On the Importance of Good Design: Dialogue with NAMESAKE.


This week we share a dialogue with Michael of NAMESAKE — a clothing label that is fast becoming an impossible-to-ignore voice in the global fashion world. Our founder, Elson, first became acquainted with NAMESAKE a couple of years ago, whilst mixing in the excitingly emerging cultural scene of Taipei — the hometown of both Elson and the brothers behind the up and coming fashion house.


It only made sense then to invite Michael for a conversation to share notes on what it means to develop an identity in the design world whilst split between East and Western cultures, and how to stay to true to that identity (among other things of course!).


To begin, we asked Michael to give a bit of backstory to NAMESAKE.


"My name is Michael and I founded the brand with my two brothers, Richard and Steve. Richard is my big brother, Steve is my little brother. I'm more on the marketing and PR side. The reason we entered fashion is because we had a shop before, named Ne.Sense; we used to carry like Comme des Garcons, Rick Owens — a wide bunch of different brands. Then we started the brand NAMESAKE four years ago, during covid time."


"The brand was to honour our Dad, because he wanted to become a designer but our Grandfather didn't allow him. So we kind of did it to fulfill his childhood dream. And our dream as well. So it's like a family business. And our logo has a "3" because of the three brothers and three different locations that we've come from, for example, went to high school in Japan, then moved to United States, then back to Taipei. So the brand had these three different cultures mixed together."



I was then curious what research and thoughts go into the design of the garments.


"We wanted to tell a true story from our soul. We want our garments, our clothing, our brand to tell the story of our family to the world. NAMESAKE has three different elements we use in our design language. For example, one, is basketball. We used to love basketball growing up — our first love among brothers. But as we grew older, we were getting into the fashion [of basketball], so we wanted to pay tribute back to our passion from when we were young. So basketball is one of the core design elements."


"Another one is agriculture. Our family came from a fishery business, so agriculture is one of the elements we use to select our fabrics. So you can see that a lot of the stuff kinda reminds you of  the nets; basketball nets, or fishing nets. That's how we select our fabrics."


"The third is family. Like I said before, the brand's really about family. So we use a lot of our family story. We wanted to kind of build a community and try to invite more people to join our family and to build a bigger family. That's the idea."



"We've always felt like we're outsiders in a way. Because I wouldn't say Taipei is like a fashion capital; compared to London or Paris. So when we went to Japan, we always felt that we were outsiders. And as we moved to the United States to study, I still felt like an outsider trying to fit in. So that's why I like having our own brand as we can make our own culture. We can make our own universe."


I couldn't help but ask for Michael's perspective on the culture of Taipei; the city that serves as the spiritual home of both NAMESAKE and TERMINO.


"In Taipei, the most popular food is hotpot, [and] I always said that we are like 'hotpot'. Because Taipei culture isn't that obvious, because we have so many different cultures mixed together — so I would say that we're like a hotpot. It just depends like what's the base? Is it a curry, a sour base, or a spicy base? Because I feel like now we're living in a flat world. That's my opinion. We're living in a flat world because of the internet. So I really want to push the idea that there's no more nationalities; we're just humans connecting together because of the internet. Like now, we're making new friends through the internet, like we had the chance to talk with you. So I'm really trying to clear out the nationalities, like, we're all human, we love fashion, we love beauty, we're nice human beings and we're connected. That's what we want to push."



As a young creative entity ourselves, at TERMINO we often find ourselves reflecting on and discussing our future; how to affirm our authentic identity, and more importantly, how to stay true to it. Conscious of how truthfully NAMESAKE is able to express itself as a young artistic brand, we sought Michael's thoughts on these questions.


"I think just be humble and be honest. And be friendly. That's who we are. We are humble with what we're doing and we're looking forward to the future. But we also stay on the ground. Because I feel that with design sometimes people feel too distant or too high-end. So I'm trying to break those barriers. I think that's the image that we want to present to people."






Japan, the US, Taipei — NAMESAKE was born from multiple places. I was curious then if Michael could cite the place in the world where he feels most connected to and 'at home'.


"I would say it's a mix. Because I don't feel like anything in the world is one-sided. Personally, I would love to live in the West, but I'd like to eat Eastern food! So it's more like a mix. I really enjoy Europe. I feel that part of my soul is from Europe. But because of my upbringing and being from the East, it's kind of like I'm trying to connect them together. I'm still observing the way to connect it perfectly. I think growing up in the East we learned how to be humble. I think if our upbringing was more in the Western world, we wouldn't be like this. I think because of our upbringing we learned how to respect people; how to love your parents [and] how to love your friends."




"We never went to fashion school so we always felt we had to get credit from the fashion world that we're a legit fashion designer. So we never stop. We just keep improving. And I feel like my brothers and me and my team we enjoy this improvement; when we're progressing and doing something different."


How do you seek inspiration? I wondered.


"Personally, I seek inspiration from life. I find a lot of different ideas from going outside, having dinner, observing people. Because I'm not a really talky person; I'm more an observer kind of guy. Like I try to observe everyone to find out what's the next trends, the next items, the next things. I really find a lot of inspiration in real life, not the internet."


As a parting question, I asked Michael: Why does the world need good design?


"I feel like design and beauty are the only things that can make peace. Because when I was growing up I wasn't a big fan of flowers; I didn't really know the meaning behind [them]. But now, because of my girlfriend, I started to understand the importance of flowers. I started to dig into flowers, and look into the colors. Like when a person receives flowers, they will never be pissed. And that to me is design. And beauty. It can make people happy. That's how I view fashion."


Thank you to Michael for your thoughtful reflections!


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