Retail Profile - Bunker Tokyo - Japan
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Kazuma "Fuzzy" Mori is the owner of one of Japan’s most niche and unique retail stores. Specialising in Soviet and North & Eastern European designs, Bunker Tokyo is the exclusive Japanese stockist for an impressive roster of carefully sourced fashion.
From creating telephone ring tones and singing on TV adverts, Kazuma recounts his journey through on-line retail, pop-ups and a love for travel and Eastern Europe that led to launching Japan's only dedicated Soviet Fashion store.
From Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture, Kazuma arrived in Tokyo as a student. Raised on a diet of European Fashion like The Antwerp, the paintings of Cézanne and Henri Matisse, Ajax Football Club and alternative rock band The Pixies, Kazuma developed a committed global outlook from an early age.
Never happy to subscribe to what's poplar or on-trend, Dries Van Noten’s Euro-Asian styles fired his enthusiasm for fashion. A fascination with global cultures and their impact on fashion design led him to Russia and the former Soviet Bloc. “I wanted to have a job that would allow me to work in foreign countries. If I didn't travel when I was younger then I might not be doing this now.”
We are not just a shop selling clothes. We sell culture through fashion. Russian brands are perfect for my concept.
“Russian brands are always conceptual. Each brand and collection has a deep concept and background. I think Russians are good a creating and conceptualising ideas into clothing because they grew up with literature such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Collections are based on Soviet political events, art and literature and accompanied by a thorough printed ideology."
In a country unrivalled for it’s shopping experiences from the sublime to outright bizarre, Street Style Planet Earth talked to Kazuma about the concept, birth and modus operandi of Bunker Tokyo.
Were you involved any other fashion or style related work before going into Retail?
My company Riverhead started as a music production company. I made music for mobile phones on a PC and was also a singer, singing TV commercials and adverts - It’s still a job I do from time to time.
At first, I enjoyed working with music, but for me it wasn't a way of expressing myself, it was just about making money. I still dreamed of a job where I could work abroad so I began to travel more. I liked Scandinavian furniture and design, so I went to those countries and discovered Danish and Swedish fashion. I was also inspired by Berlin.
Upon returning to Japan and launched an online clothing shop called Uggla and rented a flat in Berlin as a base for buying. I went to Berlin, Copenhagen and Reykjavik Fashion Weeks and discovered brands to sell on Uggla.
At Reykjavik Fashion Week, I was the only buyer from Asia and was invited to meet the President. I had entered the Fashion World and I felt that I was ready to make my mark.
I didn't go to fashion school, and at that time I couldn’t speak English very well - I didn't even know the distinction between Wholesale and Retail price! It was a steep learning curve.
How did you progress from On-Line to a physical store?
The first shop was in 2013 when an Uggla pop-up was held at Laforet Harajuku - one of the famous fashion mall in Tokyo. It was a great experience being able to talk to customers about the rare brands I was stocking. The history and culture behind every brand is important to Bunker so being face to face was a great feeling.
Uggla continued for several years with an anneal pop-up shop every year at Laforet Harajuku. From around 2015, under the influence of Gosha Rubchinskiy, I started to see Cyrillic T-shirts on the street. Since my time in Berlin, I had become increasingly interested in Soviet/ Eastern European culture. I was already stocking Polish brands at Uggla.
In 2017, I finally went to Russia to source new brands. On my return to Japan I organised a pop-up shop based around my new discoveries which was a great success. My actions caught the attention of “Bein Open”, a web magazine covering the young Russian fashion scene and I was invited to take part in a public talk in Moscow.
How did Uggla Pop Up Stores transform to a permanent store and become Bunker?
Many brands started to contact me. I wanted to distribute these brands not only at Uggla, but to other stores. On October 2017 (100th month of the Russian Revolution) I founded the Riverhead Showroom and selected four brands to exhibited at a Tokyo tradeshow.
