• Diaspora Japan

Idris Veitch (pt. 2)

So you’re from Jamaica, you went to school in the states, but what brought you to Japan?

Yeah, so I went to school in the states and then I went back to Jamaica. I spent two years there, but I realized that at the time Jamaica was a very stifling place to be. That was almost ten years ago. For me it’s is a great place to vacation but not a great place to live. For me.

And because of the music that I listen to, I found a small scene but I was really just floating. Anyway I knew I wanted to live somewhere else, somewhere new, and a friend of mine lived in Japan and so I applied to a company called Interac and got in.

The first plan was to come here for two years, save some money, and then enter into a fashion school wherever. And that would be the end of Japan, but during the third year I met a friend of a friend who studied fashion, he introduced me to the school, said you should apply, and so I pretty much moved to Tokyo to study. Fast forward three years and I graduated and now I’ve been teaching English part time and doing my designs to try to build my brand. So it’s been two years since then.

so now that you’re working in fashion, how have you found the fashion industry here?

That’s an interesting one. I’ve had some teachers tell me, of course go through shuushoku (jobhunting), but Japan and your thing don’t really match. And it wasn’t a bad thing. But they said that my look, the way I dress, my demeanor are a bit strong. And I said “Thank you for the compliment.”

And so my teachers were saying, and I sort of agree with them, go to somewhere like Manhattan where you can really thrive. The market here for fashion is just very, not a narrow minded, but narrow.

Where is the point where your fashion and, say, the typical Japanese fashion diverge?

I’m a huge fan of color. I love prints, if it’s a bright just give it to me. Wax prints, the whole nine. I love wax prints. So that’s me, but they’re not really about the colors.

I’ve had people, when I’m wearing a colorful shirt, come up to me and say “You’re so colorful. You’re so oshare (stylish). I as a Japanese person can’t pull that off.” And I’m like, girl you can do whatever you want. But I think some people have the idea that they can only wear blacks and grays and beige.

I notice that in the winter people wear the same two colors but for me it’s dark and gray as it is, give me some color. Give me some brightness!

As a foreigner, as a black man, someone with your sense of style and height, you must stand out a lot though? How does it make you feel to be so contrary to your surroundings?

I love it I love it I love it. To touch on the tall thing, you get to this point where because you send out and because people say “ehh, dekai dekai dekai (he’s huge)!” You kind of have to decide if you’re going to bring yourself down or make yourself smaller, maybe in how you dress, but for me I say “Yeah I’m tall, yeah I wear colors, this is who I am. Deal with it.”

I think it’s interesting because you are transforming people’s visual landscape. The more that you rep your style, the more people might latch on to it. Especially in the fashion industry.

Yeah, but on that note I don’t know that I’m the right person to do it?

That’s very fair.

I’ve been here for so long that I’ve noticed that a very huge difference between here in Jamaica is that people in Jamaica are very expressive. But here, if I’m talking and I shout out because I’m excited, I feel a bit of shame? Like, OK I need to quiet down.

What does that to your sense of identity though?

Whew. I don’t know. I do NOT KNOW. I’ve been here for nine years but when I go back to Jamaica I’m like, so that’s how a guy supposed to be? You know, I’ve invested countless hours to learning the language. I’m not 100% but but I can communicate. I do all of the very Japanese mannerisms and I’ve learned a lot of humility. So it sort of leaves me somewhere in the middle.

But that gets all tangled up because then when you encounter Japanese people and they learn that you’re from Jamaica, that comes with the whole set of preconceptions about who you must be.

Yeah, so when I first tell Japanese people that I am Jamaican many of them think that I must love reggae, but I don’t really. I grew up on punk and rock. And when I tell them that a cog in the brain so the cracks. They also think that I must run fast! And it’s funny because I do like running for leisure but I’m not like, Usain Bolt. But you know what, I’ll give them that one. And then some people who are in the know will say, “oh you like that…” (motions to his mouth as if smoking). Alright, fine. Guilty. You get your two out of forty stereotypes right.


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