Yasuto Kamoshita Of United Arrows Lets Style Speak For Itself
The co-founder of the Japanese retailer and brand is a firm believer in the freedom of expression. But he doesn't talk too much about it.
I’ve known Yasuto Kamoshita for a long time now. We’re always stoked to meet—he breaks into a wide grin, eyes crinkling while dishing out sartorial advice to a houbei (Japanese for "junior"). The stories that he tells are riveting. Only there’s a small catch here… he doesn’t know me.
The stories? They were drawn from streetstyle images of him. The fine lines etched into his face, deep creases on his jacket, and the haphazardly stuffed pocket square form an eloquent narrative. The myriad of fiction told through his clothes excites me, and it has made him one of those profoundly familiar friends that you’ve never met.
The first lines of our (real) time spent together went like this: “Fashion and style are beliefs—a key to the people you will meet, and the places you will go. It’s about self-expression, and definitely makes your life positive and happy.”
His unassuming lines reflect his career trajectory. Kamoshita trained as an architect in Tokyo’s Tama Art University. Frustrated with the “expressive limitations in architecture”, as he told Mr Porter, a young Kamoshita left the industry for fine art and, eventually, the fashion retail floor.
The vivacious life of fashion lends abundant room for expression. In 1989, he and two partners co-founded United Arrows, drawing young Japanese into the lives of Ivy Leaguers—herringbone jackets, button-down oxfords, chinos, white socks and penny loafers. In 2007, Kamoshita repositioned himself to design for this devoted group of customers.
Japan’s obsession with American style can be traced to the ’50s. In The Man Who Brought Ivy to Japan, author W. David Marx describes how fashion retailer VAN JACKET introduced carefully recreated Ivy League wardrobe stables, such as Brooks Brothers’ No. 1 sack suit, to Japanese post war youths, catering to a new, previously untapped market.
“[Style] is not something you are naturally born with,” Kamoshita laughs as he deliberates. His deep, alto hum quickening as he whispers, “The most important thing is curiosity.” Pointing to a photo book titled Take Ivy on the coffee table, he continues, “I learned American fashion through these books. I learned loads of information.”
It is no coincidence that Take Ivy was commissioned by the man who started VAN—Kensuke Ishizu. Over the years, it has served as the seminal vision of authentic Ivy League style in Japan. With the rise of consumers shopping online, consumers themselves have claimed the role of arbiters, but not everyone has an eye for fashion and style.
Kamoshita’s curatorial stewardship at United Arrows presents a distinctive vision of good taste, one honed by dedication and experience.
He sits in the centre of the room, a weighty stillness surrounds him. Assistants scurry out of sight for fear of rousing a Kamoshita deep in thought. The 59-year-old has observed the fashion industry around him long and hard for years.
His words are few. He does not like to reveal too much and yet it seems that—just as a suit’s beauty lies in its subtle details—the character of the man himself is best revealed in his laconic revelations.