If you haven’t heard the name ‘Lactose Intoler-Art‘ yet, then get ready to be educated! Brandon Reierson, aka Lactose Intoler-Art, is an incredibly talented illustrator whose dedication to Japanese street fashion and culture is evident throughout his body of work. So let me get this straight: puns and Japanese fashion? How can we resist?! It seems that we’re not alone in having an art-crush on Lactose Intoler-Art: Tavuchi of Spank! is also a big fan, and Brandon’s work has also been featured on several major Japanese fashion websites – worn by fans, and street snaps of the man himself too.
We were lucky enough to meet up with Brandon on his last visit to Tokyo (on a personal note, he’s one of the most genuine and enthusiastic people Tokyo Telephone has had the pleasure of meeting!), and of course we had to feature not only his fantastic unique art, but also a look inside in the brain of Lactose Intoler-Art. The result is one of the most interesting interviews yet…
(Above: exclusive first look at a new Lactose Intoler-Art work!)
How did the name and concept for Lactose Intoler-Art come about?
The concept for Lactose Intoler-Art is basically street fashion illustrations. It isn’t really limited to that, but I am highly influenced by street fashion culture, especially underground street fashion culture that is going on in Tokyo. I have always loved art and drawing, as well as studying subcultures and things like that. Over time, my artistic style just started to mesh with my interest in street fashion. As far as the name “Lactose Intoler-Art”, I have actually been severely allergic to milk my entire life. Even though I am not lactose intolerant, I thought the play on words was funny and interesting.
What is it about Japan that inspires you?
I think Japan itself is extremely complex. There are so many things that inspire me there, and the longer I stay, the more I find myself inspired by things that maybe didn’t originally inspire me so much. I think the reason my work is influenced more by Japanese street fashion culture though, is because I think there is something extra special there. When compared to the west, I feel like fashion culture, especially in Tokyo can be very free, and very related to art. I absolutely love the mixture of art and fashion related to personal self expression. That isn’t to say there isn’t other fashion culture in Tokyo as well, like high fashion for example; but I am just extremely inspired by people that use fashion as an avenue to express their hobbies and interests. Its like, “Hey, I’m into 90’s action figures, so my style concept is using the same color and texture palette of these figures into my wardrobe.” Ok, maybe not so literally, but it is still very interesting. What is incredible is that a lot of these people that simply create their own style for their own interests actually start many worldwide trends that trickle down to other parts of the globe sometimes even years later.
Do you tend to draw actual people or are they made-up?
I have done both. I usually prefer to completely create up my own characters with elements of things I’m inspired by at that time. However, I do illustrations of real people as well, but they are usually only people I am really inspired by as well. I don’t really enjoy just drawing real people so much,because I feel like I’m just doing someone’s caricature. But if I am really inspired by someone, it doesn’t really matter then at that point, haha.
Would you say that your style, both and art and fashion, has changed over time?
Most definitely. I think that art and fashion itself are always changing in the world, so naturally my style and personal style has changed as well over time. However, even when my art or personal style change a bit over time, there are always core elements or things that I keep in my personal style. I think for me, it is important to be true to my style and who I really am. Too many people get caught up in trends, and trying to follow exactly what bloggers, designers, and magazines basically say you should wear. There is more freedom in just enjoying what you wear for what you personally like. And as much as I love fashion, in the end, fashion is just fashion, so have fun with it.
What would be an ideal day for you in Tokyo?
When I have free time in Tokyo, I really just enjoy hanging out with my friends, and of course going to my favorite shops, especially in Harajuku and Koenji. Shimokitazawa and the back streets of Shibuya also have some really nice shops as well. But truly, if there is a day where my friends are working and I happen to be free, I love to just sit on a busy street with my sketchbook and just draw. I have actually met some friends doing this! Haha. Of course I love going to fashion/art events as well, especially if it is a gallery or designer I’m inspired by.
At what point did you know you really wanted to pursue something with art/design?
I think drawing and art has always been a part of my life. I am fortunate to say that even when I was really young, my Mom always read a lot of books to me with many different styles of illustrations. I can remember drawing since I was really little. I actually grew up in an extremely rural part of the United States. My elementary school and high school were very focused on sports. It was one of those towns where literally everyone knows everyone, and because I was not really an athletic person, art was always my avenue of escape. It was something that I could excel at even if I wasn’t really into what everyone else was into. So I just knew that doing something art related would be a part of me.
Is there anything else that inspired your work, or something you would like to express through it?
I feel like what I wanna express a few things with my sense of style. Although I am really inspired by Tokyo and Japanese culture and street fashion, I do not want my work to resemble traditional/obvious Japanese animation. I do not have anything against Japanese animation, but I think mixing inspiration from Japanese culture and adding more of my own personal illustration style creates an interesting mix. I think a lot of what I draw is somewhat of an expression of personal style, mixed with random things and trends I am interested in and watching at that moment. I love mixing colors and textures, and a sense of awkwardness. For example, maybe a beautiful fashionable girl wearing something that most would find really awkward, such as split toe shoes with toes drawn on them. Or even a really cool guy with good fashion, but awkward hairy legs. A lot of my characters have weird expressions on their faces too, and I think that hopefully adds more of a personal and funny connection the viewer can make with the character. I think fashion can be too serious at times, so it can be fun to just have a sense of humor with my work.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I would like to keep pursuing my art and design work for sure. I want to continue do more creative things in a broader aspect. For example, I would love to continue to collaborate with more designers, shop owners, artists, etc. A dream that I have is to have some of my work for sale in some really small select shops in Tokyo. My biggest dream is just to have the people that I am inspired by to like and wear my work. For example, if I am inspired by some cool Harajuku girl stomping the streets in her Tokyo Bopper shoes, but then find out she is also carrying a tote bag with my design for example, that would be truly awesome. And although I have spent a lot of time in Tokyo, I am right now in the process of hopefully moving there next year. I really feel like I am just ready to make that move. Maybe years later, it would be really cool to have my own small shop. I would like to have select vintage items for sale, do my own Japanese “remake” clothing, and carry select avant-garde labels, and of course, sell my design work through art and incorporate it into the fashion sold there. I think I always want to sell online as well, because if it wasn’t for the internet, even I may have never known about Japanese fashion to begin with.
(Tavuchi in FRUiTS magazine with a Lactose Intoler-Art tote bag)
What do you think about the future of Japanese fashion?
I think Japanese fashion will always be influential globally to some extent. Even a lot of their traditional fashion is so incredible. I love mixing the old with the new, and I think the Japanese youth tend to be incredible at doing that. I think what has been going on in Harajuku since the 90’s though is also fascinating, and I think what is going on with fashion right now in Tokyo, and even Osaka is very incredible. I just see Japanese fashion getting bigger in many different ways, and also for Japanese designers to get more global attention as well. I just hope that those kids that don’t care about following the system continue to create their own looks and subcultures, because after all, I think that is really what makes Japanese fashion so great.
I’m tipping Brandon for big things in the near future, and I hope you are too! To see more from Lactose Intoler-Art, check out his blog here, and if you fancy getting your hands on some lovely merchandise (why wouldn’t you?!) then take a look at the official online shop here. Brandon also informs me that he’s open for commissions too – please inquire for rates.
Huge thanks to Lactose Intoler-Art for taking the time to answer our questions so thoughtfully, and for letting us share new artwork too! Watch this space for more from Lactose Intoler-Art and Tokyo Telephone…