superchat paris: jumpei seki

© 1ldk paris - jumpei seki shows off his understated style

now a steadily expanding lifestyle store chain, 1ldk took tokyo by storm when it first opened up shop in naka meguro nearly six years ago. despite the market's fiercely competitive dynamics, it has managed to carve a niche position with a very considered concept that pairs timeless, well-designed lifestyle products with a unique retail context. after opening a string of stores in the homeland, 1ldk has ventured abroad for the very first time, opening an outpost in the city of light. we dropped by the new store during men's fashion week's previous edition, to meet with general manager jumpei seki and have a chat about his company and its particular retail vision. shop manager shotaro aoyama, a longtime resident of paris and well-connected in the fashion and retail scenes, kindly joined in to translate and fill us in on a slew of noteworthy facts about the company.

can you elaborate on how 1ldk came about? well, first there was company, it's the parent company of the 1ldk stores, and has been operating for quite some time in the japanese fashion industry, manufacturing garments and accessories. the company's owner, mr fukuzawa, wanted to set up a retail division, and that became 1ldk. a complete retail concept was drafted, outlining the interior design, the goods that would be carried, basically everything. but the main idea was to create an appealing context for a collection of lifestyle goods. the name 1ldk is actually an commonly used abbreviation in japanese real estate, meaning ‘one living room, one dining room, one kitchen’, and is a standard configuration of most apartments in japan. our store concept is a playful take on that, and the first 1ldk store in naka meguro actually opened in such an apartment.

with the merchandise you offer you propose a new kind of standard to your clients. what exactly do you mean by that? that's right. you see, when i turned 30 i began to realize that the fashion industry is simply too much about cycles and trends, and i just wanted to reverse it all by going back to a basic style that would nevertheless still be fashionable, but less prone to the volatility of fashion. in other words, we aim to create a different view on fashion with products that have an increased longevity. this means that we create our fashion items as staple designs, and we'll tweak them whenever we sense there’s a need or demand to do so.

what is the profile of the 1ldk customer? we’re already well-known as a lifestyle brand in japan, and our customers are generally regular people from all walks of life and from all age groups. you should know that we don’t target a fashion-conscious demographic. interestingly, our japanese stores cater to a lot of foreign shoppers as well. on another but related note, i frequently travel to paris for fashion week, but i’ve never encountered the kind of merchandise that we offer in japan over here. so, i was thinking that it might be a good opportunity to open a store in paris. opposite to a varied merchandise at home, we carry only men's collections here in paris. we'll feature five of six select brands from japan, supplemented by just a few foreign brands.

are there any trends you see happening in japan at this moment that are relevant to you and 1ldk? i look beyond volatile trends and focus more on a general vibe of a generation of people. with the info distilled from that we update our carefully considered design standard.

why did you choose to open up shop in paris and not elsewhere in europe, say, in london or berlin? as said, i’ve been to paris many times before, so i’ve gotten to know the city quite well. i’ve been to other places in europe, such as london, stockholm and copenhagen, but only once. i’m far less familiar with those cities. paris i know best, and opening a shop here felt just natural and the process leading up to it has been very organic. there wasn’t a business plan behind it. the same actually counts for our overall retail operations, and how all of our stores in japan came about. the store locations are often referrals by our friends, as is the case for our shop here on rue de la sourdière. we were tipped off by a friend who initially wanted to open a flower shop here.

but there’s already such a business further down the road, and local regulations prohibited him to go ahead with the plan. the place just felt right, and i simply proposed my plan to my boss. on top of that, i really liked the architecture, which is simple and clean, and it's very compatible with the 1ldk aesthetic. the interior design was done by another friend. we showed him a bunch of pictures of the existing stores in japan to let him get acquainted with retail identity. and he simply took it from there. except for one or two things that we brought from japan, everything has been made here in france, or has been sourced from here. but i've had a personal say in the design. for example, this table top that we found, the flip-side is now on top because the rougher surface looks much cooler.

what are 1ldk’s plans for the future, is there anything you can already share with us? we’re very, very happy to have opened this shop in paris, but we’re already thinking of opening a second store here, most probably on rive gauche