Meet Verdy, the brains behind Japanese label Girls Don’t Cry
With roots as a graphic designer he's now launched not one but two labels: Girls Don’t Cry and Wasted Youth.
Photography Flo Kohl
For the launch of i-D Asia we’re diving into the archives of i-D Japan, one of our first outposts in the region. Here, we throwback to the 2019 conversation with graphic designer and label owner Verdy.
Verdy is a graphic designer, and a member of the collective VK DESIGN WORKS. He’s designed a wide range of artworks for both Japanese and foreign clients, with a portfolio that spans brands and retailers. He’s also the graphic brains behind labels Girls Don’t Cry and Wasted Youth, which have been shaking up the Japanese streetwear scene for a few years now.
“I created Girls Don’t Cry t-shirts as a present for my wife when we went to LA for the first pop-up of Wasted Youth in 2017. I printed more than one because it was cheaper, and I gave the other t-shirts to friends in LA. People asked me, ‘which brand’s T-shirt is this?’ And that’s the beginning of the project.”
Girls Don’t Cry is now explosively popular. He randomly opens pop-up shops in and out of Japan, which sometimes creates lines as long as 2000 people. He compares the pop-ups to band tours. “Bands play the most famous music at each tour. Moreover, when they don’t play it, the audience may get the feeling that they’ve been duped,” he laughed. “I think a graphic is a ‘representative music’ for each project, and I sell the goods at the ‘live concert.’” It’s for this reason that Verdy only sells his work at physical stores and not online shops. Any why he’s distinguished from other brands that sell shirts with different designs each season.
His reference to bands is no surprise considering his roots as a graphic designer are planted in an interest in punk and hard-core bands. Verdy was born in Osaka in 1987. As a child he liked soccer and drawing, and was attracted by the CD jackets of bands when he was in high school. He eventually found graphic design and kept drawing illustrations related to bands. “I was interested in both bands and Ura Harajuku (Harajuku Backstreet) culture.”
After he began at a school for graphic designers in Osaka, he started a band and created work as a designer of monthly flyers for live events. He was particularly influenced by 80s graphics like Black Flag, Gang Green and Minor Threat, and Raymond Pettibon. “I've longed for key people of Ura Harajuku culture, including NIGO®︎ and Skate Thing, and been influenced by Hongolian, Jim Phillips and skateboard art as well,” he continues.
After moving to Tokyo for fashion work in 2011, he got his first collaboration with Hikaru Iwanaga from Bounty Hunter. He expanded his connections in fashion and worked for brands but, “It was barely possible to make a living for about six years,” he says. It was only about two years ago that a turning point came. “I found it more fun to create graphics that I thought were fun, and not what was influenced by bands.” He came up with a new project by believing he could make t-shirts with only ¥10,000 (less than $100USD) and give them to friends. From this he grew and then started Wasted Youth and Girls Don’t Cry, which now works in collaborations with brands like Human Mande, Undercover, Union, Carrots, and even Nike SB.
“I hit upon the phrase ‘Wasted Youth’ when I struggled to find my own originality, and which means that the time and youth you spend on the culture and life itself is not wasted. ‘Girls Don’t Cry’ was a phrase for my wife who accounts for an important part of my life. Not only the good, but also the bad things that happen in our everyday life. The name came to mind when I thought of my wife.” He continues with a little shyness, “I express the ‘blank space’ in all of our own daily stories through my artwork, and I think that attracts many people.” The meaning of his words change in many ways depending on the situations of those who appreciate the artworks. “That’s why I don’t create ones without stories or any meaning. I hope to support and encourage people through the ‘blank space’ in my works.”
Verdy’s mind was changed dramatically by the impact of his first visit to LA. He met friends who owned their brands there, and found that they never paid attention to the little things that he struggled for at that time — instead they just worked on what they really liked. “A few years ago, young people in LA knew that Pharrell Williams worked with Nigo, and they thought the collaboration of an American rapper and a Japanese creator was cool. It gave me confidence that I will encounter exciting jobs and people if I continue to create what I think is great and bring my works to foreign countries regularly.” Now LA is one of the most important territories for Verdy.
He’s travelled around the world and got lots of opportunities all by himself. He’s encountered many people, made new discoveries, and connected people with his work. For example, his collaboration with Undercover which Verdy had desired for a long time, might not have been realised if it had not been for a night at a bar. “Instagram enabled me to meet many brands and people, and I made a lot of friends in LA through it. Even though I don't come across only good things, no matter how tired I am, there's definitely a ‘miracle time’ that I’m really glad that I go out and play,” he says with a smile.
Translation Akiko Nakazumi
This article was originally published on i-D Japan and has been edited and condensed for clarity.