Back in August of 2021 we took a look at one of the newest streetwear-arcade brands focused on Japan’s arcades and retro products. KumaGumi is one of our favorite brands on the scene and they’ve been releasing a few new products that we wanted to learn more about. Check out this brief conversation with KumaGumi and consider picking up some fresh merch.
AP: Hey thanks for joining us. How's it going?
KUMAGUMI: Thanks for having us ! All good !
AP: Can you introduce KumaGumi to our readers? How did the brand get started?
KUMAGUMI: Actually Kumagumi is brand dedicated to Japanese retrogaming merchandise and especially apparel. It started as a side project in 2015 with a focus on japanese popculture. Had been selling apparels since I was a kid in my father's store. One of my best friend was from Kobe so I thought it will be easy to operate in Japan and in Europe. We had the chance to be sold at Colette store in Paris (now closed) for our second collection which gave us a little visibility. Then we paused the project for personal reasons. The real birth of Kumagumi happened in 2020 when I quit my regular job - like most every people I know - to become independant. At the time was watching that amazing YT show in Japan (hardlooters) and the envy that came was to focus only on Japanese gaming culture.
My japanese friend and I had spent so many time playing videogames (especially winning eleven), selling imported consoles, plus I had some tournament victories when I was in my 20s and too many time spent in arcades as a kid that it was totally obvious. Also what was happening in Japan with all these arcades closing during covid was super depressing especially with ones I had great memories in. That was the starting point behind our first collection "Gamecenter 119". We need "baguettes and boulangeries" in Paris, we need "candycab and gamecenters" everywhere in Japan, it's a DNA thing, period. So globally the concept behind Kumagumi is to offer cool products with poorly exploited retrogaming IPs and help Jp studios better survive.
AP: Incredible. Tell us about the Famitsu shirt. How did the idea for it come about?
KG: We had been releasing the Tougeki and Arcadia collections modifying slightly original logos to make them more impactful. On this one with Famitsu, I thought it would be great to do something a little bit different adding our logo. I wasn’t sure people would actually accept it— Famitsu is one of the biggest media brand in Japan (1M followers on twitter... while we got 1k [laughs]). But the idea of the bear hiding behind the big Famitsu logo and ready to take action was just cool graphically and was inspiring for us. They said yes we love this idea. I imagine they love asian bear too. We tried Mr Necky too but was too complicated regarding illustrator rights.
AP: In your opinion-- Whats been the most exciting thing in the FGC/Arcade community recently?
KG: Lot of things going on. Arcades are closing in Japan and fans around the globe are buying the old candys. They soon will be more candycabs in the US and Europe and private arcades than in Japan [laughs]. Meanwhile companies like Ex-arcadia are doing an amazing job helping arcades owners around the globe to survive thanks to their system. Also re-release of old titles like the Batsugun's one is fantastic for the shmup's otakus. FGC community, especially in the US can't stop growing, organizing itself, it's fascinating to see the enthusiasm it generates during events, like EVO or Combo. Big franchises latest releases (SF, GG, Tekken coming) are incredible visually speaking but that's not really what we are into now.
AP: What can we expect for the next Kumagumi drop?
KG: We are working on two classic titles, one is a legendary fighting game In Japan, the other one has some bullets in it. Hope we can make it and release it for 2023 !
AP: What's the best way to follow Kumagumi news?
KG: Twitter and Instagram are a good way to follow us. Newsletter is always a good choice though.
AP: Favorite game right now?
KG: I love to discover or re-discover old titles that I've missed as kid, SNK's ones especially as they were less ported on other consoles. Ones with typical jp atmosphere are in good place like The Last Blade, Samurai Showdown, and I know that it's considered a kusoge but Hokuto no Ken is still one of my all time fav. Maybe someday...
AP: Thanks for joining us KumaGumi, keep up the great work