Words by Yuichiro Yamada, Photographs by Takato Shinohara,Edit by Masafumi Tada
On March 29, 2014, the town of Hasami in Nagasaki was filled with excitement. A local was surprised and said “This seems the second largest crowd we’ve seen after the season of Hasami Pottery Festival”, and another local wondered, “What’s going on today?”
It was because “thought”, the first large-sized showcase ever in Kyushu, just started two days before. It wasn’t actually very common that this type of event took place in Kyushu, however, Fijito, Hayashi, Uemura and Minami decided to hold a showcase together for Kyushu companies in Nagasaki. This was because most major exhibitions and events usually select venues in big cities in Kanto or Kansai areas and it wasn’t easy for artists and stores in Kyushu to join them, having to go all the way to Tokyo or Osaka for both physical and financial reasons. “thought” ran for 3 days and a spot sale day called “Market” was on March 29, which I have described above how busy it was. Now we can see how much “thought” drew attention from all over Kyushu last time.
This article of FEATURE constitutes two parts. First, we had a talk session with Fujito and Hayashi, who had an initial idea for “thought”. They introduced the backstage of the second of the event from September 18 to 20, 2014, looking back on how they started the project.
Here is the reunion of “thought”
They were in Hasami for the meeting of the event a few hours before the interview and came back to Fujito’s store, “Directors” to meet us, there they told us they were talking about how “thought” was started on the way home.
Fujito: I guess, we need to talk about how we got to know each other before “thought”, for readers, don’t we?
Hayashi: Yeah, good idea. OK, I was working with “Art and Crafts”, a bag company in Tokyo around 2012 and I was given the task of implementing an event at “HANA WAKUSUI” of SAIKAI TOKI in Hasami at the time. When I was organizing it, I found out about Fujito whose home town is Sasebo, Nagasaki and I made initial contact with him. Before long we were getting along really well, we co-organized the event named “FUJITOFUJI” in Hasami and it was successfully concluded.
Fujito: Actually, about a year before he contacted me, I and Uemura would talk about organizing a joint showcase over a glass of beer. So, as soon as I heard about his idea, I thought it was great timing to start it. That was the actual beginning of “thought”. However, I thought I should have been only in charge of giving directions, and counted on the young people like Uemura, so we had them conduct the show. (Laugh)
Hayashi: Fortunately, 36 brands and shops joined at the end for the last show. We didn’t advertise for broad exposure, but individually invited each candidate for entry. We didn’t set how many stores we needed to invite when we started the registration. Even if we had received only five entries, we would have still thought we would like to do it with them.
Fijito: Yeah, we had that kind of momentum and unconsciously encouraged each of the others in the team to host the event.
Hayashi: It was our first target that we enjoy presenting own brand or store at the show and it helped us to be easygoing. Our invitation was kind of negative…“There is no guarantee for customers.”, “Even though it wouldn’t be good in business, it would be still fun for you.”, “It will be held in Hasami, Nagasaki which is located far away from Fukuoka.”, we said some things like those, and then we said “Do you dare join us?” (Laugh)
Fujito: In our view, the role of “thought” is actually providing a place where individuals can test their products. I wanted to make a place where shops could join the race and win their customers attention. However, I didn’t want them to expect customers who would be attracted by other big or popular name brands at the same exhibition. I told them that there would be a true sales competition, this is not a place to make friends.
The venues of “thought” were “MINAMI SOKO” and “monné porte” at SAIKAI TOKI. If only they had looked for somewhere convenient for tourists, they wouldn’t have chosen that area. However, Fujito described the spot as “a place that has special power to attract people”, and he didn’t have any other options.
Fujito: We wanted to do something different from the events held in Tokyo from the beginning. Therefore, where the venue is was the most important issue for us. Where there is an attraction for tourists was the absolute requirement, which I would call “A special power”.
Hayashi: Once people spend so much time or energy to come all the way to the venue, it is common that they would feel they might as well stay there longer and try to do something fun there. We successfully made people spend some time looking at the exhibits carefully. We allocated two days for one exhibition and I think it was a great idea. I guess that’s unusual in Tokyo or Osaka. It is said that there wasn’t enough time to enjoy looking at their products; sometimes artists were just able to distribute their business cards to visitors with a greeting and that was all.
Fujito: As a result, it brought us a positive difference from Tokyo or Osaka and we successfully drew many customers from Kanto and Kansai areas.
Hayashi: It was a good idea that we had “Market” on the third day, where there was a communication through purchases between the customers and the artists. It was a great chance to meet a wide range of people who want to support our products or potential customers and hear directly from them. From the point of view of the conscious customers, I think it was also a nice experience for them to visit this “super selection” where they can check brand new and must-see products from their favorite stores. We could tell how successful it was from the reactions of the people.
Fujito: I think people now know what “thought” is since they experienced it at our first exhibition. At the same time, we could re-confirm what we’d aimed to do through “thought”.
Hearing every single word about the story from them, I thought they had plenty of confidence with the last exhibition. However, they reviewed the jobs that they did differently from what I had expected to hear.
Fujito: The reactions and feedback of the people boosted the second occasion of “thought” for sure. However, in case we call it a showcase, sales compensation is the ultimate purpose of business and it needs to be correspondingly rewarding. We really appreciate how fun the event was, but it actually didn’t lead to good sales. So, we can’t give ourselves any point to start into business at this point.
Hayashi: I agree. We don’t do this only to make friends, but we also do it to lead into business. However, I think starting something was the biggest consequence for us at the time. Now I can give 100% to the job at this time because it has made us plan the second exhibition.
