Freshness Feature: essense

By - December 9th, 2006

Photos by Dan H.
Written and Produced by Poe

Freshness Feature: essense

When American Commodore Matthew Perry and his fleet of “Black Ships” or Kurofune (??) arrived near Tokyo in the summer of 1853. The commotion reverberated throughout Japan and brought about changes in relationship between the West and this island nation – one outcome was the establishment of Port of Yokohama (???). Since then, the city will be forever linked to as an place of interchange between cultures. Today, Yokohama’s contribution is no different than its role 150 years ago. So, it isn’t surprising a major facilitator of those ideals, a shop by the name of essense, is in this oceanside city.

essense
2-16-11 Minamisaiwai, Niko Building 3F | Freshness Feature: essenseMap (Japanese Only)
Nishi-ku, Yokohama
Kanagawa, Japan
TEL #: +81-45-317-6912
www.rakuten.co.jp/essense

> Freshness Gallery: essense

More feature after the jump

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Exterior [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Exterior [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Because of its close proximity, less than 30 minutes by train, the City of Yokohama (???) is often mistaken as a suburb of Tokyo. It is actually the second most populated city in Japan, with numerous shopping arcades or sh?tengai (???). It is within a shopping arcade by the Yokohama Train Station that you will find essense. Situated on the third floor of an ordinary commercial building, you can locate the building easily with the presence of a small lineup outside, just right before the store opens. Though not large when compare to storefronts in the U.S., essense does boast a floor-to-ceiling window that over looked central part of the arcade. Limited edition artworks adorned the wall. While the largest wall attributed to sneakers only. The racks dotted the floor are packed with clothing, with some of the hard to come by items wrapped in plastic to ensure its pristine state. Curiously, another renown street-wear shop, Cliff Edge, is next door.

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Interior [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Interior [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Interior [Freshness Gallery: essense]

To retrace the start of essense we have to look back a few years. At the time, domestic brands permeate the Japanese street-wear market. But, many Japanese noticed some new developments within the street-wear market in the United States. Interesting brand concepts, talented artisans, influential stores begin to flourish on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. One major obstacle, however, was the lack of a retail point for those brands/artists in the U.S. and consumers in Japan. Sensed a need, a few Yokohama locals and friends got together and the outcome was essense.

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Interior [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Interior [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Interior [Freshness Gallery: essense]

As told by essense‘s executive director, Hiroshi Takahashi, to Freshness during our visit earlier this year. The beginning of it, like any start up business, was quite arduous. The lack of any wholesalers between the 2 markets meant exhaustive trans-Pacific trips, with over-stuffed luggage filled with merchandises. Their limited funding at the time meant a restriction in number of trips per year. Despite some of these initial setbacks, the store gained a following among consumers in the Tokyo-Yokohama region quite quickly. It was one of handful places for them to purchase goods from brands and artists they read much about in magazines.

Freshness Feature: essense
METHamphibian’s Well Wishes [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
METHamphibian x essense – AMC House of Pain [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
METHamphibian x essense – AMC House of Pain [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
METHamphibian x essense – Betty Blue [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
METHamphibian x essense – Betty Blue [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Meanwhile, those exhaustive trans-Pacific created a lasting friendship between Mr. Takahashi, the crew of essense and those they visit in the U.S. Mr. Takahashi took out samples from non-other-than our friend, METHamphibian. For the past several years, METHamphibian created 4 series of collaborative project with essense. These very limited works were all sold, except the few samples that essense‘s crew displayed proudly in the store. Another artist is Singapore’s SBTG, whose Royalfam collection can be found exclusively in essense. New York-based jeweler Gabriel Urist also designated essense as the first retail spot in Japan for his custom blings.

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Gabriel Urist Jewelry [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Gabriel Urist Jewelry [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Gabriel Urist Jewelry [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Though well known around the Tokyo-Yokohama region, what really propelled essense‘s popularity among shoppers outside of Tokyo-Yokohama region was when it launch its web store in Rakuten. Designed much like eBay, Rakuten is a online mall without wall within Japan. You purchase almost anything from it, like you would at eBay. Hence, it is one of the largest, most popular website in the world. What was missing in Rakuten, however, was a store focused on street wear until essense came. As always, essense took the initiative in providing smoother access to goods for shoppers. Unbeknown to many, essense does take international orders for those outside of Japan. Simply follow the instruction at this link.

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Web Store [Freshness Gallery: essense]

Freshness Feature: essense
essense – Web Store [Freshness Gallery: essense]

This year might just be essense‘s biggest year yet. The store added about half a dozen new brands to its ever growing brand portfolio. Its name is known world-wide in the street-wear industry. Who knows what 2007 will bring for it? Our sincere appreciation and thanks to Mr. Takahashi and the crew of essense.

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