Verdy: The New Godfather of Japanese Streetwear

Photo by Julian Berman

It is quite an amazing thing when you realize that you’re bearing witness to something that will retold as legend in the future. Very rarely does this happen. Most of the time we only realize in retrospect that we saw, or something we were a part of was truly special. This is doubly true in the world of fashion as influence and importance is gauged on a variety of factors beyond what one may initially think when they see someone’s work. But in life and fashion, there are always exceptions to this rule. Someone’s talent and eye for impeccable design are immediately apparent. And you get the feeling that this person is going places. Folks, this is exactly the feeling I get with Verdy.

For those who don’t know, Verdy is a 32 year-old graphic designer hailing from Osaka, Japan. He attended Osaka Design School and soon thereafter began his career in the local music scene designing zines, flyers, and posters for various acts. He then moved to Tokyo in 2012 to pursue projects in streetwear. After doing collaborative projects with brands such as Bounty Hunter, a slept on brand that can trace its roots back to the earliest days of the Harajuku fashion scene in the early-1990s, he decided to strike out on his own and launch his Wasted Youth brand in 2016.

Wasted Youth’s brand identity reflects values and motifs very personal to Verdy. The name itself alludes to the time he spent as a struggling artist making ends meet in Tokyo after college. Many would think of these years as forgetful or even wasteful (see what I did there), but Verdy sees them as very formative and important creatively. This concept of a carefree adolescence being a defining time in one’s life is reflected in one of Wasted Youth’s signature graphic designs which depicts a tulip growing from a crumpled beer can.

The brands logo design, which is a flip on the vintage Budweiser logo, is also representative of how personal it is. This is a nod to the punk rock and skateboarding subcultures who found it as one of their beers of choice as its cheap and found nearly everywhere in the US. Cultural calling cards such as this is what drew Verdy to these subcultures from a young age.

Verdy makes sure that the brand reflects this identity through collaborating specifically with brands that represent similar aesthetics and that have a personal connection to him. In his pursuit to make the brand that much more personal, Verdy even runs a Wasted Youth skate team based in his hometown of Osaka.

A year after founding Wasted Youth, Verdy launched a new brand called Girls Don’t Cry. The brand was conceived while Verdy and his wife were in Los Angeles for his collaboration with a local brand called Carrots. During the trip, Verdy gifted his wife a shirt with the words “Girls Don’t Cry” emblazoned on it in the now iconic font. Meant simply as a heartfelt gift to cheer up his wife on their first trip to LA, the shirt’s striking design grabbed many people’s attention. Verdy then knew he had something with this concept and decided to take the of-the-moment design and turn it into a full fledged brand.

Girls Don’t Cry became a quick hit due to its branding heavy execution which came off as bold yet reserved and tasteful, but what really set off the brand was its exclusivity. Along with Wasted Youth, Girls Don’t Cry is only available through brand collaborations and pop-ups. On top of its impeccable design, this artificial scarcity drew demand for the brand through the roof.

However, Verdy’s decision to make the brand exclusive did not come about simply because of the hype factor. It came about through an appreciation for those who came before him. Growing up in Japan in the 1990s and 2000s, Verdy was influenced by the culture surrounding streetwear of that era. Well known brands such as Bape, Wtaps, and Forty Percents Against Rights and a slew of others got their start in the Harajuku fashion scene where it was common to have exclusive releases.

This made the clothing feel that much more special and made copping items an entire event. The term “drop culture” came about because of this. A hallmark of Japanese streetwear was that is was hard to get and those that saw you with it knew you put in that work. But in a world that has become as commercially interconnected as ever, this perception has been lost to a certain degree. By deciding to have full control over exactly how and where his product was available, Verdy is bringing this back.

This appreciation for the old school has not gone unnoticed and has quickly bore fruit. Parallel to the rise of his respective brands, Verdy has managed to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in Japanese streetwear. Jun Takahashi of Undercover chose to collaborate with him on a Wasted Youth capsule after a chance meeting through a mutual acquaintance. Immediately seeing him as a budding talent, Jun referred Verdy to Nigo. This quickly bore multiple collaborations between Girls Don’t Cry and Nigo’s Human Made label.

Verdy seems to prioritize adding these badges of honor that pertain to his generation. This is best illustrated by the fact that despite being active under his own labels for less than three years Verdy has a collab with Nike SB. In February 2019, Nike SB and Girls Don’t Cry joined forces to create a capsule of co-branded clothing including an SB Dunk Low. This collab was only available at a pop-up and skate shops in Verdy’s native Osaka. Not surprisingly, the SB Dunk Low in particular has quickly become a grail with pairs routinely selling for nearly $1000.

For me, having an SB Dunk is a mark of excellence for a streetwear designer. Very few have had the privilege of having one. And many of them have come to be seen as milestones not only in one’s career but also in the history of streetwear. Verdy knows this very well and is clearly using it to his advantage. He has managed to quickly build hype around himself. But the means through which he build it are very tastefully done projects that make perfect sense within their cultural context.

Seeing such a young and quickly rising talent gain co-signs from who I and many others would consider streetwear royalty is another good indicator as to how special Verdy is. These affirmations of greatness serve as the passing of a baton from one generation to the next. Jun Takahashi and Nigo are regarded a perennial taste makers. They know exactly what is cool and what isn’t. They are also aware that holding Verdy on a pedestal essentially means crowning him as the long awaited next generation designer, something they would not think lightly on. Therefore, I have no problem stating that Verdy is the continuation of a line of generation defining figures which started with Hiroshi Fujiwara, AKA The Godfather of Streetwear. People, expect very big things from Verdy in 2020 and beyond.