INTERVIEW WITH MAGNIF
MAGNIF is a secondhand magazine store located in the middle of the Suzuran-dori shopping street in Jimbocho. The yellow window frames are crammed with magazines from all ages, nationalities, and genres.
In contrast to today's tendency to make assumptions about a single era based on fragmented information, when you look around the store, you can truly feel that a lot of culture flows through the walls, as the bookshelves are gently lined up side by side.
The owner of this store, Yasunori Nakadake, has been collecting and selling fashion magazines that lacked archival opportunities since the store opened back in 2009. In this interview, he not only talked about fashion magazines, but also answered some personal questions.
Have you been interested in secondhand books since you were a child?
It wasn’t that I was always interested in secondhand books. I started working at a secondhand bookstore in Jimbocho because it was close to my university. I then became more and more interested in old fashion magazines and eventually wanted to open my own store of archived magazines.
What did you major in at university?
I studied English and American Literature at Meiji University, which is close to my current store. Originally, I loved Shakespeare and other plays and I was actually a theater student all throughout high school. However, I didn't go to university because I wanted to pursue something specific, and to tell the truth I just really wanted to go to Tokyo.
Are there any specific books that attracted you to fashion magazines?
There’s a few of them but one would be "Ryuko Tsushin", which Tadanori Yokoo did the art direction for a year in 1980 . It was filled with so much authenticity and it made me realize how visually interesting fashion magazines could be. When I saw it, I could feel all of the preconceived opinions or assumptions I had about the 80s just disappear.
How did your own fashion history unfold?
To be honest, I don't really have much to tell people about myself (laughs). Music has always come first, rather than fashion. When I was in junior high, I heard The Beatles playing on the radio. That’s when I first got into rock music and would imitate John Lennon sometimes. I was fascinated by the white trumpet pants he wore in "Abbey Road" so would search for them, or I used to look around shops for the casquette hat he used to wear. But that's more like cosplay rather than fashion, I guess? I went to many vintage shops but there were only a few places where I could buy fashionable clothes in Miyazaki. When I came to Tokyo, I was really surprised by how many stores there were.
At the time, there were many magazines that featured stores.
Yes, such as “BOON”, “ASAYAN”, and “MEN'S NON-NO”. In the past, they have introduced shops of even small areas of Harajuku. There were also many books which introduced stores that I used to dream about visiting when I was living in the countryside.
Did your hometown and family have any influence on you?
It's not a very clear influence, but my family in Miyazaki was a traditional “patriarchal” family, and my father’s decision were always final. We were a family where everyone had to watch whatever my father was watching on TV. However, I remember I enjoyed watching old manly movies like "007" and "Dirty Harry" that were shown on the Friday road-show with my father.
Did your father also have an influence on your music and fashion?
I think that might be true. My father used to play what is now called "city pop" music with artists such as Junko Yagami in the car. My father was not a talkative person but the inside of the car was a very dense family space. Since he wasn’t too picky about his clothes, he always wore the same outfit. Though they weren’t brand-names like Vans, he wore khaki-colored swing top all the time and I think that influenced me. I remember wondering why he was wearing a collar with that shape (laughs). Maybe it was this aspect that naturally imprinted on me the feeling that "a man should wear an item that last forever.”
I heard that you yourself enjoy music and still play the drums. Didn't you have the option to create a store specializing in music?
I thought that a store has to have a certain amount of individuality, and this store is the result of thinking about what my role is in the town of Jimbocho. In terms of music, other stores have been doing it for decades, so I thought I couldn't be a part of that. Besides, I feel that I’m happy and fulfilled by just listening to music.
Are there any magazines that you have been carrying since you opened?
Yes, the "Men's Club" from the 60s. It contains old styles represented by the so-called "Ivy League" look. I've always been interested in old music and movies, so the images of the 60's that I had in my mind were right there in the magazine and I thought the whole thing was cool.
You have a large selection of magazines in your store, mainly from the 1950s to the 1990s. Do you have a standard for the magazines you carry?
Our only concept is to cover a wide range of things regardless of what is considered cool now. There are many cases where an image that was thought to be tacky is suddenly revived as cool, and I think that is the fun thing about magazines. Of course, since we are a small store, we have to choose from a variety of magazines but we try to have all kinds of genres from mode, traditional, and street. I guess you could say that I am particular about this lack of particularity......
As for the display, the space has been arranged by blocks tied by cultures and areas by countries.
The experience I've gained while running my own store is a big part of it. For example, I put the men's magazine ESQUIRE, published in the United States, next to MEN'S CLUB. Even if the countries or the periods are different, someone who understands it will be able to realize that the underlying basis is the same. I'm still in the process of learning a lot about that. In the end, it's all about exploration, isn't it?
When you opened your store in 2009, was the market for fashion magazines already established?
In those days, prices were often roughly set with older books being more expensive and newer books being cheaper. I've also priced magazines that other secondhand bookstores didn’t carry and books that didn’t have much information on the Internet, so I'm always thinking about the balance between supply and demand. For example, "POPEYE" has been around since the 70s, and surprisingly, issues from the 70s are often found in the market. Probably because many people saved them and read them repeatedly. In the later years, when many new magazines were being launched, there was a tendency to throw them away after a while, so issues from the 1990s in particular are rarely found.
