Over the last four years Reggie Casual has steadily introduced Japanese street fashion to would-be Western fans. Through his YouTube channel, The Casual, Reggie expounds his wide range of expertise on Japanese designers like Jun Takahashi, Shinsuke Takizawa and Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi. Straight outta Los Angeles, Reggie, who’s also a fashion designer, has been living in Japan off and on for about eight years. From a Western perspective, Reggie’s not just a fanboy hyping up Japanese brands.
Since he speaks and reads Japanese, his social commentary gives an informed framework to Japanese fashion and the Western influences behind it. Reggie is the guy that puts viewers on to what’s popping. Of all the foreigners in Japan vlogging about life here, it would seem that there’s no stone unturned. The vacuum of trying to decipher Japan’s unique culture appears oversaturated, but when it comes to getting an in-depth look at Japanese street fashion, there’s only The Casual.
What were you doing in LA before you decided to live in Tokyo?
When I first came to Japan it was to get in the entertainment industry. I’m a trained dancer and a singer-songwriter and so I was trying to get into that racket and then I went back to what I was good at in high school and college: graphic design and illustration. So when I went back to LA I decided to put a lot more effort into that and I always had a love for putting clothes and stuff together so I was doing that in LA.
I was a branding agent, a graphic designer. I was helping lifestyle companies build campaigns for their clothes or helping restaurants make their own menus. I had so many ideas that I couldn’t utilize with the company that I was working for so I had to start my own little consulting firm and I went freelance. I was thinking ‘Well I’m either going to do this fashion thing or I’m not’ so I decided to come back to Japan with my portfolio and that’s how I ended up back here.
How did you get into Japan’s fashion industry?
I’m a Navy kid. My father traveled around the world and I spent a lot of time with Asian culture when I was a kid. My caretakers were Asian people. When it came to Japanese fashion and culture, I was already in it. I already knew about it. When I got older I didn’t even think of it as a viable option until I put together all the things that I loved.
It was simple for me to go from dance or entertainment into fashion because of my background. So I took that and I just rolled with it. I got introduced to fashion through hip-hop. Growing up, Pharrell [Williams] and Kanye [West] were my guys, especially Pharrell. Then I got introduced to Bape [A Bathing Ape Clothing] and I didn’t even wear Bape like that. Then I got introduced to Undercover by Jun Takahashi and I was hooked.
What was the impetus behind your channel, The Casual?
Japanese brands were not going to talk to me if I didn’t have anything to offer. Now I have something to offer. My idea was to force Japanese brands to work with international markets, mainly my international market. I’m the dude you need to talk to when it comes to the West. If I say ‘I have a million subscribers,’ which is what our plan is, 500,000 to a million subscribers… and we mainly talk about being in Japan and fashion to a Western audience, are you [Japanese brands] trying to tell me that that [international market] isn’t powerful for you?
Why do you think Japan is resistant to international markets?
They are slow to adapt to anything. In Japan, the nail that sticks out gets hammered in. It’s the biggest criticism that I can give them. This is a country that does nearly everything just to make things smooth. I’m not going to say they do everything right, but they do everything to make sure that life is easy. Yes, they have some cultural issues, but beyond that, life is a very simple existence in Japan. It almost makes you lazy.
Their resistance to change is what kills them. Japan has been going through this for the last five years, the economic downturn. It’s easy what the solution is, open up your [Japan’s] markets. Get some people over here that speak Japanese and English and start selling your products globally. South Korea is running circles around Japan right now.
Can you talk about Japan’s perception of fashion?
This country always amazes me. They follow the trends. They know what’s popping and they’ll pay money for it, which baffles me to this day. I came here to learn about their fashion, but ultimately what I learned was their psyche towards fashion, which is, ‘Get that thing if I’m about it. I’m about this: Gucci, Dapper Dan…oh, I know about Dapper Dan.’ For them to know about Dapper Dan is amazing. But what’s more amazing is the amount of people back home where I’m from who don’t know about Dapper Dan.
What separates The Casual from other media platforms like Hypebeast Japan, Complex, and Highsnobiety?
I don’t like to toot my own horn too much, but with this one, I know what I’m doing. I segue between both of those cultures. I know Japanese culture. It was my major in college, Asian studies with a focus in Japanese language. My minor was graphic design, that’s what I do. I understand it…. Japanese people want to know that we like their stuff as much as they like our stuff and nobody is telling them that.