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  • Interview with the “ALMOSTBLACK” designer about the secret to collaboration with artists Vol.1

    • 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.

    First of all, please tell us how you two met.

    Attorney Junya Komatsu(below"(I.e." ):
    Both myself and Nakajima were featured in the fashion magazine "WWD" in 2019.Next LeaderThe biggest turning point was being selected as "
    Around that time, I was at a home party with a gallerist I work with, and he said, "I'd like to introduce you to Nakajima," and I told him, "He was in the same issue, so I was interested in him too."

    Mr. Shunta Nakajima(below"Nakajima" ):
    So we had tea at Spiral Cafe in Omotesando.
    I also learned about Mr. Komatsu through the pages of WWD and thought, "There's someone like this! I'd love to ask him for help."
    As the brand grew, and we decided to expand overseas, the person who introduced me to Mr. Komatsu said to me, "You'll definitely need legal support. There's a good person here, so you should make a deal with him."
    So, I think Komatsu thought of it as an introduction, but we were so excited we were like, "Let's sign a contract!" (laughs).

    (I.e. :
    This was just when ALMOSTBLACK was about to launch a collection in collaboration with artists Kazuo Shiraga and Fujiko Shiraga, right? (※1)

    Nakajima :
    Yes, it was perfect timing.

    A representative piece from the collaboration collection with Shiraga-san.
    On the day of the interview, the color happened to be different (although no prior arrangement was made).

    ALMOSTBLACK has collaborated with many artists in the past, but how did you proceed before working with Attorney Komatsu?

    Nakajima :
    Up until now, I've handled all my collaborations, including the contracts, on my own. I was always fumbling around, wondering "Where should I start?"
    Although I felt the need for a specialist to help me with such matters, I thought that lawyers would not understand anything about fashion or collaborations, and I was not sure about the costs. I did not know who to consult, so I had no choice but to proceed on my own, relying on my enthusiasm and determination.
    Research the artists you want to collaborate with, call them directly, and talk to them.
    For example, in the past, there have been cases where a person called what appeared to be a Japanese office only to be turned down immediately, but then did not give up and made an inquiry at an overseas office, which was successfully approved.

    (I.e. :
    It's important not to give up. When I talk to various designers about collaborations, I get the impression that there are many cases where they give up from the start, thinking that an official collaboration will be difficult, or, on the other hand, they borrow something without permission, thinking that it won't be a problem, and end up in trouble, and the impression is that there are surprisingly few people who think about directly attempting a collaboration.

    Nakajima :
    If you want to go out into the world and present your work to the world, you don't want to leave it vague, but you need to get the artist's permission first. That's why I think the process of getting the artist's permission is very important.

    How has partnering with Attorney Komatsu changed the way you collaborate?

    Nakajima :
    It's completely changed. To put it simply, it's like I used to go around naked, but now I'm wearing a suit (laughs).

    (I.e. :
    The advantage of having a lawyer involved is, of course, that they can draw up contracts and the like, but it also means that you can discuss together what the best conditions are and where to contact them.
    What is the policy and how do you propose it to the artist? I think it is very meaningful to be able to move forward with the discussion after discussing the terms and conditions in advance.
    A typical lawyer's position is often passive, receiving a request from a client saying, "I want to do this under these conditions, so please prepare a contract," then preparing the contract, proposing it, and then amending any differences... With Nakajima, we have many discussions from the beginning, looking at a compromise, and we always try to come up with proposals that are not disrespectful to the artist, and that the artist will find interesting and risk-free.
    We believe that this type of process is very important when collaborating with artists, such as creating simple, easy-to-understand contracts and explanations rather than template contracts that are hard to understand at first glance.

    Nakajima :
    Whenever I think about collaborating, I always consult with Mr. Komatsu first.
    As we proceed, we ask questions like, "Is this a bit off?", "Is it rude?", and "Is this not okay?", so I think the artists will be able to accept it smoothly.

    (I.e. :
    What I find interesting about working with Nakajima is that we have many discussions and we can move forward exploring, "If I take it this way, perhaps the artist will agree."

    Nakajima :
    For example, even with the latest collaboration with Eikoh Hosoe, "Man and Woman" and "Embrace," I had detailed discussions with Mr. Komatsu about the works to be picked up, the order, and the composition. Chronologically, "Embrace" was released after "Man and Woman," but I originally wanted to release them in the reverse order. As a result, the collection was also in chronological order, from "Man and Woman" to "Embrace," but I discussed this point thoroughly with Mr. Komatsu.

    (I.e. :
    We also go to the site together, which I think is an unusual way of working, as it is rare for a lawyer to visit the site when it comes to collaboration agreements.

    Nakajima :
    For example, when I work on a project where I am in charge of branding, I consult with Mr. Komatsu from the concept stage onwards.
    One of the reasons behind this is that Mr. Komatsu is interested in what he does and enjoys it. I think mutual trust is very important for great teamwork.
    That's why I introduce Komatsu to brands and companies that I truly trust, and I think that he feels the same way.
    In this situation, I feel that if we can team up with trustworthy members, including Mr. Komatsu, and do a lot of interesting things, we could do it.

    (I.e. :
    The advantage of working together as a team from the beginning is that, rather than proceeding with a brand name in mind, such as "This is the brand name, but to what extent can it be protected?", we can take a reverse approach and proceed from the perspective of "creating a brand name that can be firmly protected in the countries we are targeting as our market." I find it very interesting to be able to realize a so-called "intellectual property strategy" that can be strategically advanced by combining branding, trademarks, designs, etc.
    I also think that a major benefit is that we can keep costs down by proceeding strategically, and in fact, in my collaboration with Nakajima, we have been able to apply for a trademark that strikes a good balance between defense and offense at minimal cost.

    *1 ALMOSTBLACK will collaborate with artists Kazuo Shiraga and Fujiko Shiraga for two seasons, AW 2021 and SS 2022.It was.

    On to a deeper story! Vol.2continue.

    (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 the atelier of designer Raf Simons for two years from 2005 to 2007. After building his career with designer brands both in Japan and overseas, 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| Lawyer
    Chief attorney at Mimura Komatsu Yamagata Law Office.
    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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