Please tell us about the POPEYE’s issue that left the greatest impression on you.
The feature "New England Comfort" from 1991 is impressive. New England is an area of the United States that was first settled by the British, and Boston, the largest city in New England, is home to the Ivy League. The 90's are not a very long time ago but they are not recent either and there's something about the feeling in between that really appeals to me.
For example, do you also purchase free booklets such as lookbooks? Books that don’t have a publication code are not available in libraries and are difficult to get a hold of.
In fact, this is an area that I would like to work on in the future. I am actually buying but I haven't fully gotten my hands on it yet. However, I have been working on this issue for quite some time. When it comes to pricing, I try to use my own senses while relying on the Internet and other sources. To create the image they wanted to, old brands were making their catalogs with their own hands, heart and soul which made them quite unique and cool books.
Do you have a private book collection?
I myself don't. Even when I come across a really good book, the first thing I think about is how to display it in the store.
Are there any books that you still keep looking for?
I'm always looking for something, but I'm interested in new wave magazines.
“JAM" and "HEAVEN" designed by Heikichi Harata are also getting harder to find every year.
Those are my favorite ones. I really like large format magazines like WET. I'm also looking for an issue of FAÇADE with Mick Jagger on the cover and Sayoko Yamaguchi on the back cover. It's one of those books that I would buy no matter how much it would cost me.
The Book vending machines, in particular, had a unique enthusiasm in the way they were presenting magazines.
In the past, there were so many strange magazines. In those interesting books for sale there were the ones that were entirely made of ads. I don't know how many of these magazines were in circulation, but I was attracted to the unusual aspects of them. Nowadays, logic comes first, or rather, books are created with a purpose......
“POPEYE" and "Men's Club" have kept their universality even as the times have changed, and the core of the magazine has been kept. On the other hand, in terms of "Ryuko Tsushin" and the New Wave books designed by Tadanori Yokoo who you mentioned earlier, I think their main focus was to follow the events that could only be captured at that time and in that moment. What do you feel is the appeal of the latter books?
It's interesting to see how the era is sort of condensed, including the fleeting moments. Magazines are packed with so many different elements. The advertisements which give you a feel of the generation, the information in the features and columns, as well as the logos, fonts, and the many other parts that make up a magazine are all closely connected to the trends of that time. I feel like the appeal of magazines is that you can relive the moments of each time period through the text and visuals just as if you were there.
How do you feel the nature of magazines has changed from the past to the present?
I think it's partly because of the fact that old books had more production budget, but you can also feel the enthusiasm of the many staff members who worked hard to produce them. In the case of "POPEYE," each article was written by different people, and some of those writers then went on to start their own magazines. I get the impression that nowadays it's more common to create more private magazine that can be run by a small group of people. Of course, I believe that has its advantages too.
It's true that within a magazine, there is the reflection of internal and external human relationships as well as the patterns of the era.
A symbolic example is the 1981 issue of "ANAN" with the headline "I'm tired of Harajuku!”. It's as if they themselves hyped up and tried to vitalize Harajuku, and then decided that they suddenly lost interest and dropped the city as a whole. That kind of range within a magazine is also a highlight isn’t it? There was also a big response when we posted it on INSTAGRAM a while ago.
Is there anything that you keep in mind when posting on social media?
I mean, I’ve never made a magazine myself but I don’t want to do anything that would insult the creators of the magazines. Even though INSTAGRAM has a limited number of tags you can put, I always try to include as many of the staff involved as possible.
I also have the impression that you put a lot of work in to each post through editing or setting a theme.
I try to capture the contemporaneity of the magazine, the symbolic people and phenomenon behind it, and other interesting points I find. However, I don't want to make it into a "nostalgic image collection," so I always pick up the cover and the main contents of the magazine, and try my best not to destroy the form of the magazine as a whole. I also don't want to make definitive statements like, “this was the way things were in this era," or rather I don't think it's my role to do that, so I try to be moderate in my descriptions. I'd be happy if you could imagine it with the tags I've posted.
Even in Jimbocho, MAGNIF is a place where book lovers and clothing lovers intersect. Do you find that many of your customers have their own style?
I think that fashion is related to a person's inner life, such as their taste, and there are definitely similarities when it comes to books. For example, one of our regular customers who likes 70's mode magazines dresses completely 70’s too. They have a slender look with slightly flared pants and buy "L'UOMO VOGUE" without hesitation. I feel that the magazine itself becomes their flesh and blood. People who are in to the Ivy League look usually buy magazines like “MEN’S CLUB” and come here in the middle of the summer dressed in a full suit. There are many people who visit the shop in search of a book that matches their world view.
Have you had any special encounters with any customers?
I am supported by a variety of customers every day, but I still get nervous when I come face to face with the "insiders" of the magazines I used to read. It can be a fashion model, a designer, or an editor, and it's really encouraging to know that my work is recognized by these people.
You must have spent a lot of time with magazines since the time you were working part-time to now but do you feel any changes in your way thinking?
This has always been the case, but it feels like I’ve been doing whatever comes my way, one thing at a time. It's the same with my bookshelves which I, through trial and error, gradually increased when necessary. But now that I know what kind of shelves and what I need, I'd like to turn them upside down and rearrange them from scratch if I could (laughs).
Interview text_ SHINGO ISOYAMA
photography_ DAISUKE HAMADA