H.Lorenzo, the renowned Californian retailer visited and ordered two brands as well as other Japanese retailers. I started to get lots of requests too from individual customers which was encouraging.
One day strolling through Harajuku I discovered a closed-down thrift store with an interesting interior. It was a half-underground, with an industrial light on an abandoned wall. "I wish I had a space like this,” I thought. A few days later, I went to a real estate agent and managed rented the place! Memories of my visit to Bunker 42, a 1950’s Cold War underground military installation I had visited in Moscow came to mind.
I was practically on the next flight to Moscow and scoured the vintage and flea markets for flags and antiques to decorate my new store. The name Bunker Tokyo was decided - it could not be anything else!
How long has Bunker been open for?
We opened in 2018. We have celebrated our 1 year anniversary on July 14th.
Where are your brands from?
60% of our brands are from Russia and former Soviet Contries like Ukraine. 30% are Danish. I’ve been going to Copenhagen Fashion Week for around 10 years since the Uggla days and really love the Danish fashion scene.
What are the key brands at Bunker?
T3CM, SSANAYA TRYAPKA, Olovo, Svarka, Mad Frenzy, HAN KJOBENHAVEN, MUF10 and Twelvepieces.
T3CM and SSANAYA TRYAPKA are our popular Russian brands. Popular throughout is the Danish brand MUF10. In sales terms, this has been my best discovery and the most successful brand I have ever bought into.
What are the latest brands that you have discovered and are excited to take delivery and show to you customers?
Dastish Fantastish which I found in Kyiv, Ukraine. An exciting brand with a decadent and industrial atmosphere.
Can you explain your buying strategy?
The most important thing is the effect the clothing has on me and my staff. Brands that we are not enthusiastic about are difficult to sell even if they are in fashion. It’s important to trust your instinct and initial impressions regardless of brand name, popularity or whether part of a popular trend.
A foundation of Bunker is I also offering clothes that other shops don't sell. Many shops stock similar streetwear brands. Bunker will never be part of that. We only handle brands with a solid concept.
How much time do you spend outside Japan?
I go abroad 7-8 times a year. I am invited to Moscow twice a year for Fashion Week and I also go for meetings and performances too. I also go to Copenhagen Fashion Week twice a year as well as Kyiv in Ukraine, Berlin in Germany and Helsinki.
I stock brands from countries I have visited. If you don’t experience the atmosphere and culture of a city, then you will never fully understand the artistic depth of the brand.
In an interview, Gosha Rubchinskiy was asked, “Do you think about living in Paris, London or New York?” He replied, “I am happy in Moscow. “I can’t leave Moscow because it has its own culture.”
I have been to Moscow many times and now I understand Gosha’s reason. If I had never been to Moscow, I couldn’t imagine people wearing Russian brands. It’s crucial that Bunker sells clothes only after I have experienced the the people, culture and atmosphere of their origins.
What are some of your favourite cites to discover fashion?
It’s always changing… Berlin, Reykjavik, Moscow, Copenhagen…though if I had to choose one place it would be Moscow. Russians are very compassionate and won’t let me be left alone. My friends always guide me to various places. And like Berlin used to, Moscow has a unique vibe.
I feel like Tokyo and London have had their moments. Berlin was the most interesting city in the world 10 years ago, but it has changed too much.
What’s next on the Bunker discovery list?
I’m a little late to the party but I really want to visit Tbilisi Fashion Week in Georgia. Known as the home of Demna Gvasalia of Vetements and Balenciaga fame, its also home to a variety of other good brands that should not be overlooked. I also want to go to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
How do your customers find out about you?
Bunker is a very independent cultural institution separate from fashion. Many of our customers are bored with general fashion. We also benefit from customers made aware of Russian fashion through Gosha Rubchinskiy as well as Soviet Military and culture enthusiasts. We also get people wearing Balenciaga & Off-White who take a few steps in and soon turn back out.
