L’ÉCHOPPE, a select boutique in Aoyama – Tokyo, is a place where you can discover something new and find clothing you have never seen before, every time you visit. A brainchild of the shop is buyer Keiji Kaneko, who is firmly acknowledged by the fashion industry. The reason he rides a bicycle seems to be so as to cultivate his sensibility and insight.
Kaneko is so fascinated by bicycles that he has devoted himself to competitions such as the Cyclo-cross, an off-road bicycle race. He considers bicycles to be tools that can play an important role in developing buyer’s insight. “I don’t use the Internet or Instagram for research even though my work is that of a buyer. I rarely go around shops except for my favourite vintage ones. So, I am not aware of what’s ‘IN’ in the world. However I have to know the atmosphere of the times. To do so, it is very important to get out on the streets and feel the atmosphere. If you go around on a motorbike or in a car, it’s too fast for your vision to catch and you end up missing things. However, with a bicycle you go at an appropriate speed. Naturally, walking enables you to take a good look at things but cycling brings you the opportunity to encounter more things. Moving around the city and meeting different people is a means for me to get some input on society”.
As a buyer, it is important to find something that can give new additional value to people’s lives. To do so, one needs to experience more things. Likewise, Kaneko seems to also be running around in search of new buying opportunities. He wasn’t a regular city cyclist but now is considering using a bicycle more often. “I have to go out a lot for exhibitions and meetings. A bicycle allows you to take the shortest routes, so I am thinking of buying a small wheel bike, such as a Brompton. You can fold it in a second, so I can take it along with me on trains or in taxis, which improves my mobility dramatically. For example, I usually can make 3 appointments by getting around using public transport, but if I use a bike, I can take one more appointment, which means one more buying opportunity. If I can get one extra item each day, I can buy quite a lot of products in total throughout the year. The number of people you meet face to face is proportional to the number of goods you can buy, so the more appointments you can manage, the more interesting items you can bring into the store. If you follow this logic, a bicycle is extremely time efficient”. Taking the option of cycling will increase buying chances, which directly affects the number of items that L’ÉCHOPPE can present to their customers. The logic sounds very simple but there is no better or more solid a way than this.
It was 20 years ago, when Kaneko first became interested in bikes. “At that time, I just loved riding my bike which I bought in Futako-Tamagawa. I used to commute 15km by bike each way to my office in Shibuya, with a big basket, imported from the USA, installed on it. I always rode my bike wherever I went out. At first, it was partly a fashion item but from a certain point I began to have fun riding it. As an extension to that, I discovered Cyclo-cross, then I even set myself a goal to participate in a 100km race in Nagano… From then on, I also started training seriously”. Kaneko is now as good as a professional Cyclo-cross rider, and has achieved excellent results in various competitions. “When I participate in a race, I go to Arakawa River and ride about 40km before going to work. Both sport and work need a good rhythm. Since I started cycling, I feel I can get my work done more easily. I think it doesn’t necessary have to be a sport, but when I have something that gets me going, I don’t need to waste as much time just on thinking. I can quickly judge things and move forward. The apparel industry works around the seasons and we tend to repeat a year with the same rhythm. So, a bicycle-ride helps to reset my mood and I can make a fresh start every day”.
Kaneko says that he simply loves the act of cycling. The simple yet sincere relationship between himself and his bicycle seems to influence his way of working. “Riding a bicycle before work clears my mind, and I can freshen myself up, which allows me to get started with my job quicker than others. On the weekend, I make an expedition to participate in races. Spending a day off like this allows me to refresh myself, and it can be an on/off switch from work. Since cycling became a part of my lifestyle, I became healthier. I am convinced it has affected my way of thinking as well as my mindset”. The act of cycling is very simple but the effect on one’s body and mind seems immeasurable. It leads to an attitude towards one’s work, and for Kaneko, it leads to more opportunities for making purchases. Nowadays, you can find out most things on the Internet, but going out into the city on a bicycle teaches you the real trends in the everyday world. Furthermore, Kaneko’s work style as a buyer, which won’t be influenced by trends, will be polished up by cycling.
Launched L’ÉCHOPPE after gaining various experiences as a buyer. Including the development of the original brand LE, as well as opening a second shop at Miyashita Park, the range and momentum of his activities are growing.
|Photo John Clayton Lee||Interview & Text Yutaro Okamoto||Translation Fumie Tsuji|