There is one woman in Tokyo who is connected to everyone and everything. Her name is Luli and she runs Le Baron, that super cool Paris nightclub that’s been planting annex locations all over the world. Luli speaks perfect English and seems to know every single New Yorker I mention. One of my friends calls her “THE BEST big sister/mama figure in all of Tokyo. You are in the heart of it.” So when I asked her to suggest me some girls to shoot for Tales, she did a quick sweep of her mental It-girl archive and sent me a personally curated list, including a run-down of their career, style and personality. I set my heart on Eri, the sweet designer of a clothing line called Mother.
I arrive at Eri’s apartment by taxi. At this point I have not attempted to take the metro yet. (Well… I have, but failed miserably. It’s really complicated, even for Japanese people!) She lives in a semi-quiet, hilly neighborhood in Uehara, about 15 minutes from Shibuya where I’m staying. The streets are lush with pine trees and packed with small, modern concrete buildings. I don’t know if this is any indication of wealth in Japan, but I notice a lot of European luxury cars. Eri greets me in rose flapper silk shorts, a burgundy, cashmere V-neck sweater and a pair of flower tights she designed. I hand her a little present, some lavender from the Provence for the closet as a thank you for inviting me – my Fodor’s guide, which I read cover to cover before I arrived, said it’s not customary to receive people at home and to always bring something. I want to make sure I’m doing this right! She introduces me to her boyfriend, who kindly declines to have his picture taken – “Oh no, I am shy.” And her cat Yama, who has the biggest eyes and most unusual color fur I ever saw, darts around curiously.
Eri was born in New York but only lived there for 6 months before moving to Tokyo with her family. Her dad owned vintage stores in New York and San Francisco in the 80’s but decided to set up shop in Japan. He shipped his entire stock overseas and opened the very first vintage store in Tokyo. DEP’T closed about five years ago when dad retired but for the past 30 years it was the biggest and best known store in the city. Eri and her little brother were somewhat of the store’s mascots, wearing second hand and vintage clothing their dad found on his shopping trips. Eri’s affinity with vintage lingers relentlessly to this day – it’s all she wears. “I always wear used clothing,” she confirms. “I’m not interested in new brands; they’re too expensive. I always think: if I buy this new designer dress, I could maybe buy two or three vintage pieces instead. Also, old clothing is more special to me because no one has the same.” Eri’s personal style might be vintage-inspired but it’s not fixed on one theme. “My style can be oriental, sometimes rock, sometimes hippie and then also girlie. I don’t decide what it’s going to be or when it will change; it just happens.” The feather earrings she made however seem to be a staple because “they fit with any style I decide to wear.”
Eri started her clothing line 6 years ago. Her inspiration comes from “views, flowers, and of course vintage.” When I ask her to describe the concept behind her designs, she has difficulty putting the feeling into words. “I get asked this question a lot but it’s hard to explain. I want my customer to feel the same way as when I put on a vintage dress. It’s a special feeling. I love basic items, but it’s not my duty to make basics. I prefer to explore new things.” She opened a store in Nakameguro where she sells Mother but also a selection of vintage. I did not make it to her store yet but I hope this will not be my last trip to Tokyo. It’s a wonderful city with wonderful people, who, you guessed it, have a passion for vintage just like I do.