Oi Polloi

Interview: Fuji from Manastash

Published: Tue Feb 23 2016

Manastash is an outdoor company who make tough jackets and trousers and things like that. Long-time Oi Polloi lurkers may remember that we sold this stuff a few years back, but anyway, we’ve got it again, and it’s very nice indeed.

Without any further spiel, here’s an informative interview with design-man Fuji.

Photo courtesy of Josh Rothery.

Starting things off fairly lightly, what have you been up to today?

Back pain has been killing me since yesterday, and so today I have been either lying on my bed or moving very slowly. 

Manastash has been around for a while, but it’s always been quite hard to get hold of in England. What’s the story with it? When did it start? Why was it started? Who started it? 

We have been designing and making the brand in Japan for almost ten years now, but the brand was established in 1993 by Robert Jungmann who started Manastash whilst at college in Seattle. Manastash is an eco focused clothing brand, using hemp and recycled fabrics, which, in 1993 was a pretty leftfield concept. Rob is now running Jungmaven with his friends.  

How many people are involved?

Our team consists of six people including myself. Five are based in Tokyo, and one is based in the UK. 

How long have you been involved in Manastash? What’s your background? Did you always want to design clothes? 

I have been involved in Manastash since the first day we succeeded the brand; so it’s been almost ten years. My first career was as sales staff in an army and navy shop.

That store had a great selection of military uniforms and supplies from different era and countries. I worked there for four or five years and gained a great amount of knowledge. Then I was hired by an optical store as an optician, 20 meters away from the army and navy shop. That store was very well known for the hand-made eyewear—I made eyewear and dyed the lenses every day.

And then I started working for the company I am working now, 50 meters away from the optical shop! I basically just wanted to work in the same town.  

I never really went to a fashion institute and I wasn’t educated to be a designer, but it was quite natural to get involved in the designing process with the knowledge I acquired from my past careers.     

I suppose Manastash is probably best described as an outdoor clothing company. What things have you got to consider when making clothes for the great outdoors? 

We always think about the occasions our garment will be worn in. There are different levels of ‘outdoor’, from the top of the Himalayas to the parks near you. If outdoor activity for you is casual weekend camping, it is’t necessary to gear up with outerwear that has premium features designed for the professional alpinists. 

We are not placing ourselves as a hardcore outdoor brand—our garments are made for casual outdoor activities like camping, hiking, trekking, bicycling and walking the town. 

And it may be overlooked that the materials used for high-spec jackets sometimes sacrifice the environment they are made for.  

You lot do a lot of work to minimalise your impact on the environment. Why is this important to you? What do you lot do differently? 

Sacrificing the environment means that we may lose our own playgrounds in the future. To be honest, eco-friendly materials tend to be more expensive than regular materials. 

It may be important as a brand to make goods with low-cost materials to sell great volumes, but if everybody did this, then we would lose the places to wear those jackets.

Doesn’t this sound absurd? 

You lot make a lot of stuff out of hemp. What’s the reason for this? 

Hemp is great because it’s more eco-friendly than cotton as it does not require the agrochemicals. But what we love the most is the texture and how the garment grows as we wear it. 

This is maybe a bit of a stock question, but where do you get your inspiration for your designs? 

Classic items; military supplies, vinyl, motorcycles, automobiles, kitchen linens… everything has their golden era of design, and I love thinking about how those can get modernized and connected to Manastash designs. 

Are you a man of the outdoors yourself?  

To some extent, yes. I love motorcycling, camping, fishing, and barbecuing. What I love the best is drinking on the street after work, if that counts as an outdoor activity.  

What next for Manastash?  Where do you see outdoor clothing going in the next ten years?

I need to drink a lot to talk about it. Seriously, it will get more and more difficult to sell heavy outerwear in the next decade because of global warming and the weather being abnormal.

All we wish is that we still have the great outdoors ten years from now. As long as there are still the places to wear this stuff, we will keep making the fun garments. 

Sounds good. On an unrelated subject, what’s your favourite film? And what do you get up to when you’re not designing clothes? 

My favourite movie is the original Mad Max. I love the sound of the air-cooled engines, and I love both the good guys and the bad guys. That movie was really influential for kids of my age. 

If I quit designing I would to be a barman. My dream is to own a bar that plays good music and serves good drinks.    

I think that’s all I’ve got for now, thanks a lot for doing this. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you!

See the Manastash stuff here