YASU Is Taking Off In Japan And Expanding Globally

YASU Is Taking Off In Japan And Expanding Globally

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach.

Coco Chanel, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Donatella Versace, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, Tom Ford. These top fashion designers are known the world over.

But there is one clothing designer who is forging his own path and his own fashion brand centered around swimming and the lifestyles of swimmers: 2-time Japanese Olympic marathon swimmer Yasu Fukuoka, previously known as Yasunari Hirai or simply as YASU.

In December 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, YASU launched I Swim And Travel Around The World, a swimming-centric fashion brand and label. It is the first authentic clothing brand specifically with swimmers in mind. He designs and sells jackets, jeans, sweatshirts, shirts, baseball and knit caps, t-shirts, cases and towels specifically for swimmers – and his business is taking off in Japan. Sales are booming and top Japanese fashion magazines are covering his line of casual wear.

YASU and the I Swim brand are now expanding to the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

YASU explains his fashion journey, “My interest in fashion started when I started listening to music like hip-hop and looking at street fashion magazines. Around 2005, when I was 14 or 15 years old, I would hop on the train and get off at Harajuku or Meiji Jingumae [in Tokyo] and go to shops like FAT or realmadHECTIC. I’d enter the shop, heart pounding in my chest and buy an XL t-shirt straight off the shelf. But as I was becoming a professional swimmer, I began to like Maisons and high-end fashion as well. I wanted to find out for myself what a brand’s philosophy and clothes were, I would ask myself questions such as ‘Why do I like this brand?’ and ‘Why am I wearing this?’

When I started competing in the Olympics, I wanted to get to know the designers and artists that I was looking at in magazines on a personal basis, so I started contacting them directly. After meeting them in person, I decided that I wanted to start my own brand. So I decided that if I was going to start it, I wanted to target people for whom swimming was a lifestyle.

There are outdoor, running and yoga brands that release clothing that can be worn as street wear, but there are no swimwear brands that have developed clothing in the street wear category. So when it came to swimming, there are so many clothing brands out there, but I felt that there was still a deep blue ocean left to explore.”

YASU works with models from the Dutch swimming community including 2016 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim gold medalist Ferry Weertman, world record holder Esmee Vermeulen, Paralympic gold medalist Lisa Kruger, Dutch Olympic team physiotherapist Jan Herber and Dutch Olympic coach Patrick Pearson [see here].

For more information on I Swim And Travel Around The World, visit here.

Yasunari Hirai, 15th at the 2012 London Olympics and 8th in the 2016 Rio Olympics marathon swim
Ferry Weertman, world and 2016 Olympic champion in the 10 km marathon swim
Dutch world record holder Esmee Vermeulen
Dutch Paralympic gold medalist Lisa Kruger

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Steven Munatones