YUKI MATSUDA: 
VINTAGE INSPIRED

YUKI MATSUDA: 
VINTAGE INSPIRED


For those who love military and vintage clothing, but also want elegant designer fashion: Yuki Matsuda is your man. His pieces find their inspiration in archives, then get a technically impressive makeover on their way to becoming your own future heirlooms.

We spoke to the Los Angeles-based Matsuda in his Paris showroom, about his brands Monitaly and Yuketen–both celebrating their 30th birthdays this year.

Also discussed: his decades of experience as a vintage dealer, favorite films, the denim that changed his life while growing up in Osaka, and the true meaning of being cool. 



For those who love military and vintage clothing, but also want elegant designer fashion: Yuki Matsuda is your man. His pieces find their inspiration in archives, then get a technically impressive makeover on their way to becoming your own future heirlooms.

We spoke to the Los Angeles-based Matsuda in his Paris showroom, about his brands Monitaly and Yuketen–both celebrating their 30th birthdays this year.

Also discussed: his decades of experience as a vintage dealer, favorite films, the denim that changed his life while growing up in Osaka, and the true meaning of being cool. 


Let’s start for the uninitiated: What’s the main idea behind Yuketen?

Yuketen is an international shoe manufacturer, using very old techniques to make the shoes. We are really trying to make shoes from the 1930s and ‘40s. Also we add our own ideas. For example in the moccasin construction, our vamp is bigger than anybody else’s. [Ed. note—the vamp is the leather around the center of the foot, which you may not necessarily see from the outside, and which is the foundation for the rest of the moccasin, loafer, or chukka boot. Yuketen’s are triple-wrapped.] 
I believe if we make the vamp bigger, we can cover the feet better. Then on top of that it’s handsewn all around; the back, handsewn. Sometimes if there’s stitches all over the shoe, that can be annoying. I prefer to have as few pieces of leather as possible covering the outside of the shoe. Things like that.

Is there any relationship between Yuketen and Monitaly?

No, not really. Monitaly is more fashion. Military ideas are at the core of Monitaly design. I learn from military clothing, I learn from vintage clothing, but I want to make it better. I’m not trying to make reproductions. When you see everyone wear the same thing, it’s not cool anymore. And we want to be cool. So I took the idea, and then I make a better fit. I don’t want to make a fit for a muscular, military guy. I want it to have a certain drape, and when the guy walks wearing it, a certain swing. So people say, Wow, he’s elegant.   

I love that you said you do this to be cool. What’s cool to you?

Inside of you has to be cool. Otherwise you can’t pull anything off. People try so hard to be like, Look at me, I have this, this, this. I had that attitude when I was young. I had a lot of vintage clothes. Levi’s from the 1940s. Combat clothes from the 1950s. All the things were vintage. I had vintage watches. So I feel like I’m cool because I wear something very historical, that nobody has, that’s expensive. Now, at my age, it doesn’t matter what I have. It’s inside of me.

Let’s start for the uninitiated: What’s the main idea behind Yuketen?

Yuketen is an international shoe manufacturer, using very old techniques to make the shoes. We are really trying to make shoes from the 1930s and ‘40s. Also we add our own ideas. For example in the moccasin construction, our vamp is bigger than anybody else’s. [Ed. note—the vamp is the leather around the center of the foot, which you may not necessarily see from the outside, and which is the foundation for the rest of the moccasin, loafer, or chukka boot. Yuketen’s are triple-wrapped.] 
I believe if we make the vamp bigger, we can cover the feet better. Then on top of that it’s handsewn all around; the back, handsewn. Sometimes if there’s stitches all over the shoe, that can be annoying. I prefer to have as few pieces of leather as possible covering the outside of the shoe. Things like that.

Is there any relationship between Yuketen and Monitaly?

No, not really. Monitaly is more fashion. Military ideas are at the core of Monitaly design. I learn from military clothing, I learn from vintage clothing, but I want to make it better. I’m not trying to make reproductions. When you see everyone wear the same thing, it’s not cool anymore. And we want to be cool. So I took the idea, and then I make a better fit. I don’t want to make a fit for a muscular, military guy. I want it to have a certain drape, and when the guy walks wearing it, a certain swing. So people say, Wow, he’s elegant.   

I love that you said you do this to be cool. What’s cool to you?

Inside of you has to be cool. Otherwise you can’t pull anything off. People try so hard to be like, Look at me, I have this, this, this. I had that attitude when I was young. I had a lot of vintage clothes. Levi’s from the 1940s. Combat clothes from the 1950s. All the things were vintage. I had vintage watches. So I feel like I’m cool because I wear something very historical, that nobody has, that’s expensive. Now, at my age, it doesn’t matter what I have. It’s inside of me.


