‘It’s better not to go viral’: Inside the business of cult designer Mihara Yasuhiro

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Mihara’s clothing, a mishmash of counter-cultural references that typically comprise beat-up cargo pants, MA1 bombers, faded flannels and grungy cardigans, define his fashion shows, but it’s the footwear that makes up 70 per cent of sales and propels the business. In 2019, he released his now-iconic Peterson OG sole court shoe, which resembles a Jack Purcell Converse sneaker with a clay-like sole that looks as though it has been melted in a microwave.

The brand has six stores in Japan, 80 domestic wholesale accounts and a further 130 internationally. Over the past five years, sales have increased more than fivefold. The designer told Vogue Business that annual sales currently stand at “billions of yen”, representing eight figures in US dollar terms. On the Maison Mihara Yasuhiro website, every size in every colour of the Peterson OG is currently sold out, with a note saying that prices are set to “be revised” on 22 June.

Building a cult following

Yasuhiro Mihara was born in 1972 in Nagasaki. Growing up in Fukuoka, he was raised by his mother, a painter, and his father, a vaccine researcher for chickens: “We had about 30 chickens at home. I grew up surrounded by them,” he says. Influenced by his older brother who took him surfing and to disco clubs, Mihara quickly developed the taste that would come to define his signature design aesthetic. “Hip-hop was just starting to emerge and the fashion was really cool at the time, so I tried to copy it,” he says. Mihara wore military-style cargo pants and MA1 bomber jackets, “which were really popular among surfers”, paired against baggy chinos and white sneakers, so that his silhouette appeared “snowman-like”.

After venturing deep into the local alternative scene, embracing acid house and rave culture, he became a drummer in a niche noisecore band in Fukuoka. (At his AW20 Paris show he ‘assaulted’ guests’ eardrums with a music rehearsal soundtrack: “No sentient being should have to listen to that,” wrote Tina Isaac-Goizé in her review of the collection for Vogue Runway.)

At 18, Mihara moved to Tokyo to study textiles at Tama Art University. He was inspired by radical designers John Moore (shoes) and Christopher Nemeth (fashion), who were members of the London-based design collective that resided in the avant-garde studio House of Beauty and Culture. Mihara started making shoes out of scrap materials and discarded leather, selling them under the name Archidoom before rebranding to his own name in 1997. “At that time, the popular brands were Undercover, Bape and Comme des Garçons. The only people in Japan who were using their own names were Issey [Miyake] and Yohji [Yamamoto],” he says. “I didn’t want to make a brand name, but I was worried that Yasuhiro Mihara was a little difficult to say.”

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