Fujito: Yeah, you’re right. We have made the great stage to the next step. We started shaping up what we want to do. In our next step, we need to brush up our products more and give better presentations than the last time to the customers at the exhibition.
After talking with Fujito and Hayashi, I headed for “PARQ” in Imaizumi to meet Uemura and Minami. They are three or four years younger than Fujito and Hayashi, so what has “thought” brought to them?
Uemura: Looking back in time, I’m so happy that we set up and organized “thought” last year. When Fujito said “I’ll leave it all to you.”, I wasn’t really thinking well, but believed that I could do it somehow and there was no hesitation or doubt. Originally, I had a desire in mind, to hold an exhibition, so I felt it was just the chance I should take.
Minami: Planning committee members of “thought” are individually different types. We took advantage of each of our own talents and were able to share many different roles, and help each other throughout the completion of the show.
Uemura: Speaking of my role, I enjoyed producing the breakthrough for this project. Originally, I’m good at leading a project in a positive way because I’m a very active and confident person, I don’t usually ever hesitate or get nervous in any situation. I knew there would be a great chemical reaction among us when we united.
Minami: My role was building the website and making a form of DM since I had some experience in that field before. First of all, we didn’t really know how to organize an event. Also we didn’t have much of a budget either. We did anything ourselves as long as we could. My highest concern on the job was how I could spotlight artists or stores in the event.
Uemura: Minami and I were allowed to make most decisions on the project and we enjoyed working with our ideas. Fijito and Hayashi’s roles were to check what we were doing.
Minami: I guess our bonds of trust had made the project a success.
Uemura: That was the first exhibition that we created. Furthermore, there were the booths for my own brand, “thinq”, and “fit”, the new brand co-produced with Minami. I had strong enthusiasm and high expectation for its success not only as one of the project members, but also as one of the artists to participate in the show.
Then, I asked them about work on the side of the committee.
Uemura: Actually, it wasn’t too difficult for me to handle. All we did was corresponding with the exhibitors, allocating space for each booth in the venue and finishing everything that needed to be set up by the day before the exhibition. We just set up the place for the participants. Once we gave each booth to them, we didn’t mind their own business.
Minami: We knew people could do their best on their presentations. Each participant lent us a big hand to complete the whole of the event.
Uemura: For the exhibition, people gathered, and did their best respectively, and dismissed. What a simple operation it was! We didn’t put too much decoration in the venue, either. Maybe, we just didn’t need it because the place was simply attractive enough to call visitors.
Minami: Our final goal is that people can make sales at “thought”. However, in conclusion, making sales is actually up to the artists and buyers though. We can provide a place but can’t be salesmen.
Uemura: So, we don’t mean to guarantee anything or feel too much of responsibility, either. We are just providing a chance to artists. We would like to continue this event, however, we don’t feel like “we need to keep it up for somebody somehow…”
Through their neutral ways of thinking, we started making more sense of what “thought” is. At the beginning, it has made us very curious because of the big tile of the exhibition, the first large-sized showcase in Kyushu ever, but officially, it’s stated that “thought” is just a place for exhibition. Artists or shops need to fill the place with good products, passion and ambition to lead to purchase.
On the other hand, what are their opinions as artists.
Minami: To be honest, it was just ok. It might sound a little negative but that’s my true feeling. Just ok for the first time. Although we didn’t expect an enormous number of customers, if there had been a bonus on the profit accordingly, it would have been so perfect.
Uemura: I felt the same. We wanted a surprise a bit on sales or the number of visitors. The more visitors, the more fun we would have had. Of course, there are some positive aspects, too. We could talk with a lot of customers in person. One of the store buyers told me that he was happy to hear details directly from artists. We’re so grateful that it became a great opportunity to present how exceptional products are in Kyushu!
Minami: I liked the layouts inside the venue. People could circulate to browse booths there. Some people visited us, looked at others upstairs, took a rest and came back to our place again. That was nice.
Uemura: We were able to feel familiar when talking for the second time. The venue played a great role to bring us together, too. I re-realized that sharing this kind of experience is also very important in business.
There are only two weeks before the second exhibition of “thought”. Around 50 brands and shops related fashion, accessory, etc. will join. The first two days are for exhibition and then there is a spot sales day “MARKET” on the third day just as last year. “The last time was vol.0 and this time we count it for vol.1.” ―that was what I heard from Uemura during the interview. I should conclude this article with this nice endorsement from him.
“thought” EXHIBITION AND MARKET 2014 2nd EXHIBITION
*Exhibition events are open only for store buyers and relevant parties.
9.18 (thu), 2014 10:00〜18:00
9.19 (fri), 2014 10:00〜18:00
*Open to the public.
9.20 (sat), 2014 10:00～17:00
2187-4 Isekigo Higashisonogigun Hasamicho, Nagasaki
He started his original men’s fashion brand, FUJITO in 2002 and opened the flag shop, Directors, in Nagahama, Fukuoka in 2008. He also designs some jeans for one of the authentic Florentine tailoring houses, Liverano & Liverano.
The director of SUN WORKS
He moved to Itoshima, Fukuoka from Chiba in 2012 and established his company, SUN WORKS, whose business includes sales promotion in Kyushu widely for fashion, such as bags, clothes, jewelry etc. He’s also involved in business of planning and development for products made of wood from forest thinning.
The owner of PARQ in Imaizumi, Fukuoka
He has his own fashion brand, “thinq/AZUMA”, and works in collaboration with Minami for their fashion brand, “fit”.
He is the artist of FLOWER ADJUSTMENT, whose art pieces are made from flowers pressed with their shapes and colors, left natural as possible in the frames. He is also a designer/planner of “fit”