What’s a favorite FW ‘19 piece? 

I love the Shaggy Tyrolean jacket, which is made in Japan. I tried to make a 1950s shaggy wool style, but I wanted to make the wool longer. I think with that jacket, any guy that wants to be cool, if you have chinos, you’ll look so fabulous. 

What’s a FW19 piece with a hidden story?

Paneled pullover with the fleece lining. This one has a parachute ripstop lining on the outside with the Vancloth. Then the inside, it’s one of the most updated fleeces available for the American military. The Chinese couldn’t make it yet. It’s a high-tech fleece, only available in the U.S. Comes from Modern Mill in Massachusetts. Patagonia suppliers, top-notch fleece company. Important thing, though, is they’re used by the U.S. military. It’s like, not fleece. Feels like cashmere. And Vancloth is a very tight weave, an amazing fabric. Windproof. And the ripstop polyester, we use the one from the Colombian army. They need a dry material, but still strong, because they’re really hot, humid, and have to go into the jungle. We use a lot of military spec fabric. Or old military spec fabric.

You were an active vintage dealer for decades. Are you still as passionate about vintage stuff as you used to be?


Definitely. It doesn’t get boring. It’s so much fun. 


What’s a favorite FW ‘19 piece? 

I love the Shaggy Tyrolean jacket, which is made in Japan. I tried to make a 1950s shaggy wool style, but I wanted to make the wool longer. I think with that jacket, any guy that wants to be cool, if you have chinos, you’ll look so fabulous. 

What’s a FW19 piece with a hidden story?

Paneled pullover with the fleece lining. This one has a parachute ripstop lining on the outside with the Vancloth. Then the inside, it’s one of the most updated fleeces available for the American military. The Chinese couldn’t make it yet. It’s a high-tech fleece, only available in the U.S. Comes from Modern Mill in Massachusetts. Patagonia suppliers, top-notch fleece company. Important thing, though, is they’re used by the U.S. military. It’s like, not fleece. Feels like cashmere. And Vancloth is a very tight weave, an amazing fabric. Windproof. And the ripstop polyester, we use the one from the Colombian army. They need a dry material, but still strong, because they’re really hot, humid, and have to go into the jungle. We use a lot of military spec fabric. Or old military spec fabric.

You were an active vintage dealer for decades. Are you still as passionate about vintage stuff as you used to be?


Definitely. It doesn’t get boring. It’s so much fun. 


When did you first see someone wearing vintage clothes, and thought it looked cool?

I had a lot of great guys surround me when I was 14 and 15. I remember the first day I bought a pair of Levi’s 501. I remember my mom thought I was crazy. Why do your pants have buttons, and not a zipper? Why are your jeans so expensive? I’m like, This is made in USA! My mom was like, Your pants are so stiff. This is very uncomfortable. She thought I was crazy. But that was cool for me. At the time everyone was wearing Sasson, Jordache, high-waisted women’s jeans. But I wasn’t hanging around those guys. I was hanging around American, Made in USA, Chuck Taylors, 501s. 

Jordache acid wash jeans are so different than what you were going for. 

But still, I understand those too. I’m not saying Jordache is uncool. But at that time, it was shocking to have the 501. 

What was your first olive drab pant?

M-51? Very wide, heavy poplin. Sateen. I remember those early clothes because when you’re young, you’re poor. You have to work hard to get what you want. Nobody’s going to give you money to buy 501s. 


When did you first see someone wearing vintage clothes, and thought it looked cool?

I had a lot of great guys surround me when I was 14 and 15. I remember the first day I bought a pair of Levi’s 501. I remember my mom thought I was crazy. Why do your pants have buttons, and not a zipper? Why are your jeans so expensive? I’m like, This is made in USA! My mom was like, Your pants are so stiff. This is very uncomfortable. She thought I was crazy. But that was cool for me. At the time everyone was wearing Sasson, Jordache, high-waisted women’s jeans. But I wasn’t hanging around those guys. I was hanging around American, Made in USA, Chuck Taylors, 501s. 

Jordache acid wash jeans are so different than what you were going for. 

But still, I understand those too. I’m not saying Jordache is uncool. But at that time, it was shocking to have the 501. 

What was your first olive drab pant?

