A Talk With - Samutaro

Third episode of "A Talk With" series

Author: Naoual Es Sgheir

A Talk With - Samutaro

What makes fashion special is its depth and the different layers of thought and meaning to the clothes that we wear. The industry does not simply sell garments but sells an idea; an aspiration, history and heritage; we sell culture itself. Within the industry, there are individuals that act as communicators of this cultural fabric. They curate and highlight things that are interesting, important and beautiful to them and do the work of giving us insight and inspiring us with the fascinating stories behind these cultural phenomena.

Samutaro could be described as the gold standard of these cultural curators. He is invited by key players in the industry to experience different pockets of culture, the craftsmanship that goes into the clothes behind the scenes and the creative melting pots that come together to celebrate launches and events. Attending these unique happenings, he provides his community a lens on what occurs; his perspective and analysis on the excitement and creativity happening around him. Whether it’s a denim production practice passed down through generations, or the smorgasbord of attendees at an auction event; he teases out the most interesting stories and investigations into the state of the world and the captivating individuals that make it.

Though he is always present at these events and the impact of his posts echoes way beyond his Instagram feed, we rarely get an opportunity to get to know the guy beyond the carefully put-together selection of stories highlighting others. Many have not even seen Samutaro’s face, and many fewer know his story. However, his community feel they know him on a deeper personal level due to the interests that he shares with passion. There is some irony that he uses the medium of social media, which is often written off as superficial, to communicate these very human and personal stories that give us a deeper and more authentic understanding of his identity than any fitpic or selfie could aim to.

We invited Samutaro to Arona to experience the territory where we were founded and hold dear as a keystone of our identity. Having had a relationship of mutual respect and admiration for years with him we had been waiting for the right moment to welcome him as our guest in Italy. Celebrating our 70th anniversary this year, we knew that we wanted to include him in our festivities, and knowing his love for the Marni mohair pieces, it was natural that we should include him in launching our collaboration on our exclusive edition of that very piece.

Whilst he was in Arona we took the time to sit down with him for a chat about the state of the world and how he sees his place within it. Naturally, we knew that he would provide insight and a fresh perspective on fashion and culture, as well as share his experience and thoughts on social media. We felt that in talking about these things we would get to know the person deeper than hearing his life story, in the same way we have done through his publications on the platform he has built with love and curiosity.

How do you choose what to write about? Is it about choosing something that is cool, interesting or what is the criteria?
When I'm thinking about posting, inspiration can really come from anywhere. I could be looking through a store like this, having a conversation with one of my friends, reading a magazine, or scrolling online. The idea is just to find a story or something that interests me, and then share that with my audience.

What inspired the format for your instagram? There’s not really anyone doing what you do or there wasn’t when you started.
Yeah, not a lot of people were really doing long-form captions when I started; and I honestly didn't think anyone would be reading it because I write these long-ass paragraphs. The idea is to give context and the story behind each of the pieces that I write. At the time when I first started my page, I found that people were just sharing images, but there was no kind of storyline behind it or any kind of context. It’s that stuff that's always really inspired me, so I always want to do the research behind what I post and add a bit of extra value for the readers to learn and educate themselves, or just become a bit more informed.

Your social media is less about you in a superficial way but somehow connects deeper with your identity and personality. Have you always had this connection with social media?
Yes, I think my Instagram is less about me and myself as a person, it's more about the stories that I share; so it’s a bit of a rare occasion getting me on camera right now. I really like to focus on the writing and sharing the images and the stories and allowing that to really sort of shine. But I do like some of the themes and the stories that I do share to let my personality come through, whether it's anything from anime to cars, or hip hop and the music that I'm into.

What is your role? Do you identify as a journalist and in the same sense what is the role of a journalist?
It's been hard to define the role of the Instagram accounts that have been coming out over the last four years. I identify as more of a hobbyist than a journalist myself; I'm just writing from a point of passion and being a fan of the culture and the things that I write about. I think it really ties back to that Tumblr era and the way that people were just fans and these anonymous posters were just sharing things that they were into, from entirely a personal perspective. I think that's really what's resonated with the audience at the moment, and maybe why people are reading less of the big media platforms, and going more towards the personal Instagram pages where you can get a personal point of view of things. People can identify with that more.

What is your research method? What role does having conversations play in that?
When I'm doing my posts, I might have an idea in my head but I always find it interesting to talk to some of the people in my community or my friends. One of my friends Angus in London; he's definitely one that I'm always bouncing ideas off, especially when it comes to 90s culture and stories around that era. He's a huge Kurt Cobain fan and really big into 90s streetwear. If I'm ever doing that kind of topic, then I reach out to him. I find that it’s important as well to speak to people who have lived through certain eras because there are certain things that I might write about that I haven't experienced myself. It's always good to get a point of view of someone that's actually lived through it.

Who are the key players shaping our culture today?
There's a whole new wave of pages at the moment that are changing the way information is spread online. A couple of my favourite accounts are Hidden.NY, What's Culture over in Amsterdam; I love Sabukaru, they're based in Japan; and Archive Dreams. They're a few of the ones that I really feel are changing the way that people are reading and consuming media online, especially on Instagram.

