I have had three main bosses in my life until now. The first was Mr. Yohji Yamamoto at YOHJI YAMAMOTO Company, the second was Mr. Alan Bilzerian, when I worked for Alan Bilzerian in Boston, and the third is Mr. Rikuzo Suzuki, the founder and CEO (at the time) of SAZABY Inc, where I worked for less than three years from the time I left Yohji’s company until I launched FERAL FLAIR Inc. Looking back, without that experience at SAZABY, FF would not have been able to continue for 21 years.

At my first company, Y's, I was given an environment in which I could just pursue creativity. At SAZABY, I was given the opportunity to learn a lot of things that are critical to running a company, such as the importance of design, fabric selection, production, sales, merchandising, press, sales promotion, and every other role in the manufacturing ecosystem.

When I joined SAZABY, the company had just gone public, moved into a huge two-story building, established KIHACHI China in partnership with KIHACHI, an international food company, established STARBUCKS COFFEE Japan with STARBUCKS company in the US, and was about to open its first STARBUCKS COFFEE store in Ginza. It was a turning point for SAZABY, which had just undergone a major transformation. The company announced its intention to enter the apparel business in earnest and launched three new apparel brands at once. I was asked to design one of the brands.

I first encountered SAZABY when I happened to read a magazine that was advertising a job opening, and I applied for it. I visited the company for the first time for an interview, and was overwhelmed by the massive building, so very different from the image I had in my mind. I realized that it was a humongous company. Now that I think back, this was an example of my fearlessness, or lack of common sense.

After I had been there for a few months, the supervisor who had chosen me told me a story. The job opening had been for a new designer for SAZABY Apparel, and apparently there were about 120 applicants, including a famous designer. My supervisor told me how surprised he had been to see how I had shown up for our interview. He laughed out loud and said, “You showed up in a t-shirt and sneakers!” I hadn't measured my lack of common sense until I heard that. Indeed, people in Japan usually dress for job interviews in what they call it a recruiting suit (dark suit, white shirt, leather shoes.) I reminded myself that just a month earlier, I had spent two weeks in an indigenous village deep in the mountains of Thailand, where I had been given a bunch of bleached cotton threads tied one by one by the children, and I was wearing all 50 of the threads on my left wrist. I imagined that I looked pretty much adrift compared the others. I was very grateful to my supervisor for choosing me.

He also reminded me that as soon as I joined the company, I was told that they wanted to hold a meeting with all staff members to discuss the direction of the new brand. My supervisor asked me to, “please make map of the new brand image for the presentation.” I replied, "excuse me, but what do you mean by a map?" And that is how my work at SAZABY began. It turns out that a map was a collage of photos cut from a magazine that were close to the image, pasted on a large whiteboard. At Y's, the only way we came up with design ideas was by drawing pictures or using a toile to make it look 3D. It was a culture shock for me.

SAZABY was a truly wonderful company. First of all, they had great foresight. The fact that they were able to introduce agnès b throughout Japan was remarkable. But I never imagined at the time that thanks to SAZABY, a coffee shop that no one in Japan had heard of yet would be the driving force behind the subsequent coffee boom and a name that every Japanese person would know. There were many other factors behind their success. But I think the most important one was the deep humanity of the company’s top four executives ( Mr.Suzuki, Mr. Mori, Mr. Yamazaki and Mr. Iwamoto) at that time. I got the impression that they were a quartet who shared the same values, but each possessed different abilities and charms that the others did not. They had an extraordinary aura, and they were so cool. Most of the employees adored and respected senior management, and this was reflected in their work, making it a truly ideal company. I consider myself very fortunate to work with the bosses of such an attractive company.

Less than three years later, on the day I left SAZABY, Mr. Suzuki gave me words of advice. Coincidentally, they were the same words that I had received from Yohji and Alan when I left their two companies. Indeed, all three bosses in my life mentioned the same exact words: "friendship" and "I want to work with you again."

Soon after, after having grown agnès b. and STARBUCKS COFFEE into major companies in Japan, and then divesting them, SAZABY changed its name to SAZABY LEAGUE. I heard on the news that Mr. Suzuki had retired. I remember thinking that we may not be able to work together anymore, but one never knows what will happen in life.

During my time at SAZABY, I was invited to the CEO's office only once. The elevator opened on the top floor of the company's building, and to the right was the CCO's (Chief Customer Officer) office, the CEO’s right-hand man who ran the show. Behind that was the CEO's office, so the two rooms, with glass walls, were side by side. The contrast between the two rooms was simply spectacular: the CCO’s room was quiet, dignified, and serene, with no distractions such as books, etc. The CEO’s room, on the other hand, was moderately cluttered, free, and open, with a different kind of beauty. The two opposite rooms were quietly telling me that both are essential elements in running a company. My first impression when I stepped into the CEO's office was, "It looks just like Yohji's president office! The large, solid pine table in the center of the room was exactly the same, the layout was the same, and most importantly, the atmosphere and aura of the room was exactly the same. In an instant, I knew that Mr. Suzuki was an artist at heart.

