Rin Tanaka's Mecca of Americana
Inside New York’s Premier Vintage Showcase
Japanese journalist and photographer Rin Tanaka brought Inspiration, his gathering for vintage clothing enthusiasts, to New York for the first time this past weekend (October 16-17) with a two-day exhibition at the Brooklyn Expo Center made up of 84 international vendors. Usually held in L.A., the event was expanded to New York to include the “vintage freaks” living in the Northeast. Inspiration showcases a vast amount of merchandise ranging from vintage denim to customized military jackets to Navajo jewelry to jackets from rare mountaineering brands, brought to the exhibition by various collectors and brands. The gathering’s seventh iteration, Inspiration New York, drew a decent crowd with such notable attendees as fashion photographer Mordechai Rubinstein, head of Ralph Lauren vintage Doug Bihlmaier, Greenfingers creative director Satoshi Kawamoto, Brooklyn Circus founder Ouigi Theodore and Supreme founder James Jebbia.
Tanaka, who’s 45 years old, was born in Yamaguchi, Japan; in his college days, he studied Delta Blues in the backroads of Mississippi. His love of vintage apparel led him to publish The Story of the Motorcycle Jackets in 1998 after four years of research. In the following years, Tanaka self-published 16 books in a series entitled My Freedamn! that explored different subgenres of American fashion like rock and roll, beach and New Wave. At Inspiration New York, Tanaka, wearing a badge holder customized by Los Angeles-based jewelry brand Good Art, beamed energetically when asked about hosting the event for the first time on the East Coast. “It’s nice to host this here,” he said. “It’s my super favorite rock city.”
As one attendee made his way to the exit, his complimentary denim tote bag from Beams Plus stuffed with great finds, he mentioned to a friend that the wealth of rare, heritage Americana pieces at Inspiration was “borderline overwhelming.” The breadth of hard-to-find pieces was indeed incredible: tables of vintage boots, stacks of ‘Big E’ Levi’s, racks of flight jackets from every US conflict overseas. Though it was a show of collector’s items at collector’s prices (e.g. $800 for a Pendelton jacket, $3,000 for a Navajo squash blossom necklace), each well-made piece had a way of stoking the imagination and reminding guests why vintage Americana is so covetable.