Meet the autodidactic brothers behind Taiwanese brand, NAMESAKE
After the success of NE.SENSE, the Hsieh brothers are finally launching their new project.
Since 2013, Taiwan’s NE. SENSE have built up a reputation for being purveyors of innovative and sophisticated fashion, stocking the likes of Martine Rose, GMBH and Wales Bonner (as well as their in-house label, Necessity Sense) in their central Taipei concept store. The three brothers responsible for it – Richard, Michael and Steve Hsieh – have just launched a new and exciting brand, NAMESAKE or 以父之名, which translates to “In the Name of the Father”.
The venture is their way of opening a dialogue between generations. The brothers grew up in true Third-Culture Kids fashion, hopping between Taiwan, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Seattle. Based on their experiences living between these different cities, the trio aim to channel their love of basketball, fashion and their culture into a format that can be shared and loved.
When it comes to the design and craftsmanship of NAMESAKE, the brothers’ strong will was heavily influenced by their father, who raised them on visits to fashion stores, provided them with art and fashion books, and basically passed down a life-long passion that they embrace fully.
The Hsieh brothers sat down with i-D to discuss their journey, the importance of upcycling and their new collection, FAMILY MATTERS.
There’s a strong sense of family value in the brand. Was that always important?
FAMILY MATTERS is a core element of the brand and of us three brothers as human beings. We came from a traditional yet modern family. Since we were born, we have been taught family comes first. Ever since we have memory, we have always been together. NAMESAKE is a new merge of what we loved as teenagers, basketball, and our father’s daily work in agriculture and fishery. NAMESAKE, in another way, is a medium we used to create more memories between our family.
Working as brothers, what is the professional relationship like?
Neverending debates. Since we three came from the same factory aka my parents we have similar values, but we three have very different personalities so debating at work is inevitable. If there is something we have different opinions on, we will continue debating until we find a middleground and come to agreements. We all work together, play together, and still go back under the same roof and dinner table every day. The brand is embedded in us. It’s a 24/7 ongoing conversation for us.
In terms of stories, we really enjoy our off-duty time and we spend a long time exploring the buzzy nightlife. So, if one of us gets hammered the day before, we always cover each other the next day at work and won’t be mad at each other – a little privilege of working with brothers!
Why is craftsmanship so important to NAMESAKE?
Craftsmanship is super important to us because of our father. Our father inspired us to devote our life to fashion and art. He is super detail-oriented and cares about things that normal people wouldn’t. He has stimulated us to set our own standard of craftsmanship. We want our craftsmanship to be deep with stories and to represent our life journey. We desire to bring out the agriculture and industrial feel that we grew up in through hand-crafted executions.
We have explored traditional techniques widely in areas of dyeing, weaving, and embroidery. For dyeing, we used mud dye, which is an old and natural dyeing process that is done in rivers with strong manpower, but creates less water pollution then traditional dye. For suiting, we worked with a 100-year-old Japanese weaving factory that uses special machines by Schönherr Stäubl. This machine is 1/10 of the speed of today’s weaving machines, but its attention to detail is equivalent to hand-weaving. For knitwear, recycled Japanese postman bags are given new life. They are deconstructed and recreated as paper yarn taping used on all hems. For our seasonal fabrication, we specialised in something that turns unwanted t-shirts into thick threads, and re-weaves it together to form a new textured fabrication. These are just a few examples of our way to set our own standard of craftsmanship. This is our way of translating our dad’s belief into a new form.
What was it like growing up as Third Culture Kids?
Growing up, we moved from Kaohsiung to Tokyo, then to Seattle and Los Angeles. When we encounter a new city, it’s always a new process of understanding, adapting, and accepting. The process is tough, but we find joy in it. For us, I think we often deal with it as an observer first, to absorb the new culture shock, then act consciously to widen our perspectives. I think this is our responsibility as a member of the third culture generation. We, as Asians in history, often have the stigma of hiding in the shadows when it comes to racial rights on the global scale. With this new era, I don’t think we’re fighting for our rights, but letting our voices have weight in different societies. In order to achieve this, the only road is to keep on grinding and to show people that we can’t be underestimated when it comes to talent, creativity and strength.
