It is often said that rather than selling product, a brand's intention should focus on presenting a lifestyle or experience. This task is often quite challenging, as it comes from a standpoint that is individual to the designer and that can often be missed by the greater public. For most, it is a brand's visual magnetism and story that can captivate and convert consumers. For Keiji Ishizuka and Atsuhiko Mori it was the love of sport, women, drink, music and hats that allowed them to create a following through their WACKO MARIA label.

The global game of football is what brought Keiji Ishizuka and Atsuhiko Mori together long before the founding of their cult brand. After an early retirement from the Japanese international team and their Tokyo J-League team Verdy 69 (then known as Tokyo Verdy), Mori opened the ROCK STEADY Bar in the Meguro Aobadai district of Tokyo. Infusing 50's rockabilly sensibility, sports, booze and a free-spirited mindset, the establishment soon began to draw a crowd.

With the realization that they could cultivate a following simply based on what they enjoyed, Ishizuka and Mori began to curate apparel and homeware under the ROCK STEADY moniker. Soon after, they began working on small collaborative projects with WTAPS and Yoshida & Co., spiraling them towards the development of their own line. Now split into two branded divisions—WACKO MARIA and GUILTY PARTIES—WACKO MARIA provides tailored and suiting options, an ode to the true gentleman with clear Italian and British influences. These various influences play into both brands: the voices of Americana, Punk, Reggae, Latin American culture, military history and traditional tailoring.

Each season boasts almost 100 pieces with a variety of colorways within each category. Most recognizable are the embroidered back panels on the outerwear, shirting and knitwear. These showcase motifs of the infamous Top Hat Skull, Virgin Mary, Vietnam Tigers, Sugar Skulls and eye-less imagery from both the 1950s and 60s. However, the brand's signature and most coveted items display the block-lettered or cursive words "WACKO MARIA," "GUILTY PARTIES" and "PARADISE TOKYO."

Apart from their enormous collections, WACKO MARIA has also participated in a slew of collaborations, most recently teaming with Japanese peers nonnative, N. Hoolywood and Undercover for their 10 year anniversary, while continually carrying joint projects with Yoshida & Co. and Converse.

Adding flare throughout the fashion calendar, Ishizuka and Mori have spent the past 5 years building a roster of artists and photographers who contribute with small capsule collections. In 2011, the company began to place a very consistent emphasis on working with artists during each collection, including Tsuyoshi Noguchi, New York photographer Tim Barber, Indie film director Jim Jarmusch and youth culture pioneer Larry Clark, the latter resulting in a photo book of Clark's iconic archive imagery illustrating the manifestation of growing up on the margins in Los Angeles.

WACKO MARIA'S Spring/Summer 16 season doesn't stray far from the brand's original ethos of celebrating a myriad of interests, juxtaposing the likes of Michelangelo, the Virgin Mary and The Holy Crucifix alongside the word "FUNK."

Although WACKO MARIA'S offerings within North America are currently limited to a handful of stockists, classic lettered and embroidered pieces are always the first to sell. As loud and overpowering as the voices of Ishizuka's and Mori's may seem to new fans, there really is an option for anyone interested in following this brand's story to make their own interpretations.

Tags: guilty-parties, wacko-maria