shiraga, we conveyed our enthusiasm to the foundation that we really wanted to collaborate, and they became supporters of the brand.
    Also, for our collaboration with Eikoh Hosoe, we spoke with the gallery manager in charge and conveyed our enthusiasm by answering his various questions honestly.
    The question is how many people who need to communicate in order to collaborate can be on our side. I think increasing the number of people who understand is the shortcut to collaboration.

    A representative piece from the collaboration collection with Shiraga-san.
    A representative piece from the collaboration collection with Shiraga-san.

    Attorney Junya Komatsu(below"(I.e." ):
    How you approach someone is also important.

    Nakajima :
    Regarding my collaboration with Shiraga-san, I heard from the foundation that I needed to speak to his son, so I wrote him a letter. Perhaps my enthusiasm was conveyed in the letter, as his son agreed to meet with me. After that, we met and spoke for about two hours. In that conversation, I only told him two things: how much I love Shiraga-san, and how I really wanted to make that known to the world. It was very simple, wasn't it?
    This is something that Izumi Kato, an artist with whom I collaborated on another project, said, but since we are a business, we naturally have to sell products. But before that, I think the most important thing is whether or not you like the artist or their work.

    (I.e. :
    As an artist, you want to collaborate with people you like.
    Our office often represents artists and their families, but when collaborating with fashion, artists are concerned about "how it will be designed, what its quality will be, and how it will be publicized." From the artist's perspective, they want to avoid their precious work being consumed carelessly. Therefore, they are particularly concerned about pre-production approval, production volume, quality, and advertising methods.
    On the other hand, fashion brands often don't decide on these points until the last minute. They proceed with the project according to the fashion schedule. For example, in the art world, it is not uncommon to start preparations for a project three years in the future, but in the fashion world, the schedule is very different, with preparations being made for a collection six months in the future.
    In addition, fashion and art have different ways of thinking and rules, such as more advertising and exposure is not necessarily better, but fashion brands have not been very accommodating to the rules of artists. This mismatch often results in fashion brands being turned down by artists for collaborations.
    I think the key to making this collaboration happen was that ALMOSTBLACK proposed to the artists from an early stage that they would proceed within the rules and schedule of art.

    Nakajima :
    In terms of rules for art, it's also important to "not do anything that the artist doesn't like."
    There are many things that I wanted to do, but I don't feel good about doing something that the artist doesn't like. I think collaboration is about proposing alternative ideas in a time-pressed situation and presenting something that both parties can agree on.

    So, what is the specific schedule and division of roles for the project?

    Nakajima :
    I consult with Komatsu from the artist selection stage onwards. We are currently in parallel discussions with multiple people, with an eye towards collaborations two to three years down the line.
    I consult with Komatsu about selections that take into account the artistic context, such as, "I would like to collaborate with this artist in the future," or, "If I were to collaborate with that artist, this artist would be a must."
    This is something that only Komatsu, who also works in the art industry, can discuss.

    (I.e. :
    We are also involved in determining who to consult with and what to discuss in order to make collaboration a reality.
    For example, once we have decided on potential artists with whom we would like to collaborate, we share this information with Nakajima to determine which gallery or organization we should contact, and then which person within that gallery or organization we should contact.

    Nakajima :
    Thanks to the thorough research and information sharing with Mr. Komatsu, I feel like I am meeting the right people at the right time.

    (I.e. :
    At the same time, we share information such as "I recommend this book," "I liked this series," and "I was interested in this work."
    Based on this brainstorming session, we then discuss points such as, "This theme would be the most contextually appropriate for the collection," or, "If we were to make this piece public, this would be the best."
    After that, Nakajima makes the final decision on which works he wants to use in the collaboration.

    When is the contract signed?

    Nakajima :
    Once the artist gives the OK for a collaboration, a contract is signed.
    The terms of the contract are discussed between Komatsu and the artist, and we have Komatsu prepare a contract in advance that meets the artist's wishes.

    (I.e. :
    The most important thing about the contents of a contract is that it be something that the artist can feel comfortable with.
    I make sure to thoroughly discuss every detail with Nakajima in advance, determine the compromise of the contract from the beginning, and then propose something that the artist can feel comfortable with.
    In order to avoid any disrespect to the artists, we take great care in drafting contracts regarding things like quality control, limiting lot sizes in advance, and advertising and promotion methods.

    Nakajima :
    ALMOSTBLACK has a relatively high price range, and its branding is not based on mass production, so I think that's just right.

