Receive 10% off your first purchase when you sign up for our newsletter

Building Block

Building Block

bag
Ayako Shimada

10.18.19
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?
ファッションのキャリアはどうのようにスタートしましたか?

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?
現在の生活で、最も昔の自分から想像できなかったことは?

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.

今就いている仕事がおそらく一番若い時の自分が予想していなかったと思います。最初の質問でも答えていたように私の夢はファッションデザイナーになることで、それ以外の仕事をするとは、さらには作り手ではなく小売と卸の仕事をするなんて考えても見ませんでした!ただ今の仕事に関しては沢山のデザイナーに出会い、この世界には色んなタイプのデザイナーがいてクリエイションがあります。デザイナーたちと会うとエナジーをもらえ、この言葉一字一句、想いをお客様に伝えたいと思います。とても自分があがる瞬間です。私の仕事はMDとしてデザイナーをサポートし、ガイドし、分析することでクリエイションの方法に少しのガイダンスを提供することでさらにクオリティの高いパフォーマンスを引き出すことです。自分が作る側にいた時間があったからこそデザイナーを尊敬し、信じる力が強い気がしています。またお店の方のバイイングもアシストしているのですが本当にただただ単純に世界の美しいものをさらに見たい、知りたいし、伝えたいと思います。

What is something you've learned to make time for?
何に時間を使うために時間を作りますか?

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?
今の年齢で気に入っていることは?

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)!

この年齢になって自分が完璧に完璧ではないことを受け入れられるようになりました。若い頃よりも自分の中にスペースができたように感じます。みんなきっと何かを手に入れたくて焦ることもあると思うのですが、今はもっとリラックスして頭の中にあった雲がすっきり晴れていくような感覚です。たださらに自分のやりたいことをできる可能性も感じています。経験を積んできた20代のような最高な気分です。

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

Shop The Style
970 N Broadway, Unit 104
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(323) 803-3420
Wed–Sat 12–6pm, Sun 12–5pm
Closed Mon and Tues