It’s a beautiful brisk day in Richmond, Virginia as Jake Van Parys, better known by his social media handle pr0.spects & Girlfriend Kathy walk up to recently launched ‘Studio 1 1/2’. Jake and Kathy are fresh off a grueling 6 day trip to Japan, which Jake says although the trip had its fair share of bumps and difficulties, Japan still remains his favorite place to travel in the world. After enjoying some matcha and small talk about their recent trip, we got right into an insightful Q&A interview where we discussed Jake’s love for Japan, growing up break dancing, his strategic work routines, launching Brass Tacks and more. Check out the full Q&A below. TPP: What’s Up Jake?
JVP: Chillin, bro! Just getting back from a trip to Japan about a month ago. Feeling very inspired and refreshed from that.
TPP: How old are you & where are you from?
JVP: I’m 30 years old and I’m from Virginia. Where I’m from is a weird question for me though. I was born in Florida, then moved to North Carolina, then moved to Michigan before finally settling in Virginia. That being said, I spent most of my time growing up in Chesapeake, VA and have lived in Richmond for the past 8 years.
TPP: What was life like for you growing up?
JVP: I spent a lot of time hanging with my younger brother. We’re only two years apart and into all the same things – music, fashion, sneakers, anime, and breaking. He’s the one that really got me into breaking, to be honest.
TPP: How important was break dancing growing up?
JVP: Growing up, breaking or b-boying was everything for me – an artistic and physical outlet, a counterculture, an identity. It’s a raw, thriving, underground culture where originality and artistic integrity are still held above all. Doing it for 10+ years, I look back and feel blessed for all the experiences, lessons, and friendships it brought me.
TPP: How important is break dancing in your life now?
JVP: I would say it’s just as important, but for different reasons. The biggest gifts from breaking are being free, knowing yourself, and self-realization. Now that I have that, I just want to pass that on to the younger generation.
TPP: So you just got back off another trip to Japan which you’ve expressed to me is your favorite place to travel, Why is it your favorite place?
JVP: For one, it’s a very clean and convenient culture. I don’t speak any Japanese, but I rarely have any issues traveling there. Second, the food is incredible. Somebody once said “It’s hard to find bad food in Japan” and I’ve found that to be true. Lastly, I really appreciate the art that comes out of Japan. Whether that be tattoos, fashion, anime, music, or breaking.
TPP: What are some of your favorite shops in Japan?
JVP: Nepenthes, Kapital, Visvim F.I.L., Hankyu Men’s Department Store, and Goro’s Harajuku are where I frequent most. Besides those, I love vintage shopping in Japan – it’s truly on a different level there. You can find anything from insanely rare 1940-1950’s workwear to 1985 Jordan 1’s to archival selections from your favorite designers. One of my favorites, in particular, is Berberjin in Harajuku.
TPP: What are your favorite Japanese brands and why?
JVP: Kapital, Visvim, Needles, Sasquatchfabrix, and Blackmeans are some of my favorites, each for different reasons. Overall though, I appreciate the “outsider” perspective on American fashion staples. There’s an instant connection for me with the garments they make, but there’s always some twist to it. In addition, each of these brands places an emphasis on age and wear of a garment. I wear a lot of vintage so their ethos works with my personal style. Lastly, if a garment has distressing, wear, fading, tears, and repairs, I find that to be beautiful. There’s a word in Japanese, “wabi-sabi”, which encompasses that idea.
TPP: Who are your favorite designers?
JVP: Hiroki Nakamura, Junya Watanabe, Margiela.
TPP: How did Brass Tacks begin?
JVP: Brass Tacks originally started in 2011, as an online vintage store curated specifically towards vintage Americana. At that time, it was mostly my friend Tavish and I selling online and doing local pop-ups throughout Richmond. After he moved to New York, I took a break from working on Brass Tacks to focus on finishing my Doctor of Pharmacy degree. After I had graduated, the idea of selling vintage didn’t excite me as much anymore and so I decided I would have to take it a step further. The current iteration of Brass Tacks focuses on reconstructing vintage garments into new one-off pieces.
TPP: Explain why Americana plays a huge part in your style?
JVP: I touched on this earlier, but it has to do with that idea of “wabi-sabi”. There’s depth to the idea, but it basically means finding beauty in that which is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. Think about a perfectly worn-in pair of denim or a pair of 1985 Jordan 1’s. They’re timeless and the fading, fringing, and distressing only makes them more attractive in my eyes.
