09 September 2010

Take Ivy Interview: The Authors

Mr Hajime (Paul) Hasegawa

Mr Toshiyuki Kurosu

Mr Shosuke Ishizu

Questions were submitted to the three authors of Take Ivy. Questions I've had on my mind for a couple of years. Some have been answered like where the word 'Trad' came from. Other questions remain a mystery thanks to the lack of follow up. Maybe they're supposed to.

A very unique interview was held with the photographer, Mr Teruyoshi Hayashida. It will run here soon pending the translation of a very long conversation.

The logistics were a challenge and the time difference was frustrating but I feel honored to have been a part of this. Take Ivy is an outsiders look at not only the Ivy League but at an American culture that is long gone. I think it fascinates the outsider in all of us.

Whose idea was the book?
Shosuke Ishizu (S.I.) - I was at the center of planning at a time when I was the head of the advertising department for VAN Jacket and the plan was conceived along with fellow colleagues of the same company; Mr Kurosu and Mr Hasegawa.

Paul Hasegawa (P.H.) No one and everyone - The three of us were involved in monthly editorial meetings - brain storms. The magazine featured Ivy/Trad fashion and we were fed up shooting the pictures at Japanese campuses. Someone asked the question, "Why not go to Mecca?"

Why was the title 'Take Ivy' chosen? Is there anything you can tell us about the background of the title?

Toshiyuki Kurosu (T.K.) - I named the book after Dave Brubeck's, "Take Five," which was a big hit in Japan back in 1965. There's no meaning to the name apart from that.

Was there any attempt to imitate American college style before 1940?

S.I. - Before the Ivy style, all Japanese students wore a prescribed uniform that included a stiff white collar.

P.H. - A case in point. My father went to college in the U.S. in the '30s and came back looking like an Ivy Leaguer. But he was an exception. Mr Ishizu, Mr Okawa and he became very good friends in China during the war. I believe they were more concerned with looking good than with fighting.

What was the relationship between the Ivy style and postwar Japan?
S.I. - For ten years or so following the war there was a period of confusion and upheaval for the Japanese people. But the Ivy style became noticed as a part of an American culture which was rapidly being adopted by Japan at the time.

P. H. - Kids in the late '50s and early '60s were dressed in school uniforms and no one was allowed to stand out. As the economy grew, parents could afford clothing outside of uniforms. The Ivy/Trad look had fashion and taste if you will. It also represented a sharp contrast to the British looks represented by the Beatles and Carnaby Street fashion.

In 1964, Kensuke Ishizu of Van Jacket designed an Ivy style three button jacket for the Japanese Olympic team. Did this influence the book?

P.H. - Very little except many of us understood this as Japan's recognition of his design skill.

S.I. - Prior to the war, Kensuke Ishizu had a great interest in dressing well and in all aspects of European and American culture. That, along with the knowledge of apparel he gained from living in Tianjin China helped form the origins of the VAN Jacket Company. I am his eldest son.

What is the difference between the Trad of 1965 and of today?
S.I. - Trad gives birth to cultural values handed down from generation to generation. Today's advances help keep it together as well as move it forward.

P.H. - No elitism.

How long did it take to write the book? Was one author responsible for a certain chapter or was it a joint effort?
S.I.- I don't remember exactly how long it took but I think it was done over a period of several weeks. Since we worked in the same company, the writing of the book advanced through joint meetings as well writing individually.

Why do you think Ivy style became so popular in Japan and how did your book affect the trend there?
S.I.- It became popular and spread not as fashion but as something that introduced the everyday clothing of American students. Even today the often mentioned brand Uniqlo is connected to this style and its history.

P.H.- The book helped to create a demand among the retailers. The Ivy look became available in men's wear stores everywhere.

When was the first time you heard the word 'Trad' used and do you have any idea where it came from?
T.K. - I was the one that used the word 'Trad' in the media for the first time in 1966. The word 'Traditional' existed but it was difficult to pronounce and rarely used in Japan. I was looking for a short word that was easy to remember and I found the expression 'Trad Jazz' in a jazz book.

What was the original intent of the book? The assumption has always been clothing sales. Was there another purpose?
P.H. - That and to legitimize it.

S.I.- The basic intent was advertising and sales for VAN Jacket. However, VAN did not stop at selling clothes. It was a strategic vision for introducing the culture, sports, music, food and leisure activities of America at the time. This is probably something Ralph Lauren is thoroughly acquainted with.

What do you think of the recent popularity of the book in the U.S.?
S.I. - These were just images of everyday America and I think there wasn't much of a record made of this.

P.H. - Amazing!

How do you understand the significance of 'Take Ivy' after 45 years?
S.I. - I understand this as a global trend in which, on account of their wealth and absorption with styles and brands, Japan and the West have turned to a period of reflection that reassesses the significance of clothing going all the way back to England as the origin of menswear.

P.H. The Ivy look is an intrinsic and perennial, if not permanent, part of the American culture.

Is there any message that you would like to add for the readers of the English edition of 'Take Ivy?'
S.I. - Dressing well is supported by both a consciousness of oneself as a human being and an intelligent expression of one's attempt to enjoy life.

P.H. - Hope the readers will read it as much as see it.

T.K. - My best wishes for the continued development of my beloved Ivy and of America. "Ivy forever."


Silk Regimental said...

"Dressing well is supported by both a consciousness of oneself as a human being and an intelligent expression of one's attempt to enjoy life."

What a statement! Perfect. Thanks Tintin for going to such great efforts.

tintin said...

I love that line too.

M.Lane said...

This is just amazing content. I wondered many of the same things and now I have a good insight into Take Ivy.

I love that quote also, but my favorite part is that he just pulled "Take Ivy" from Brubeck!!


Anonymous said...

Fascinating! Thanks, Tintin. Did you ask those questions? How? A little intro/background would help.

"Why not go to Mecca?" That's the line I like.


tintin said...

M Lane- It was a little rough putting together some of the translated answers. But there's a directness about these guys I like a lot. A no bull shit quality that speaks to their passion as well as their knowledge. It makes getting old not so bad.

DB- I wrote the questions. A good friend in Tokyo translated them to Japanese. The questions were answered in Japanese except Paul who answered in English. The answers were translated by my Tokyo friend who was on holiday in the states. Easy-weasy.

Alice Olive said...

This is great. Thank you for sharing. There are so many wonderful quotes. I love that so often people who believe passionately about something express it so simply. No need to muddy the waters with unnecessary adornments.

"Why not go to Mecca?" Love that!

TRVS said...

Who is "T.I."? I love the quote but am not sure how to credit it.


tintin said...

TRVS- My bad. Was up late working on this and for some bone headed reason I just changed the initials mid stream. Sorry. TI is SI who is Shosuke Ishizu.

LPC said...

Those are some seriously intelligent men. Very interesting. Thank you.

Makaga said...


Oyster Guy said...

Thank you very much for this tintin

katon said...

Amazing stuff.

Speedmaster said...

GREAT post, thanks! I just got the book and left my review here: http://bit.ly/95pvhx

frank pepe said...

great stuff tintin but where do they stand on jean shorts? jk http://allgearedout.com

David said...

Incredible, thank you. I am very much looking forward to the interview with the photographer!

The Khaki Crusader said...

great piece, john. i was actually browsing TI this weekend and you answered a lot of my questions as well...



Foster Huntington said...

great job. great read