Archives as Art: A Closer Look at Archive Store
Archives as Art: A Closer Look at Archive Store
- Words Asaf Rotman
- Date November 27, 2018
It is no secret that Tokyo boasts one of the healthiest second-hand markets in the world. From RagTag to Ware mo kou, luxury consigners and vintage stores are omnipresent from Shibuya Crossing to the backstreets of Harajuku. While each location offers its own unique selection, ranging from American vintage to fresh-from-the-runway Chanel, one chain stands above the rest: RINKAN. Spread across 10 stores—eight in Tokyo, as well as a branch in both Osaka and Fukuoka—RINKAN is one of the preeminent used luxury retailers in the country. From a store dedicated to jewelry stuffed with Goro's and Chrome Hearts to a streetwear focused location with nearly every piece from the Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration, if people want to buy it, RINKAN sells it (and vice-versa). Whether it's second-hand Yohji or brand new with tags BEAMS+ from across the street, chances are it's sitting at RINKAN.
Despite the company's massive retail operation, company president Kengo Saito felt unsatisfied. He noticed a growing segment of buyers were frustrated with the current state of the fashion industry. For lack of a better term, things are simply not as good as they used to be. His solution? Rather than open another location packed to the brim with premium goods from his favorite designers, he did the complete opposite. Saito opened a store whose sole purpose is to highlight the archival nature of the garments he cherishes. The result is Archive Store.
Located in the basement level of the Wacko building in Shibuya—directly below RINKAN's flagship—Archive Store is not easy to find, undoubtedly on purpose. Hidden down a dark stairwell, the only visible signage is a few copper letters on a black well, barely illuminated by some dim lighting beneath. Walk down the stairwell and swing back the opaque door and suddenly you are transported into a literal museum of some of the rarest men's and women's archive pieces in the world.
Filled with chrome bars, wall-to-wall mirrors and deceptively complex construction—one room feels like a square box, however, upon closer inspection transforms into a mirrored walkway—the store is a carnival funhouse worshipping Archive Store's rotating cast of idols, ranging from Martin Margiela to Slimane-era Dior Homme. While merchandise rotates, the Archive Store holy trinity—Rei Kawakubo, Helmut Lang and Yohji Yamamoto—is always on sight. Naturally, there's a section devoted to Raf Simons as well.
From the hidden trap door concealing the flower-laden dressing room to a "sitting" section with statuesque Comme des Garçons dresses straight off the runway, Archive Store is worlds away from RINKAN—or any other store, for that matter.
When we learned that Archive Store was a member of our community and already selling on Grailed, we just had to speak with it. In order to learn more about arguably the most unique second-hand retail experience in Tokyo (if not Japan), we spoke with Saito on why he opened the store, how he finds these archive gems, and what's in store for Archive Store's future.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Images courtesy of Archive Store.
Visit Archive Store's Grailed wardrobe here.
Archive Store is unique in Tokyo’s second-hand market, from the store design to the products for sale. When did you open the store, and why?
Kengo Saito: I opened Archive Store in March of this year. I noticed that people were growing frustrated with the prevailing fashion scene, and I felt that they wanted an opportunity to purchase products from the past. We would like to catch these customers—that is why I opened Archive Store. We want to be the shop which avoids trends, and offers a chance to think about fashion carefully. In a sense, we want to be the antithesis of the fashion industry.
Your selection of product is very interesting. Some is expected (Raf Simons, Helmut Lang), but others are a bit of a surprise. How do you choose what you sell in the store?
We have deep respect for great designers, and we select pieces where we can feel true creation. It doesn't matter if the brand is recognized as archive. We never compromise our selection.
How do you source your products?
We’ve collected archives from all over the world. We also have found many archives through RINKAN, which we’ve run for the past 13 years. RINKAN offers a buying and selling service specializing in specific designer brands and through that service we have collected many pieces.
Aside from RINKAN, were you personally a collector before you opened the store? Are there certain pieces that you will never sell?
Yes, I’ve personally collected archives for years, and we won’t sell rare pieces which we may never be able to get again.
Yet, some of those pieces—marked “not for sale”—are at the shop. Why do you display them if you don’t intend to sell?
Today, you can find almost any archive piece on the Internet. But, there are few chances to see and actually wear them. In Archive Store, students studying fashion often visit and simply study the archives. We are proud of offering this kind of opportunity.
Let’s talk about Raf Simons. While the market for archive Raf has recently exploded, your collection implies you’ve been fans for a long time. When did you begin collecting Raf?
We’ve collected archival Raf Simons since we started RINKAN, so, for over 13 years now. As many creatives and collectors alike have said, his pieces are a source of pure inspiration. We believe that these pieces truly embody creation.
One of the most impressive areas of the store is the section devoted to Artisanal Margiela. Talk to us about how you merchandise the space.
We‘d like to display archives not as clothes, but rather as rare art pieces. So, we chose to not display them like a traditional fashion store. Archives must be looked at carefully, like how you view works of art in a museum because, for us, they are pieces of art.
Also, we think these designers influenced each other. For example, Comme des Garçons and Martin Margiela influenced each other as they held shows together. When we display our archives, we try to physically represent the relationship between these designers.
Archive Store has been featured in design magazines for your incredible interior. Tell us the concept behind the store’s design. What is the vision for the space?
We chose to use copper because this material changes as time passes (like the archives we carry). The nature of the material mirrors our store’s concept. In regards to the space, we try to juxtapose the inorganic (concrete, black iron) with the modern (mirror, rotating fitting room).
You recently opened an account on Grailed and are selling some of your items on our site. How did you find Grailed, and what led you to list items on our site?
Grailed is now a big platform—most people who like fashion know about you. To be honest, we didn’t want to sell on existing platforms. But on Grailed, we can sell our archive clothing without fear of lowering its value, because the community understands and respects it.
What is the future for Archive Store? Do you think the archive clothing market will continue to expand?
For us, the most important thing is to keep on doing what we currently do. We have to offer a place where customers can evaluate great pieces from the past. Personally, I think the archive market will continue expand, considering how the vintage and antique markets grew in a similar fashion.
In the end, is collecting archive fashion simply a way of learning more about the clothes and designers you love, or is it purely a business proposition?
As I said, I started Archive Store because we felt frustrated with the prevailing fashion market. But in the background, we love fashion and we want to learn more about it. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t feel frustrated. In that sense, Archive Store and Grailed have something in common. The reason we collect archives is to express our respect to great designers.