We are honored to feature this Bay Area based maker, Alec Nakashima of AKASHI-KAMA. Pride and rootedness in his Japanese American heritage is the foundation of his brand.
What inspired you to become a maker?
I’m Japanese-American, and went to Japan for the very first time in 2018. It was an incredible experience, and after I came home I kept looking for something that blended a traditional aesthetic and that I could wear in an everyday context. I couldn’t find anything like what I was picturing, so I decided to make my own. That idea of being fully Japanese and fully American inspired AKASHI-KAMA. I wanted to create something from these two worlds, not quite something fully traditional like in my grandma’s closet or something bad like a bathrobe called ‘a kimono’, but something new and different. Like many others, my family felt terrible effects from the internment camps, wounds that took generations to heal. Rediscovering that heritage and pride, and helping others to do the same with their cultures is a huge part of AKASHI-KAMA.
What is your favorite piece in your collection and why?
Series of 3 images of the Noragi Jacket worn with a variety of styles: Left model wears a black beanie, white mockneck and cargo pants, middle is a flat lay of the jacket, right model wears a white mockneck, micro pleat pants and boots.
Hands down, our Noragi Jacket is my favorite, it’s really the whole genesis behind the brand. Our garments are not the traditional style at all, just like myself and maybe like all future generations of immigrants—they’re multiple cultures coming together to make something completely new. They’re unisex sizing and all produced in Oakland. Our version of the Noragi has all these unique elements: gold aglets inspired by streetwear, tapered instead of wide sleeves, and is designed to be worn open rather than tied. It’s my way of opening up this once-traditional silhouette to everybody.
What is something about your heritage that makes you proud?
I’m often just in awe of the generations that came before us. It makes me immensely proud to be the product of Japanese Americans who took on hatred that I can’t even imagine, and emerged with hope rather than bitterness. To carry on that heritage, and especially the importance of it in 2020 makes me very proud.
What is the size range of your pieces?
Our Noragi sizing is all unisex, XS – XXL. I’ve always loved the idea of offering custom fitting to customers, but sadly not there with costs (yet!).