Building Block

Building Block

Ayako Shimada

Photography by Tsukasa Kudo

Tokyo-based Ayako Shimada has cultivated a career around an appreciation for fashion. Along with being a long-time acquaintance, Ayako is the sales lead for Building Block's Japanese sales team as well as an assistant buyer for the beautifully curated store N id a Deux and N id in Shibuya. Her understanding of the fashion world comes from experiences that have touched upon creation to merchandising to buying to distribution, which altogether lends Ayako a uniquely varied viewpoint on the business of fashion. Rather than being jaded by the realities of a capital-intensive industry, she tends towards affirming personal style as a way of life.

For an independent brand like us, she is the perfect ambassador—one who is capable of capturing the spirit behind why we create product and respectively communicate this to the entire Japanese region. Read on about how Ayako got her career started and what it means to impart thoughtfulness for a living.

How did your career in the fashion industry begin?

As a child, my dream was to become a fashion designer. My home town Tateyama, in the Toyama perfecture, is in the countryside of Japan. There was nothing much, so it all started with one fashion manga that gave me so much inspiration! I graduated from an art university in Tokyo and after that I studied fashion in Antwerp, Belgium. I dropped out of that school and did an internship for a men's brand called Jan Jan Van Essche for a short time. I was able to spend a lot of time together at their place and I learned a lot from their teamwork, their way of life, and their aesthetics. Fashion is a person's life, time, attitude, philosophy. It's about eating delicious things together, sharing beautiful things with everyone. Being there was like being a part of a family, something that went beyond just a team.

When I returned to Tokyo (without work or a place to stay), I received an email from Jan Jan and he introduced me to my current boss who had a showroom representing many interesting and independent brands. Honestly, right when I was thinking I couldn't continue in the fashion world, this encounter started my second career in fashion. At that time, the showroom's invitation cover was an image from Building Block—it was a very beautiful image that pushed me to make the final decision to work there!

小さい頃からデザイナーになるのが夢でした。何にもない田舎だったので単純ですがファッションを題材にした漫画にハマってそこが大きなきっかけになったと思います。東京の美大を出て、その後ベルギーのアントワープでファッションの勉強をしました。アントワープの学校は中退し、アントワープをベースにしているjan jan van esscheというメンズブラドで短い間でしたがインターンをしてそこでの経験やつながりが今の自分に影響しています。

彼らの所で短い間でも時間を共にできたことはかなり大きく、そこでのチームワーク、彼らの生き方、彼らの美意識からは沢山学ぶことがありました。ファッションとはその人の生活であり、時間であり、姿勢であり、哲学であるということ、美味しいものをみんなで食べること、美しいものはみんなで共有すること。そこはチームを超えた家族のような時間でした。その後なんのあてもなく東京に戻って(家も仕事もなく)ある日jan janから1通のメールで紹介されたのが今の会社のボスでした。正直な所ファッションはもう続けられないかなと思っていたところで、この出会いが私の2度目のファッションのキャリアのスタートになりました。ちょうどその時DUNEのshowroom のDMの表紙がbuilding block でそのかっこよさで最後この会社で働こうというきっかけにもなりました。

What about your life now, would be most unexpected to your younger self?

My job is the most unexpected thing for my younger self I think! As I said before, my dream was always to be a fashion designer and I had no idea about the other side of fashion, about the retail and distribution business. However, I’m very happy to be able to be in contact with so many designers—to work together and express to customers about their creative vision by using my knowledge of sales + trend analysis. There are various types of creators in this world. When I meet them, I feel energized, excited, and eager to express their creations to customers in Japan. My main job as a merchandiser is to support designers by analyzing sales in order to provide guidance for a more methodized way of creating. I respect and believe in creativity very much and see both sides of the equation, so if I am able to reinforce this relationship as much as I can, I am happy. Also as an assistant buyer for N id, I am able to share so much beauty that I discover in the world.


What is something you've learned to make time for?

Drawing is my form of self-care and meditation. The moment I draw a line, I can immerse myself in time without any doubt or anxiety. My job usually involves a lot of numerical values, data, and processing words, so moments without words are my favorite and very important to me.

ドローイングは私にとってのセルフケアであり、メディテーションです。線を描いている瞬間はなんの疑いも焦りもなくただただその時間に没頭できます。私の仕事は普段数値やデータ、言葉を沢山使うのでこの ‘ この文字や言葉を使わない ‘という時間がとても大事な時間です。

What's your favorite thing about being your age right now?

I've accepted that I’m perfectly imperfect. I feel like I have more space than when I was younger. We are all sometimes in a hurry to be something by a set time, but at my age I am now feeling more relaxed—like the clouds in my head have cleared up. But I also know that there are more possibilities to do anything I want more than ever. It feels great being my age, like being in my twenties with experience (the best situation)!


Ayako owns a Short Basket in Vegetable Tanned leather. Discover more about Ayako on her personal Instagram.

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