M-51? Very wide, heavy poplin. Sateen. I remember those early clothes because when you’re young, you’re poor. You have to work hard to get what you want. Nobody’s going to give you money to buy 501s. 

What did you do to hustle?

Newspaper delivery, dishwashing, helping at the pickle shop. And the chicken shop, too. I couldn’t cut the heads but I did the other stuff–they asked me to cut the heads but I said no. I was a baby, only like 14. 

What’s the oldest stuff you still wear?

I have some t-shirts and 501s from about 30 years ago. I have some Levi’s XX from the 1940s. But those are rare, and I don’t wear them so much. Maybe at parties. 

Like a tuxedo.

That’s right. With a Hawaiian shirt. That’s my tuxedo. That’s my formal wear. With my Cordovan shoes.

What’s your favorite movie?

McQueen. Young people, you must watch. The most fascinating. And made me think, OK, I have to do more. Not more product. More focusing. More ideas. More creativity. His family was very, very blue collar. I am the same as him. And did you see how he cut the fabric? Beautiful. During the fitting, he would make it better. He had magic hands. He was the best cutting guy at Savile Row. But just gifted, if you don’t work hard, you’ll never get ahead. 
 

What did you do to hustle?

Newspaper delivery, dishwashing, helping at the pickle shop. And the chicken shop, too. I couldn’t cut the heads but I did the other stuff–they asked me to cut the heads but I said no. I was a baby, only like 14. 

What’s the oldest stuff you still wear?

I have some t-shirts and 501s from about 30 years ago. I have some Levi’s XX from the 1940s. But those are rare, and I don’t wear them so much. Maybe at parties. 

Like a tuxedo.

That’s right. With a Hawaiian shirt. That’s my tuxedo. That’s my formal wear. With my Cordovan shoes.

What’s your favorite movie?

McQueen. Young people, you must watch. The most fascinating. And made me think, OK, I have to do more. Not more product. More focusing. More ideas. More creativity. His family was very, very blue collar. I am the same as him. And did you see how he cut the fabric? Beautiful. During the fitting, he would make it better. He had magic hands. He was the best cutting guy at Savile Row. But just gifted, if you don’t work hard, you’ll never get ahead. 
 

 
OK second movie.  
 
I love Animal House. John Belushi is my superhero. You learn how to drink from him. Crush the can. The stupidness is something you can only do when you’re young. Saturday Night Live with Jon Belushi is still number one, nobody can do it better. And Blues Brothers, come on.
 
Is that how you got into Motown?

Motown was from my ex-boss in Japan, he was always putting American music in our store, Uncle Sam.

What’s one thing that you buy repeatedly?

Cognac. I forgot the company name. I get it from the wine shop ten minutes from here. The last five years in Paris, I buy the same one. I forgot the name. I’ll go there tomorrow. I need to finish my Ballantine’s from 1975, though. [Gestures to bottle.]

You got vintage alcohol, too?

It tastes better. They made it a different way back then. 1970s Scotch? Come on. I got this Ballantine’s in Florence.

What’s a super cheap item of clothing you think is cool?

Dickies. The pants, polyester, wide leg.

Last question: What are you listening to right now? I know you like old music, but what is your jam?

I listen to the same music all the time. I listen to music every day. For me, Sam Cooke, “Change is Gonna Come.” That’s my anthem. It makes me calm down, feel more humble, more human.

 
OK second movie.  
 
I love Animal House. John Belushi is my superhero. You learn how to drink from him. Crush the can. The stupidness is something you can only do when you’re young. Saturday Night Live with Jon Belushi is still number one, nobody can do it better. And Blues Brothers, come on.
 
Is that how you got into Motown?

Motown was from my ex-boss in Japan, he was always putting American music in our store, Uncle Sam.

What’s one thing that you buy repeatedly?

Cognac. I forgot the company name. I get it from the wine shop ten minutes from here. The last five years in Paris, I buy the same one. I forgot the name. I’ll go there tomorrow. I need to finish my Ballantine’s from 1975, though. [Gestures to bottle.]

You got vintage alcohol, too?

It tastes better. They made it a different way back then. 1970s Scotch? Come on. I got this Ballantine’s in Florence.

What’s a super cheap item of clothing you think is cool?

Dickies. The pants, polyester, wide leg.

Last question: What are you listening to right now? I know you like old music, but what is your jam?

I listen to the same music all the time. I listen to music every day. For me, Sam Cooke, “Change is Gonna Come.” That’s my anthem. It makes me calm down, feel more humble, more human.

SHOP MONITALY & YUKETEN

SHOP MONITALY & YUKETEN