We linked up with Latokyo, a brand drawing heavy inspiration from modern and traditional Japanese culture, to see what they’re about and where they’re headed as they move from Los Angeles to Tokyo in the upcoming months. Check out what their founder Gordo Johnson had to say:
Who is Latokyo?
Latokyo is a Japanese inspired apparel brand founded by Gordo, ran by Gordo, Jesus and Leo here to make anime lovers feel fashionable.
How’d you guys decide to start-up? Have you always had an interest in fashion and Japanese culture?
Yea, fashion and Japanese culture have always been 2 of my biggest obsessions. I decided to start a Japanese inspired fashion brand in hopes of it taking me to Tokyo one day. It made the most sense.
What kind of background does the company have in terms of design or industry experience?
There’s no real background besides hands on experience as time goes. Once an idea comes to mind, time is spent on figuring it out. There was no schooling or mentors involved, everyday is a learning process.
You possess a variety of different influences, such as architecture, the dichotomy of contemporary/traditional, etc, as evidenced by how you choose to model your clothing and what you post on Instagram among other things. Would you say that you have one influence more integral than another? Are all fairly equal?
I would say they are all fairly equal. Inspiration can come from anywhere whether it be from the clothing of a samurai in the Edo period known as a kamishimo or pieces of the uniform of a sushi restaurant worker today. The apparel from traditional Japan to clothing styles of futuristic anime characters are all fascinating to me. I want to bring all these Japanese based influences to life in a modern way where anyone can where them and be unique but not be too out of place.
Do you think you have any musical influences that manage to seep their way into your clothing designs?
Not so much but I did grow up on a lot of punk and metal, that grungy raw style hasn’t made much way into Latokyo but it definitely will in upcoming pieces.
Any specific designers that you consider to be inspirations?
They aren’t fashion designers but manga artist and character designers such as Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo, Tadayoshi Yamamuro who are responsible for illustrating Naruto, Bleach and Dragonball Z. I think the clothing and style of these characters are really dope. They’re designing fashion along with its perfect model and a whole world to go with it. That’s amazing to me. As far as actual fashion designers of course Yohji Yamamoto, he’s the g.o.a.t. And Issey Miyaki.
What is the creative process for you like when you’re designing clothing?
I’m huge on things being done with a purpose or meaning. All pieces from Latokyo start with a message we want to tell and the clothes get built around that. There’s never a piece from Latokyo that is made just because we think it would look cool. Even if the message isn’t understood by everyone or even anyone, its just easier to make something nice once it has a foundation.
On that note, why did you title your first full collection “Ch.I Emptiness”?
With anime and manga being one of my biggest influences, I want to tell a story with what Latokyo is doing. Ch. I was our first time being able to drop a large collection like that and we literally made it happen from nothing. Each piece represents a form of emptiness and just the idea of embracing a clean slate before things are built. It was a fresh new start and there will be more chapters as our story progresses.
Any plans for collaborations?
We haven’t really collaborated with anyone yet but it just has to be in the same lane to some degree; I can’t say much on that yet but by end of the year we’ll release some prime examples. As far as people we decide to work with its usually because we’re good friends or I sincerely enjoy what you do. I rather send a care package to a musician I listen to daily and isn’t majorly famous than a huge artist I know nothing about. There’s more satisfaction when there’s a mutual appreciation.
No collabs yet but you’ve already landed a sponsorship so to say. Tell me about Sofia!
Sofia! It’s our good friend Hano’s Evo X. He put the Latokyo logo on a Evo in this race car game he plays, I think it’s called Forza. And since it’s a Japanese made car, we decided to do it in real life and now it gets recognized everywhere! He really put a lot of work into her and it’s an amazing car now, I’m honored to be a sponsor for Sofia.
I read your interview with LA Taco, about your month stay in Tokyo in April. Got any store, club or restaurant recommendations for Shibuya or Harajuku?
The Bape Store is always a must for anyone visiting Tokyo. Laforet mall in Harajuku is really cool for fashion similar to Latokyo. Nubian in Harajuku is hands down my favorite store for mens fashion. Club Harlem in Shibuya is a Must go if your into clubs that play hip hop, I’m not much of a club person but I’ve had some crazy times in there. Trump Room is also pretty iconic, its where Asap Rocky filmed his LSD music video. The owner is really cool too, he let Slay Squad perform there and it was wild.
For restaurants if your a fan of Japanese food you can find good food anywhere! You can literally walk into a 7-11 and get one of the best meals ever. It’s not the same as here at all, but I’d for sure stick to Japanese food in Japan.
What’s Latokyo’s relation to Slay Squad?
Those are my brothers. We all come from a small town called Rialto where many people don’t make it out of. We started a collective of creatives that goes by 111. In this collective you’ll find Latokyo, Slay Squad, Hano, Psychedelic band “Pollen”, crystal wrap enthusiast known as “Organic DMT” who is also Leo of Latokyo and many more. We’re just a huge family that moves as a unit and represents the 111. Whether its me filming a Slay Squad music video or them modeling for Latokyo, we’re all together everyday making plans as a whole. I was fortunate enough to have them come to Tokyo with me this year and now they love it just as much as I do. We’ll all be spending a lot more time in Tokyo within the next couple months as well.
What’s your favorite thing about Tokyo?
Culture 100%. Not even just Tokyo but Japan in general. America is such a mixing pot people, personalities, attitudes, cultures and beliefs that its really cool to see a whole country that is on the same page for the most part. Theres a lot of subcultures of course but the level of respect and mindsets are on the same wave. It makes it a Very safe place.
You mentioned that you’d be spending next year living in Japan in that interview. How do you think working internationally will affect your business?
I think it would help a lot because I can take all my imagery in Japan and make content with a Tokyo setting which I personally enjoy to look at more and I would think Latokyo fans do as well. I think it will also bring a lot of great ideas while being immersed in the actual culture where I seek influence from.
Where do you hope to take LATokyo in the future?
I’d hope to take Latokyo onto the runway when the time is right and do something that hasn’t been done before. And I’d also like to take it into the world of anime.
Is there a rough date that we should keep in mind to catch your next collection?
No but don’t let the silence fool you, there’s a lot of new Latokyo pieces that will be dropping soon at random times until the next full collection.