Founded: Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan in 1996
Founder: Tetsu Nishiyama
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Tetsu Nishiyama originally began designing in 1993 under the label 40% Against Rights, a brand which largely focussed on t-shirt production using silk-screening techniques. Becoming frustrated with the volume of similar products on the market, Tetsu founded W)TAPS under the principle of military design partnered with Japanese streetwear styling.
From the first collection which offered limited pieces of outerwear and accessories, combined with the t-shirt prowess Tetsu had developed, it was indisputable that W)TAPS represented the embodiment of Tetsu’s childhood influences. Speaking of his childhood Tetsu has said: “American culture which was at the centre of everything back then…Punk, skateboarding and motorcycles”. It is therefore evident that W)TAPS has been specifically targeted at two of these sections of youth culture. Tetsu, creative director of the HOODS stores throughout Asia, has been quick to link the brand to Neighbourhood, cementing his motorcycle influenced roots. W)TAPS however has taken its own products in a slightly different design direction, with the use of knitwear and more primary colour pieces throughout collections. This has not only given a larger skate feel to the brand, but also references 1950’s American Rockabilly culture which had a profound effect on Japanese youth. The brands own philosophy contains the phrase “Try to maximise the potential of things within the limits of the design”, a phrase which cannot be overlooked. Not only does the brand act as an intermediary between motorcycle and skate cultures, its collaboration partners such as A Bathing Ape and Supreme also represent how it sees itself as a link to pop art influenced youth. 2002 saw the essential step of the Cargo Collection being introduced by W)TAPS. Using military focussed designs once again, the brand used these pieces of luggage to cement its own status as a leader of the market, and not one which was viewed as a link between styles – a danger it may have faced. The brands Philosophy Store, opened in Tokyo in 2003 cemented this sense of individualism, a trend which it has been quick to continue. The ‘Dazed and Confused’ Winter 09/10 collection, released over 16 years after the brand was launched is not only testament to the quality of the product, but the way the brand has overcome its disputed indifference reputation. Again with military inspiration, the brand which Tetsu remarked in 2009 was “Made for his friends” has now become a leader in contemporary streetwear by defining its own ‘collage’ style.