Vintage shopping in Tokyo, and shopping in general for that matter, is always a fairly open and inclusive business, but every now and then you stumble across a pocket of culture that is very much insiders only. Birthdeath in Shibuya is the beyond-cool brainchild of Yosuke Nagata, a man who cut his teeth in the vintage world at Nude Tramp and has gone as deep as it is possible to go into the underground music scene in both London and Tokyo. Birthdeath is the sum of his experiences, with walls crammed with propaganda posters, hand-made political pamphlets probably printed above a pub in Hackney, and collectible title-less records containing hour long found-music compilations. The clothes are likewise a mix of rare and carefully selected items, with military jackets sorted by rank, the squad’s history researched and included, and perfectly aged Victorian clothes with the factory name and location intact. It is a place for collectors and aficionados to unite and celebrate these little avenues of culture, and most importantly of all, place it in an informed context.
If that all sounds a bit heavy, that is because it is, and quite rightly so! After all, not all vintage needs to be the fun mix and match game that Itazura or Spank! plays, and I am glad that someone has gone further than anyone else in creating a space where the context and cultural significance of clothing is represented directly next to the clothes. Add to that, that only half the space in the shop is devoted to clothes, elsewhere there are book shelves crammed with rare underground literature from around the world and CDs and tapes that make Witch House look inclusive and friendly. While talking to Nagata, the director of the shop, he pulls some titles off the shelves at random that he happily tells me he is selling for less than he bought them for, the aim being to spread this culture and bring more people into this world. For the record, once you are inside this is probably the most friendly shop you are likely to encounter, but you can’t help but feel that you have to pass some kind of test before you are accepted into the gang.
On the subject of the shop’s mission statement, Nagata was curiously evasive, just saying that he gathers culture and clothes as he goes and tries not to over-think it. The shop directs itself in a sense, the right clothes create the right atmosphere as does the right music. If he puts all the parts that he individually has a taste for together, together they will inevitably push the place in the right direction. On that note, Birthdeath will be undergoing a very exciting change in the next couple of months, but unfortunately I am sworn to secrecy on that account, just rest assured that you are going to be hearing more from it very soon.
I will save my in-depth look at the shop for tomorrow, so for now soak up the atmosphere and get a feel for it:
Join me for part two tomorrow for more vintage fashion perfect to accompany a knowledge of German experimental films, and I hope, like me, you are entranced by this bastion of underground culture.