    (I.e. :
    Artists are most concerned about the risk of their work being mass-produced in fashion, so it's great that ALMOSTBLACK has been able to overcome that issue.
    Because we create contracts while listening to the artist's requests, in most cases the initial draft contract is approved as is.
    This method saves time by minimizing communication with the artist, and can actually reduce legal fees.
    At ALMOSTBLACK, our work is based on what the artist considers important, but we also discuss terms from the beginning and create contracts with a compromise in mind, so I think it's actually very efficient.

    Nakajima :
    This is possible because Komatsu has been there from the beginning, participating in meetings and the like, and has a good grasp of the artists' opinions.
    The process of fine-tuning the terms during meetings is itself the process of revising the contract.

    (I.e. :
    Fortunately, our agency receives requests from various artists on a daily basis, so although we are ALMOSTBLACK's representative, we also listen to the wishes of the artists we're collaborating with during meetings. That may be unusual (laughs).

    Lastly, please tell us your thoughts on this collaboration.

    Nakajima :
    This is true for anything, but I think that unless you can do something that you just love, it won't become work. I think that passion is an extension of that.
    For example, in order to realize my collaboration with Shiraga-san, I myself went to Amagasaki about three times.
    I want young people to always ask themselves, "Can I really achieve this?"
    On the other hand, I am a little perplexed by the speed at which we hold collections every six months. But we have no choice but to do it because it's a business. It's difficult to strike that balance.

    (I.e. :
    What's interesting about Nakajima's collaboration is that it confronts art head-on. It's not like fashion is appropriating artistic expressions, but rather it feels like fashion and art have collided on an equal footing.
    It's great how you've delved into the meaning of collaboration and incorporated it into your own designs.

    Nakajima :
    The reason I am so keen to collaborate with Japanese artists is because, as a fellow Japanese, I can fully understand their way of thinking, and also because I feel that it is strange that, despite there being so many famous Japanese artists, there are so few collaborations with Japanese artists in the fashion industry, and instead attention is focused on overseas artists.
    When I design, I try to think deeply about the connection between the artist and myself. Generally, collaboration products tend to be based on standard products and have the artist's work printed on them, but in the case of ALMOSTBLACK, the connection between each artist and myself is different, so the items and designs are completely new for each artist. Since I'm always releasing new products, buyers often tell me, "We might not buy your products next season" (laughs).

    (I.e. :
    Every season, I am surprised and excited by the new design. I think, "Maybe the artist won't approve this," but sometimes he does (laughs).

    Nakajima :
    I'm really grateful that they accepted my innovative design. I believe it's because they were able to see my sincerity and enthusiasm.

    Nakajima Shunta and lawyer Komatsu Junya talk about how they met and how they work together as a team.Vol.1Please also take a look.

    (From left) Mr. Shunta Nakajima, Attorney Miyuki Ebisawa, Attorney Junya Komatsu Photo in this article: Mao Nakazawa
    (From left) Mr. Shunta Nakajima, Attorney Miyuki Ebisawa, Attorney Junya Komatsu Photo in this article: Mao Nakazawa

    Shunta Nakajima

    Designer of "ALMOSTBLCK"

    After graduating from Esmod Paris, he worked as a design assistant at designer Raf Simons' atelier for two years from 2005 to 2007.
    After building his career with domestic and international designer brands, he started the men's fashion brand "ALMOSTBLACK" with Masateru Kawase. Based on the concept of "Post-Japonism," he is actively involved in collaborations with artists.
    In recent years, he has expanded his field of activity to include e-sports branding, design, and fabric direction. He is also planning a project to launch a brand in collaboration with Attorney Komatsu.
    As a former soccer player, his current goal is to be involved in the design of the J.League, out of respect for soccer players and a desire to give back to the soccer industry.
    He also dreams of designing for a high-end brand in the future.

    Junya Komatsu

    Attorney at Law

    Mimura Komatsu Yamagata Law Office, Lead Attorney.
    After registering as an attorney in 2009, he graduated from the Tokyo Photography School Professional Photographer Course in 11. In 15, he graduated from Fordham University Law School in New York, majoring in fashion law and art law. After returning to Japan, he specializes in brand launches, intellectual property strategies, and contract negotiations with overseas companies.
    Affiliated with the Fashion Law Institute, a legal research institute for fashion industry, and a legal consultation service for those involved in the fashion industry.fashionlaw.tokyoHe also specializes in contemporary art-related work, serving as legal advisor to the Contemporary Art Dealers Association and as a director of Art Week Tokyo.

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