TPP: What are your goals with Brass Tacks?
JVP: In the short-term, I would like to just keep building with the collective that currently contributes to Brass Tacks. I’ve come to realize that nothing makes me happier than making art with my friends. More concretely, I would like to do a pop-up on the east coast then eventually in Tokyo, Japan sometime in 2020.
TPP: Are you an introvert or extrovert? How does that play into you working on your craft?
JVP: I am most definitely an introvert. Thus, when I create I don’t feel lonely nor do I feel like it’s work. It really feels peaceful, but challenging – like entering a flow state or a state of “play” like when we were kids. It reminds me of playing with legos as a kid. Once I have an idea, I can build all day until it finally takes shape. I’m not working, I’m playing.
TPP: With your girlfriend being a stylist how often do you guys debate about how you should wear something?
JVP: With Kathy being a stylist, I feel at ease being myself and taking risks with my style. She lets me be myself and when she gives me her take on something, I always listen. She has a good eye when it comes to clothing and interior design.
TPP: How do feel about the sudden emergence and infatuation of Japanese fashion amongst celebrities?
JVP: These designers deserve to be recognized so I’m not bitter about it. People have been interested in Japanese brands like Comme Des Garcons, Undercover, Bape, Issey Miyake, etc… for a while now actually though so it’s something that comes in cycles I think. Pretty soon the people that are into it for the wrong reasons will shift to something else and hop on another wave.
TPP: What are your top 3 most prized clothing items?
JVP: My Goro’s chain and feathers are very special to me. It’s always growing with each successful trip to Goro’s, but my very first small feather will always mean a lot to me. I waited outside for about 10 hours in 50-degree weather, pouring rain until I was finally granted access to the store. It’s all part of the journey though and honestly, I feel blessed that I was even able to get in. Many people have queued up for days on end without gaining entry. Other than that, I really cherish the first cowboy shirt I made for Brass Tacks. It was the first garment I made that I was really proud of and excited to share with everyone. Lastly, I would have to say my Kapital Kountry Bones Kimono from 2017. It’s a super rare piece and wasn’t even on the floor when I was in the store that day. My friends at Kapital Osaka brought it out from their storeroom and presented me with it. I felt very honored.
TPP: Where do you see Brass Tacks in the next 5 years?
JVP: Maintaining the same ethos and work ethic as when we started, but doing it on a larger scale. Making clothing that people haven’t seen before that’s true to who we are. Making clothing with artistic integrity that speaks for itself. Doing it for art and not for the money. And collaborating with individuals that share a similar ethos. This is what we’ll do. And whatever manifests from this will be up to the Universe.
TPP: What is your biggest inspiration?
JVP: My friends pursuing their passions, whatever they may be, is what inspires me the most. I strive every day to do that for them too – provide a positive feedback loop of inspiration.
TPP: Walk us through the creative process of creating Brass Tacks garments?
JVP: Right now my focus has been on making “Cowboy Shirts”, which are vintage short-sleeve tees that are reconstructed into long-sleeve tees. For the materials, I like faded, vintage tees featuring some sort of Americana-type graphic. I then patchwork the sleeves from vintage American-made bandanas from the 60s-90s. As far as the layout and construction, I like to think about it as a canvas. I throw the shirt on the floor then just start pulling out bandanas that I think would look good. I then rearrange the bandanas until I feel like there are a good cohesion and flow, but also a rawness to it.
TPP: How do you go about choosing your outfits daily?
JVP: I prioritize comfort above all, but it also heavily depends on my mood and the situation. Whatever the case, I like to mix a lot of high and low or new with old. I like to compose fits from different decades. Like pairing my 1985 Jordan 1 royals with heavily distressed denim from the 1950s’.
TPP: If there is one person dead or alive you could have a conversation with who would it be?
JVP: I’ve never thought about that before, to be honest. Probably Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, and peace activist. I read a lot of his books when I was younger and they helped me become a better person. I would like to experience his aura in person and just thank him.
TPP: Where did the name Brass Tacks come from?
JVP: It honestly just popped into my head. I didn’t think too hard about it. I think it’s good to trust your intuition and I really liked the way it sounded. It has an edge to it.
Photography: Roland Felipe