The latest FP Meets has arrived. For this latest edition, we headed to Tokyo, Japan (virtually unfortunately) to catch up with designer, photographer and all round collector Nicolas Chalmeau, otherwise known as Yuthanan.
Born in Paris, Nicolas takes us on his journey to landing in Japan and to how he got to where he is now. A collector of homeware nick nacks to the rarest sneakers of yesteryears Nicolas’ Instagram is curated perfection often taking you on a journey to discover new things.
For his FP Meets, he takes us through some of his most “hard to find” pieces.
Footpatrol: Yes Nicolas, great to finally get you on board for a Footpatrol Meets feature. Been someone I’ve wanted to get on board for a while now.
Let’s kick things off with the most important question, how have you been?
Nicolas: First thanks for having me, Footpatrol has always been a mandatory stop when visiting London. Regarding life, it has been good, good news is always good and bad news always has its solution.
FP: For our audience who may not have discovered your channel yet, could you give us a bit of background into you, what you do, and your journey of getting there?
Nicolas: Quite hard to synthesize my journey from being younger born and raised in Paris to still young myself now based in Tokyo. My life adventure started 6 years ago when I left Paris, where my interest in clothing started when I was 13 or 14 years old.
Japan wasn’t a place that I was imagining myself shortly. I discovered Japan the same way as everyone, as a tourist, first came in 2015 and instantly liked it, for its culture, cleanliness, and common sense. Things that I didn’t know before coming, since Japan wasn’t a culture that I was familiar with, had never been a fan of anime or even the food.
Back in France I decided to resign from fashion school and found a full-time job in a sneakers shop in Bastille, I worked there 2 years full time and full extra to save enough money to move to Japan. 2017 was the year, before leaving I made sure to buy some new clothes to be sharp for my new life, spent almost my whole budget in a few days, and just 1000€ was left in my bank account. Enough to pay one month’s rent in Tokyo, I had just a month to find a job and a visa, without any contacts or friends here. But, miraculously I‘ve made it, and then you know the story, you just need to go back to my 2017 posts to follow my story until now.
FP: We see on your social channels a wide variety of footwear options. From custom New Balance tabi to the latest from ASICS through to vintage Nike Considered or Rifts but in your words what is it that a sneaker has to do for it to get your attention?
Nicolas: My passion for shoes started from a previous job in Paris, as I said I worked in a store where the owner was a former Nike sales agent back in the ‘80s, probably one of the first ones in France. He transmitted his passion for retro running and all sorts of shoes in general, he was a living encyclopedia about shoes.
I honestly don’t have a favorite brand, what matters to me is good designs and aesthetics, whatever the era and the brand. But I do have a preference for past silhouettes, especially runners.
The color palette also has its huge importance to me, back in the day colorways were more joyful and colorful, and the OG Rift colorways are still unbeaten until this day.
FP: What is that one item of footwear or clothing that you just can’t put down at the moment?
Nicolas: Quite unexpected but a very honest answer, my Made in France 20€ Jelly Sandals, these are the best shoes for summer in Japan, no big logo, no high technology, just rubber.
FP: So, back to Footpatrol Meets and the reason we’re catching up… We asked you to select a few of your favorites within your collection. Could you delve deeper and explain to our audience why these made the final selection?
Nicolas: I am a collector, collecting plenty of things, if you have that mindset you want to find the rarest item always, the most difficult to acquire, it’s not about the price, it’s about the rarity. So here are some of my most “hard to find” pairs, most of them have been purchased in Japan, in the past 6 years. Lucky myself, Japan has been making incredible shoes for decades, and a lot of them have never been released overseas.
FP: Is there a stand-out brand at the moment that’s grabbing your attention?
Nicolas: Hmmm, I would say, Mizuno, it’s not a new brand, but quite new in the European market, after they started their “Sportstyle” line, some of their designs impressed me like the Wave Prophecy. Besides that, I like Mizuno retro runners like the Wave Rider 10.
But honestly, I wear every brand, major or not, again it’s about the design, not the brand.
FP: And with your own brand ‘Sillage’, how do you try to stick out from the crowd? Do trends come into your thinking from season to season or do you stick to a blueprint and evolve within that?
Nicolas: Sillage is based on a very simple top and pants blue-print, all based on my measurements actually, one of the reasons why I made Sillage back in 2018 is that when moving to Japan I didn’t have any clothes which fit me properly, sizes are quite different from European / US sizes here for clothes.
Regarding the seasons, it’s depending on my own experiences, travels, encounters and other possible ways to be inspired. I do have new ideas popping in my head from time to time, but it’s never instantly after finding inspiration, it takes days or weeks to emerge in my head.
I realize quite late that the way I was working, completely remote for the Fashion Week calendar, creating, shooting, and promoting just by myself was “Alien” in the industry, I prove to many people that you can make a brand on your starting with 0. We have our own pace, and not rushing anything is our motto, also, we are just 2 people, since the beginning. Sillage is probably the smallest clothing brand that still has 2 operating persons for 5 years.
FP: For any of our audience wanting to start their label, can you give any words of advice or lessons learned from sillage ?
Nicolas: it’s far from being impossible, you just need a simple idea, a vague image of the first design and brand identity. Find someone to help to make your prototype, and start from there. We have the chance to have free tools to share our projects, and everyone can make an online shop, nothing difficult.
FP: With Japan being a hub back in the day for exclusive colorways from the likes of Nike and their co.jp initiative, we always hear of unique, hidden away shops that stock these rare vintage pieces… A very much if you know you know the type of situation. Do you have a favorite hidden gem in Japan to hunt out these past goods?
Nicolas: Yes, avoid going to famous stores, Tokyo and Japan have their best gems in the countryside, and local second hands shops would be the best place to find rare goods at unbeatable prices.
FP: And with that said, what’s been your favorite pickup from there?
Nicolas: I found most of my Nike Considered Collection in those second-hand shops, in near deadstock condition for most of them.
FP: My colleagues told me not to as I bore them enough talking about them but I must ask… the Land Rover Defender, I’m obsessed as we’ve discussed on Instagram before. How’s the ownership been and why the Defender?
Nicolas: In Japan Defenders are quite rare and not many were sold back in days. I had to import mine from London actually, funny coincidence! Not really different from owning a Defender in any other country, Japan just has fewer garages that can repair such cars when needed, but it was not a problem since I live in Tokyo. What a great car, your best friend, a family member, I like driving in the mountain and the seaside with my car, windows open, every day is a safari. I think that everyone on earth should experience riding in a Defender. A second is on the way, a short pickup 90. Can’t wait to share it with you!
FP: I think that brings us to an end… Appreciate you spending the time to talk to us and take us through your life, your collection, and your brand Sillage. We normally open up this last question for you to let us know what’s upcoming for you or share any words of wisdom so take it away!
Thank you for having me, it’s always a pleasure to share my story and opinion on things. Sillage has a lot coming, the 5th Anniversary with plenty of new items. And I promise to keep feeding my Instagram with unique content, a lot of travels planned in the upcoming months.