Being a Third Culture Kid collective, what do you feel are the social responsibilities of your generation?
We can really connect with this. Being a member of this community, I think it’s our responsibility to keep our past generation’s traditions, but to take those rules into a new destiny. We were taught differently from our parents, but their mindsets and experiences are reminders for us, while we conduct our dreams. We were taught to be free-minded and team-oriented. They were taught with strong restrictions on personal success. I think the biggest social responsibilities for us is to create a sustainable and healthy environment that promotes a strong sense of community. We really believe that the only way to make changes in future is “strength in numbers”.
From our personal experiences, we always thought we were outsiders – from how we grew up to the current fashion industry we are in. Taipei is not known as a fashion capital and we three brothers did not go to design schools, but we always had this dream of being creators. We constantly aim to improve ourselves and uplift the culture we believe in. You don’t necessarily need to study something to be what you want. When you have passion, perseverance and the correct mindset, you can work towards the things you desire.
Is it difficult to get recognised by the luxury culture based market?
I think it’s difficult to get recognised by the luxury culture based market because I think luxury culture includes a strong history and top craftsmanship. For us, as a new brand, we can’t catch up with the history, but we will uphold the responsibility for quality. Additionally, we aim to use our unique view to slowly create our own history: we believe that once you have something to say, no matter the result, you will continue striving to speak it out loud. Result is not as important as the process, if you have confidence in what you believe in.
Why upcycle and not recycle?
For us, upcycling is a way of living. It is embedded in us from concept right through to fabrication and execution. The collection’s concepts are upcycled from our family memories and our last generation’s values. For fabrication, we focus more on ways to alternate what’s already available or considered waste, and introduce it in a crafty innovative way with a less processed procedure. We think the main difference between upcycling and recycling is that recycling requires the idea of destruction to extract wanted components, which in a way, is not yet to be fully environmental-friendly. As a brand, we continue preaching the idea of “re-use, re-purpose, re-start.” For us, this is our brand’s ethos, but not something we will use as a marketing scheme, since we believe that this is our responsibility as a brand and creator to set a new standard for the next generation.
How has the pandemic changed your work process?
Luckily, Taiwan has been very good at restricting the impact of the pandemic, so our day to day life changes are less severe than other cities and countries. However, fashion was basically on pause for everyone. This meant we had a lot more time for discussions and strategising towards SS21.We spent a long time developing a unique online platform with our childhood friend, Jen (founder of View Source) exclusively for buyers and press. Since craftsmanship is so crucial for our brand, we really wanted to translate that into a special online experience. Through special coding, displaying of content and hidden functions, we wanted buyers to feel certain warmth that is often lost in digital experiences. The feedback of the platform has been amazing.
What was the most impactful fashion item that made an impression on you when you guys were little?
Growing up as basketball kids, we were heavily influenced by Adidas Kobe 2. That was our first basketball shoe ever, released in 2001. It was the heaviest and most uncomfortable pair we've put on, but until today, we still think that pair is the most futuristic basketball shoes ever.
In terms of fashion context, there is a special experience that we've always remembered. Back in 2012, when we were in high school and were still in love with Japanese streetwear, our dad took us to Dover Street Market Ginza the day it opened. The whole store interior changed our perspectives toward fashion and design. It altered our idea towards clothing's limits. Additionally, that day, our dad introduced us to a brand called Gosha Rubchinskiy. He told us that “you need to know the brand now. It will be big very soon”. We all know what happened a few years later. At that moment, us brothers all understood that our dad had the vision and we still have a lot to learn from him. Very luckily, we will be working with DSM from SS21. This is a dream come true for us. We are actually still in major shock.
Photography Alien Wang
Stylist Michael F. Hsieh
Hair Eason Chen
Make-Up Nash Chen
Photography Assistant Reder Wang and Emily Hsueh
Hair Assistant Zan