“When I posed questions about my potentials in life, I realized that Hiroshi Fujiwara was my biggest influence.”
This was Gemma’s answer to my question: what are the roots of your diverse career? It is not easy to explain Daisuke Gemma’s works in one word. From creative director at Sacai, a position he still holds today, to branding director at Celux, the now-defunct members only luxury concept store, and founding Pred PR, the attaché de presse handling a number of important domestic and international brands; his achievements are endless. Because of his wide-ranging activities, it is difficult to come up with a title that fits him perfectly.
“I got to know Hiroshi Fujiwara as a DJ initially. But then I found out that he was also related closely to fashion industry. I remember it was such an eye-opener for me at a young age. It is still my life theme to do what I love for a living. I love fashion, music, and furniture design. When you love something, it becomes your motivation. Perhaps this is my foundation,” continues Gemma. Many people recognize him as a DJ, as he frequently plays music at events and parties in between his globetrotting life. Today his music selection focuses mainly on four-on-the-floor dance beats like house, techno and disco, but his initial awakening to music was, quite surprisingly, via neo-rockabilly.
“When I was a kid, a much older brother of my friend was in a rockabilly band. When I saw them, I immediately thought: that’s it! I started to wear creepers, bowling shirts with cut-off sleeves, and vintage 501® with motorcycle jackets and stuff,” laughs Gemma. From that point on, he became interested in music and gradually started to select and listen to other music. “That time, there was a tendency for people who were into neo-rockabilly to branch into either punk or jazz. I was the latter. I still wore vintage denim jeans but I started to wear designers fashion brands in high school, like a Dries van Noten,” reminisces Gemma. Those were his teenage days, when everything he touched was new. It sounds sweet, but you cannot deny that he was somewhat opportunistic. After discovering the nightlife, his diverse interests gradually became fine-tuned. “There was a place called Planet Cafe in my neighborhood, which still exists today. Many DJs from New York were playing there. Around that time I got into Paradise Garage and started to frequent record shops.” He delved into this life style until around age 20, and in 1996 moved to London.
“Back then, I felt under pressure to figure out my life ahead. I moved to England in hopes to change something,” Gemma fondly recalls. “I was really nervous.” Although he was full of anxiety, the relocation gave him many more layers to his sense of fashion and music. The first turning point was the encounter with the iconic concept store Browns. They were carrying former Maison Martin Margiela and Jil Sander’s newly launched men’s collections at the time. Gemma was initially a customer at Browns, but since more and more Japanese customers were shopping there, he was eventually asked to join the team as a sales staff on Saturdays. Gemma recalls: “My English was really limited at first but it was fun. The shop staff created their in-store music playlists, and since I loved music so much I took over that task. I remember selecting songs everyday facing the automatic changer CD player that can hold like 30 CDs. At that time I hardly touched turn tables, but I was basically DJing.” He started to feel comfortable living in England, and had many unforgettable encounters.
“Besides at work, I met so many people at pubs. I happened to be introduced to a person through someone I knew, and this person was Chris Cunningham. Crazy, right?” Gemma laughs. “I also met an African architect, David Adjaye through a friend. I later asked him to renovate my shop.” Thanks to his connections, Gemma started to explore the London music scene at a deeper level. The turning point was when he saw DJ Harvey playing for the first time. “When I was in Japan, I thought disco music was uncool. But then I saw Harvey spinning in London and I thought: disco is sick!” Real disco was totally different from what he knew in Japan – bubbly, mainstream disco melodies. This encounter made Gemma delve deeper into the world of music and wonderful chance meetings continued.
“Right around the time I discovered the groundbreaking New York party ‘The Loft’ thrown by a label called Nuphonic, my friend had invited the Loft founder and DJ David Mancuso to London. Of course I went to the party. The track he was playing called ‘Trinidad’ blew my mind. The sound of the bell used in the track struck me deeply. Most clubs just play really loud music, but you could actually have a normal conversation on David’s dance floor. Yet it felt like the high notes were raining down from the ceiling; David was not only controlling the volume perfectly but also the frequency. I learned the importance using high-end sound systems from him,” says Gemma.