Two things, however, were different from Mr. Yohji's president’s office: a large desktop and a small black and white portrait of Marilyn Monroe on the white wall. It was the first time I had ever seen an artwork of Marilyn Monroe, and it was a truly beautiful silver print, more authentic and gentle in expression, more serene and graceful than any other photograph I had ever seen of her. Once again, I was reminded that Marilyn Monroe was truly an exquisite beauty. I couldn't help but sigh at her beauty, as well as the good sense of Mr. Suzuki, whose personality I could feel in that photo. I understood why he was beloved by so many employees and entrepreneurs.

I felt that Mr. Suzuki's thoughts for Marilyn had probably been consistent and unflagging for more than half a century. I figured that such thoughts and such a stance would be reason enough to trust him wholeheartedly.

Isshi KANAMARU 2021.10

今までの人生、自分には三人のボスがいます。一人目はワイズの山本耀司さん、二人目はボストン時代のアラン ビルゼリアンさん、そして三人目はワイズ退社後から FF を立ち上げるまでの間、三年弱在籍していた株式会社サザビーの創設者で CEO(当時) の鈴木陸三さんです。今思うと、三年弱のサザビーでの経験がなかったならば FF を21年も継続させることは出来なかったかもしれません。


サザビーに入社した時、丁度、会社は株式を公開、上場し、巨大な二棟立ての自社ビルに引っ越し、無国籍料理のキハチと提携しキハチチャイナを立ち上げ、アメリカのスターバックスコーヒー社とスターバックスコーヒージャパン社を設立、スターバックスコーヒーの第一号店をいよいよ銀座にオープンする、という慌ただしさの真っ只中! まさにサザビー本体が大きく変貌するターニングポイントの時期でした。


その求人、サザビー アパレル本格参入 新ブランドデザイナー募集、ということでどうやら120人ほどの応募が来たらしくしかも有名なデザイナーさんも受けに訪れたほど、とか。そんな中で、現れた自分の姿に当時大変驚いたとけっこう後になって訊かされました。「T-シャツにスニーカー!」と大笑いされました。そう云われるまで自分の常識の無さに全く気付かず確かに日本ではリクルートスーツという言葉があるように面接の際は普通はそのような格好、だということにやっと気付きしかも思い返してみればその一ヶ月ほど前、タイの山奥の先住民族の村に二週間ほどお世話になっておりその村の子供達から一本一本晒の綿糸を結んでもらいそれが50本ほど束になったミサンガを左手首に巻いていて、、と、きっと自分はかなり浮いていただろうなと推測しました。そんな自分をよく選んでくれたなと、その上司には心から感謝です。

第一に先見性が素晴らしかったです。アニエス べーを日本中に浸透させた実績も素晴らしいですが、まさかまだ日本では誰も知らないコーヒー店がその後のコーヒーブームを牽引し日本人なら知らない人がいないくらいのお店になるとはその時はまったく、想像もしてませんでした。他にも素晴らしい要素は沢山あります。でもやはり一番はその当時の会社のトップ4 、その彼らの人間性の素晴らしさに尽きると思っています。同じ価値観でありながらそれぞれが持っていない違う能力や魅力を持ち合わせた同士が集まった4人という印象で非凡なオーラに満ちていて、兎に角かっこよかったです。ほとんどの社員もトップ達を慕い尊敬していてそれが見事に仕事に反映されている、本当に理想ともいえる会社でした。そのような魅力ある会社でボス達の下で働けたことはとても幸運なことだと思っています。

それから3年弱程過ぎサザビーを去る日、鈴木さんから言葉を戴きました。それはこれまでの二つの会社を去る際、耀司さんと、そしてアランから戴いた言葉と何と同じ言葉、そう、これまでの人生三人のボスから戴いたのは奇遇にもまったく同じ言葉でした 。それは ” 友情 ” という言葉と、 ” また一緒に仕事をしたい ” という言葉でした。

サザビーはその後、サザビーリーグと社名を変更し、アニエス ベーもスターバックスコーヒーもこれだけ日本でメジャーに押し上げたのち、近年 手離してしまい、鈴木さんは引退された、とニュースで知りました。仕事を共にすることはもう叶わないのかもしれませんが、でも人生は何が起きるかはいつの時代も分かりませんので、こうしてブランドを続けていればもしかして、と思ったりもします。


でっかいデスクトップが置いてあったことと、白壁に一枚、白黒のマリリン モンローの小さなポートレートが飾ってあったことでした。彼女の写真はこれまで数多く拝見したことはありますがそれは初めて見るカットでした。しかも今まで見た彼女のどの写真よりも正統性があり優しい表情、静謐であり気品溢れる本当に美しいシルヴァープリント。改めて、マリリン モンローとは本当に絶世の美女だったんだなと認識させられました。彼女の美しさとそのセンスの良さに思わずため息が溢れその一枚の写真に鈴木さんのひととなりを感じた気がしました。彼が多くの社員や企業家たちから慕われている理由も。