Noemie Aiko Sebayashi of Nattofranco insists on meeting me over a coffee in the hip Carreau du Temple quartier in Paris. She is annoyed that I contacted her as a “new designer” alongside a few other French brands, whom we shall not name. These brands that I had mentioned are not new at all, and she wants to set the record straight after all the attention that she has received due to an “unnamed article” that was recently published online.
“Nattofranco has been around since 2014, so its not really new, I don’t understand why people are saying this.” This is a Franco/Japanese family business, and 26 year old Noemie Aiko Sebayashi is the one heading up this definitely soon to be iconic streetwear brand, Nattofranco. A week after our initial interview, she is working out of her studio in Belleville, and she is running at a frantic space, dealing with producers, suppliers, taking orders, receiving orders; there is no stopping Noemie. The energy that she gives off is infectious and she is striving too take her clothes from what’s considered the norm to something that is street meets art; “The fact that I created the brand is a way for me to research and find some responses to my background, but every time I go to Japan, its like I get closer to the truth of being Japanese.”
It’s a fact that Noemie is half Japanese from her father’s side, and French from her mother’s side; “my mum was working in an office, and my dad used to be an artistic director in advertising, but now he cooks in a restaurant.” Obviously Noemie inherited her father’s creative side, as did her sister Nathalie, who is responsible for the illustrations we see on Nattofranco’s website; an absolute love affair between sisters and meeting together of styles when it comes to Franco’s artistic aesthetic. The discussion moves to the hardships of creating a brand in Paris, and Noemie definitely feels that the vibe is more conductive in New York, whereas in Paris “the process takes time” and she goes on to admit that the internet and social media has played a huge role in the recognition that she has received up until this point. Her direct influences for the brand are Japanese illustrators from the 80s like Shigeo Okamoto, Peter Sato and Takashi Koizumi, and then she goes on to describe about how when growing up, she would always look at the Japanese newspapers that her father use to read during his days, and seeing the characters, and political figures who would front the pages, she describes the cigarette package we are both looking at “look at this, someone, a graphic designer, actually put thought into this, someone designed this, and so its almost art.” Noemie’s eyes pick out the strange and beautiful, “there are a range of dynamic influences here, but it all stems from my father and his heritage, I feel very connected to Japanese art, illustration and fashion.”
The conversation then moves to her other influences and inspirations, and it becomes apparent that the people whom she sees wearing her clothes are her inspirations, “I have a ton of crushes and muses, half Japanese beautiful girls. When I was in Japan, I met these hafu’s, we call it that in Japanese when you are half half, there was this one girl who was half Croatian and half Japanese. She was so beautiful, and with attitude, I felt like I could give them my clothes, its like a whole new generation these hafu’s. It does not stop here, “a friend of mine, I met her for the first time in Japan and she is such a good artist, her name is Monika Mogi, and for me she is the best photographer, she is 23 years old. She creates photos that could directly come from an archive in the 80s. Her muses are curvy and real women.” It is apparent that Noemie is going to find and meet the true nature of what it means to be Japanese.
Finally, as a last subject, I ask Noemie if young brands, such as hers, are dependent on collaborations with music artists etc, as is the norm today, and if this is killing the soul of a brand? She delves into the apparent fact that social media is here, and yes, collaborations are a necessary part, whether with musicians, artists, or other commercial brands, “one thing is for sure when it comes to commercial collaborations, big brands need brands such as Nattofranco, the hip, cool and young, and brands such as mine need big brands, it’s a relationship of convenience.” With that, Noemie has to fly off, she can barely sit still. She has things to do, people to conquer, sweatshirt by sweatshirt.
Photography: Palden Macgamwell