Gosha Rubchinskiy is a key influence on Bunker. He’s to Russian Fashion what Bob Marley is to the Reggae World. Before he popularised Cyrillic characters on clothing, no-one, even Russians wore fashion like that.
Something we try to overcome is a tendency with Japanese customers to only buy clothes worn by celebrities or seen in magazines. At Bunker we are eager to explain the culture and history of our brands and transmit our enthusiasm. Interested people who take time to understand our concept become good customers.
Do you anticipate any expansion with another Tokyo store or in a different city?
We have no current plans. Finding a place with that Soviet atmosphere is a difficult task. But I would like to try another concept shop. I feel that there are few shops with a solid concept now. If everything comes together from location to brands and many other conditions, then I will open a new concept store at some point.
Does Bunker organise many in-store events or promotions?
We are a culture and entertainment shop. The retail climate is not great right now, so interesting event are always a good thing. Recently, we produced a limited T-shirt in collaboration with a Russian brand under the theme of Soviet Day.
We sometimes give out borsch soup in the store. We also give out rare perfume samples from the Soviet era constantly engage customers with the store concept of Soviet Culture. Even though Russia is a next door neighbour to Japan, many people see “overseas” as USA, UK, France etc. So knowledge of Russian culture is basic. Nordic Culture is beginning to be taken on board in Japan. Thats another area we can get involved in.
What are some of the best things about Tokyo?
I like the east side of Tokyo from Harajuku to Shibuya. I like also like Ginza, Nihonbashi, Ningyocho, Asakusa and Ueno because they have long-standing culture. On the east side of Tokyo, there are old unused wholesale shops. It would be interesting if such places became rejuvenated with young creatives like Seven Sisters, London and Kreuzberg & Neukoln in Berlin. The only things I miss when I'm abroad for buying are fish, soba and udon but Russian food is delicious, so when I'm there, I’ll eat Russian food every day.
Tokyo is a place where any kind of fashion is allowed and accepted. No one cares if you wear a T-shirt with a controversial Religious or Military motif. When Uggla held a pop-up shop in London, there were people who clearly seemed uncomfortable, for political reasons, looking at Russian clothes. Japan and Korea politically unfriendly now, but Tokyo still loves Korean fashion. It’s a very openminded city.
With running the store and buying trips, do you have any free time?
I study Russian culture and often go to classical music concerts. I've always liked Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, but I last year was the first time I experienced a grand concert of their works. I grew up listening to such music because my mother is a piano teacher.
Where is a good place in Japan to get away from the fast paced Tokyo lifestyle?
I love hot springs and have been to Atami and Hakone a lot since I was in my twenties. I still go to the Ryokan when I can get a 2-3 day break. If you spend a lot of time abroad, you will miss Japanese hot springs and inns. Hot spring culture (onsen) is something that Japanese people can be proud of.
Today, many Japanese live in Western-style homes, eat pasta and hamburgers, and sleep in a bed. As a nation we are largely Westernised. If you go to Seoul, Korea, most restaurants are Korean restaurants. This is not true in Japan. Even if you walk in Shibuya, there are more International restaurants than Japanese ones. Eating Japanese food and sleeping on a futon laid on a tatami mat is no longer part of most Japanese lifestyles.
When I lived in Berlin, I realised that life was most beautiful if I fondly scrutinised my lifestyle in Japan. My Kanazawa family own a traditional Japanese wooden house. Someday I want to leave Tokyo and live a traditional Japanese life-style.
Shot on location in Tokyo, Japan.
Words by Al de Perez
For more great Alternative Youth Culture photography from around the world, Follow the Street Style Planet Earth Instagram Page.
If you have enjoyed this feature then be the first to find out about forthcoming features on Artists, Musicians, Creatives, & Fashion Industry Insiders from Models to Stylists from Korea, Japan, Taiwan & China as part of Street Style Planet Earth's "Asian Special" launch by Subscribing At The Bottom of The Page