Do you interact a lot with your community?
It's really important to stay in touch with the community, especially on the Instagram page. I get a lot of DMs and I always try and respond to them as much as I can. There's a keen and curious young audience out there. I might post about something on my feed, but then the conversation might carry on in the comments, and I love seeing people have those conversations there, and the dialogues that come out of that. It's really interesting to see what part of the post really interests them. I learn a lot from the comments section as well. Some people might know more about the topic, and in a bit more detail than what I've written It's always interesting to find new points of view, or uncover some bits of information that weren’t out there.

Do you feel centralisation is necessary or what are its effects on culture and fashion? Are fashion capitals like London, Paris and Milan the places to be or is there a rising argument for cultural pockets elsewhere?
Fashion capitals are always really important. I try and travel about to each one of them; New York, Paris or London, to find out what's happening in those key hubs cities. It is equally important as well to explore outside of that. I grew up in the British countryside so I know what it feels like to be from one of those towns outside of one of these main hubs. Coming here to Arona has that same feeling for me. It's amazing that there's a cultural hub here with this store. You can grow up in the countryside and be into fashion. You can find a brand online and then they might be available here in VIETTI. To be able to come to the store here and see them on display; I think it's really important for people to be able to see the product. Whilst they’re here they could see a Kapital skeleton sweater perhaps and be like, “Oh, what is that piece? It looks amazing!” And then they can look at the label, find out about the brand in store, and then go and do their own research when they get home.

In what way has fashion and design changed over the recent years?
The luxury market has really undergone a big change over the past 10 years, and the younger generation are driven by a completely different set of behaviors, values and desires. These new aspirations are driven by youth culture; the trends are really driven from the bottom up, as opposed to big luxury houses feeding ideas down to the consumers. Previously, luxury was largely derived from its exclusivity as well as a high price point; whereas streetwear's exclusivity is contingent of know-how, cultural relevancy and access.

What is luxury today? Who defines it?
There's this new generation that are wanting to change the way that they're shopping, and not just buy into these fast fashion brands. There's real desire to do better, and vintage is the easiest way to make the biggest impact in terms of sustainability. Gallery Dept is an amazing brand who's doing really good things with upcycling. They take vintage Levi's jeans and reworke them into new shapes, and give them a completely new identity.Just the idea of buying into brands that have longevity to them. When I'm buying into things, I try and buy into things that are less trend driven and that have more of a seasonless appeal. Brands like Our Legacy are really good for that, so are Auralee. Simple things that I can build a wardrobe from season after season.These brands are redefining what luxury is; changing the face and image of craft. If you look at a pair of Kapital Jeans, especially from their Kountry line, they have all this meticulous detail, whether it's the boro patchworking or sashiko stitching on it. The amount of time that's poured into that from the artisans at work over in Japan! They just create these really beautiful garments. That's a luxury in itself.

What do you think of the current state of Media literacy? How does this interact with people’s shortened attention span, TikTok, less willingness to read and visual and audio communication?
Since we have been coming out of the pandemic I think it's really important that people try and get outside and off their phones a little bit. I always try and provide inspiration by coming to areas like this and showcasing where I am. It's all good looking on your phones for inspiration, and I'm always on my phone myself; but it's even more rewarding if you get out into the real world, meet people and go and see inspirational places. There's so much going on in the world today, I feel like my place in the fashion landscape is to keep people inspired; keep the stories alive that people might not know, and help the younger consumers understand the wider context of the things they're consuming online.I've been doing everything on my Instagram page mostly up to now, but one of my aims for next year is to do some real-life event to bring my community together, and be able to share experiences with them. Turning the posts and the content that you see online into real-life events, I think, is going to be really important to bring people together and have that human connection, as well as allowing them to see things in real life.

Collaborations have become the norm in fashion today. What makes a good collaboration and who stands to benefit the most?
The best collaboration is when they come from different disciplines. Two brands can collaborate and learn something from each other. I like the idea of sharing resources and ideas; when you come from completely different ends of the scale to create something new and innovative. I think it's also cool when a major house might tap a younger designer to help celebrate them and put them on.One of my favourite items that came out during the pandemic was the Marni mohair, and I just absolutely love them at the moment. It’s especially the tactile effect that reminds me of the Kurt Cobain ones from the 90s, and also the type of ones that the Sex Pistols would wear from Seditionarries. Mohair is having a big moment recently, especially in these vibrant colours. It's cool the fact that they're bringing this old craft back as well with this knitting. The textures really spoke to people at a time when they were at home and they wanted to have something nice and cozy to wear during the lockdown period, but it's been amazing to see that an item like this is even transcended that and beyond locked down it's still a key item. It's a cult piece; it proves that a brand can have an iconic item without big logos; something that’s a signature to their brand identity. Marni have their #MarniOnMe hashtag where you can find a lot of people wearing this type of piece. Whether it's like kids that are into grunge; or rappers are also wearing it. It crosses over with these different demographics which is super awesome.I think it's cool that brand like Marni as well is recognising a store like VIETTI. I loved the way that they blended the colours of the landscape here in Arona; the turquoise which reflects the the greenery around here and the color of the lake, and then blending it with the signature Marni style.

Find out more about the interview and Samutaro's experience in Arona: https://youtu.be/DodcT3U53ds