It’s rare to see streetwear brands born with the intent of encouraging the notion of community from the start. There’s the idea of thinking your brand will foster relationships with like-minded people, then there’s vowels—the new Japanese-founded label that has emerged with a fresh take on everyday essentials and an initial passion for sharing its knowledge with those around them.

All clothing VOWELS (throughout) / shoes, accessories stylist’s own

From the mind of Creative Director Yuki Yagi, whose work ranges from holding design roles for multiple streetwear and menswear labels, vowels makes its debut in the U.S. this month. Think about the items in your wardrobe that you love, now imagine them in higher-quality fabrics such as premium gauge Japanese cotton and selvedge denim crafted for longevity by a design team in Tokyo. Beginning with a capsule range of genderless staples that elevate the concept of wardrobe essentials, vowels is here to take on the fundamentals of dressing out of necessity and function and turn it into something more.

But where does community come into play? It’s a 360 approach for Yagi as the brand makes its debut this season, with plans for AW24 and SS25 collections on the horizon and an ongoing experiential part of the company. With a newly christened location on 76 Bowery in lower Manhattan, the Vowels Showroom & Research Library serves more than offered goods for sale—but rather as a third place for people around downtown New York where anyone from skaters to Japanese art-loving consumers can find solace together. For the brand’s first location, which will, of course, offer the inaugural capsule for purchase and utilize the space for select community programming for the seasons ahead, the real pièce de résistance to the vowels experience is the impressive curated and archival collection of around 2,000 books, magazines, and various printed matter where guests (by appointment only) can browse through the Research Library and even scan a few items for their documentation, keeping the magic of tactile objects in the minds of a new generation of creatives. 

With a newly debuted inaugural campaign by renowned Japanese photographer Takashi Homma, VMAN caught up with Yuki Yagi to discuss how the concept of vowels came to be.

VMAN: How do you think this inaugural collection bridges the cultures of Japan and the U.S./New York?

Yuki Yagi: We’ve built a collection of almost 2,000 books on art, culture, fashion, and architecture among other categories. They’re mostly written in Japanese, but the topics they’re about are all globally renowned. I grew up being deeply connected to books, and I really believe they are the unlock to a world that you can’t find anymore in the digital age. I grew up between Japan and the US, so I understand the nuances between these cultures and I think that the respect Japan pays to institutions, culture at large & schools of thought is something you can’t find so much in the States. So I thought people would be interested to see it.

VM: The streetwear scene attracts people from all walks of life, at any age and gender. Who do you imagine vowels connecting to on a deeper level?

YY: I want anyone who likes a story to wear vowels. Not just an idea of something, but people that really value the pursuit of understanding something. Or at least the journey it takes to try to get there. We are a team of creators who deeply enjoy research, technology and generally just improvement and evolution. I think creatives, thinkers, and dreamers can all see something a little more in the straightforward design. Personally, I think the simpler things are sometimes the hardest things to perfect, so we’re in pursuit of that.

VM: Seeing that the collection ranges in elevated materials with the pieces being designed in Tokyo, in what ways do you think the pieces differ from what’s currently on the market? 

YY: Compared to other brands, vowels’ quality is undeniable. We know it’s really hard to sell ‘quality’, but we’re up for the task. I always wondered what people would wear when they ‘graduate’ into the next phase of their lives when quality starts to matter more. When they see what are traditional streetwear shapes & silhouettes made with luxurious fabrics, I think customers will understand pretty quickly.

VM: With this collection serving as a culmination of years of research, what would you say have been the most rewarding parts when sourcing inspiration throughout this process of the brand?

YY: I mean, they’re things I see throughout the day so It doesn’t feel anything super serious of knowledge/academia experience put into this. It’s a visual expression of the things I see and hear throughout my life. So I guess the most rewarding part is seeing something that I liked go through the process to become an updated, refreshed take on the original thing.

VM: How are you able to apply all of this cultivated knowledge to the ethos of the brand and the pieces themselves?

YY: I think products become very difficult when you apply too much of anything, so we try to keep it balanced by not doing too much and first creating a good foundation. Our Research Library is kind of meant to help people understand that theory and philosophy. I’d like it if a lot of people find themselves there, creating their own good foundation of research for something they’re doing.

VM: I’ve read that the philosophy behind the brand follows the notion of Shu Ha Ri. With this in mind, it seems that the goal of mastering the basics before heightening the experience of the brand is top of mind. How will we see vowels explore new realms beyond just ready-to-wear?

YY: We’re always at any given point in that process—breaking down the foundation, rebuilding something bigger and better. So there’s a ton of different ways to look at it. I’d say our process and how it evolves is something to just pay attention to. We’ll be in Paris in June, so I think that’s the next moment I’m really excited to apply this philosophy to.

VM: With the first collection ready to be on view at the Research Library this May, how did the idea of allowing the general public to come by and explore your reference material archive come about? In what ways do you think it will serve the community surrounding the Showroom and Research Library? 

YY: I wanted to build a community where people who like culture and art books could come in and not be pressured to really do anything. Just hang out and explore. We have books out in the open that I think in some stores would be placed in glass cabinets, I just want to offer it to the people because we live in a time where it’s kind of our duty to learn more about the world.

The Vowels Showroom & Research Library on 76 Bowery (New York NY, 10013) will be open by appointment only from Monday through Friday between 10-6 PM ET. To book an appointment, check out

Photography Boyang Hu 

Fashion Sam Knoll

Makeup Kento Utsubo 

Hair Izumi Sato 

Models Brandon Lee (Heroes) / Abby Sow (The Society) / Chandler (IMG)

Production Alyson Cox

Casting Goran Macura

Photo Assistant Thandi Roe, Tyler Mielke 

Stylist Assistant AJ Grove

Makeup Assistant Robin Stright

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