Akashi-Kama: A mixture of Japanese aesthetic and modern American streetwear

It took a trip to Japan to inspire Alec Nakashima, a former product manager for a tech company, to create a clothing brand that reflects his identity: feeling both Japanese and American.

CULTURALLY-INFLUENCED STREETWEAR ­— Akashi-Kama founder Alec Nakashima (far left) with his first run of Noragi Jackets. Each is constructed from premium Japanese cotton and made in Oakland, Calif. photo courtesy of Akashi-Kama

Nakashima went on the Japanese American Citizens League’s Kakehashi grassroots exchange program to Japan in March 2018. He was in awe of the traditional Japanese garments in his homestay host’s home. The clothing “reminded (him) of garments that were in (his) grandparents’ closet growing up.”

Upon returning to the U.S. from his trip, Nakashima wanted “something that I couldn’t quite find. I wanted something that was between the Japanese aesthetic and modern wear.”

The Gosei says his experience managing products helped cultivate his focus on details, and his “keen eye.” His knack for fashion and design helped bring his vision of Japanese American clothes alive.

Nakashima wanted to blend Japanese aesthetics and modern streetwear, a look that reflects his personal style.

“I think blending those two together in a way that is current and modern for the new generation of not just Japanese, but Asian Americans,” the Sunnyvale, Calif. resident said. “It’s a lot of the premium Japanese cotton, Japanese fabric and shape, small design touches,” he added.

Akashi-Kama’s Website describes its line as offering “modern products designed and influenced by the Japanese American experience.”

The clothes are made and designed in Oakland, Calif. from Japanese fabrics and cotton. Nakashima does the manufacturing to structure his designs to scale.

Nakashima says this speaks to the Japanese American experience as a whole.

“I always thought that was a beautiful parallel because that is the story of our ancestors and our generations. We’re Japanese but we’re made in the U.S. We’re inherently American,” Nakashima said.

Nakashima takes a minimalistic approach to his clothes. He said he did not want a lot of print or flashy items such as a dragon on his products.

For the most popular item on the site, the Noragi jacket, Nakashima avoided “huge kimono arm sleeves.” Instead, he wanted the sleeves to be “taper(ed) down to almost (look) like a blazer.”

The Akashi-Kama product line includes Women’s Kama Mock Neck sleeveless shirts, crewnecks, hooded sweatshirts and T-shirts. The Noragi jacket is a kimono-like garment with regular sized arm holes that a traditional Japanese kimono would not have. The jacket has string ties, which are supposed to be tied together around the waist traditionally, but Nakashima designed the ties, so they could hang loose. “I thought it was a cool contrast to be designed, to be worn open, to be worn untied. The ties, that’s how I added the small design details of the aglets to give them a little bit of movement, to let them hang,” Nakashima explained on how culture shines through his products.

Prices of the aforementioned items range from $30 to $139.

For more information, visit https://www.akashi-kama.com.

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