Haruka Hirata on Starting Big Love Records

Big Love Records founder Haruka Hirata recently sat down for an interview with SSENSE, giving insight into how she started the cult record store, what it’s like working with Cali Thornhill Dewitt and how she’s striving to keep the underground culture alive and real.

Hirata also spoke about her opinions of fashion week showmanship, why she thinks Instagram is fake, and why she has the line “DON’T TAG SHIRTS” in the Big Love Records Instagram bio to dissuade influencers from tagging their shirts. She also expounds on balancing passion with practicality, such as staying connected with the fashion industry to help support underground artists monetarily, in order for them to fulfill their creative pursuits.

Read a few excerpts of the interview below and head over to SSENSE for the full piece.

For more interviews, Samuel Ross provides more insight into his latest Nike collaboration.

Tell me about starting Big Love.
2008, that’s the year we started Big Love. We changed the store name, the label name, because Escalator Records used to have only domestic bands, and my ex-husband wanted to shift to a new phase. And then we met Cali.
Cali Thornhill Dewitt…
He has this record label called Teenage Teardrops, and we wanted to stock records from him, and then we became really good friends. It turned out he’s an artist, and we saw him using this old English font. We just asked, “Can you do our logo?” And he was like, “Yeah, definitely.” And it was his first time doing a logo for a store or anything. I think that was 2013 when we did the Big Love logo, and then the next year, the Kanye thing…

That must have been a surreal experience, kind of similar to the way Big Love has become a destination and the merch has come to define itself as something else.
The thing is, I always want to be in this underground scene, but also I really want to connect this commercial stuff with the underground, because a lot of great artists or bands are suffering for money. They always need a job. So, if I got a project for them, maybe they can live for half a year with that money so that they can focus on making music or art. I feel that’s one of my missions to do.

It gives extra meaning to your work as well.
Because well, when you go to fashion week, I just feel it’s so stupid. It’s bullshit, and I hate it so much. But I have to go to fashion week. It’s my job. But I’m always screaming inside, “This is bullshit, bullshit, bullshit,” and if you look on Instagram, everyone’s calling each other “family,” “brother,” “sister.” If everyone’s in Paris they have a chance to take photos together. [Comments] like “I’m so proud of my brother, blah, blah, blah,” and I’m like, “Oh my.”

You have “DON’T TAG SHIRTS” written in the Big Love Records Instagram bio. Is that directed at the people that incorporate your merch into their fit-pics?
I really hate that. We’re a record store. And we’re a record label. All those fashion kids just come and buy our merch. This is a strategy, I only sell our merch when I’m doing the book fair in L.A. or New York, or when a store asks us to do a pop-up. That’s the only chance. I want people to come to the record store. Even if they don’t know anything about music or anything about records. As I said, I really love the real things, records, or meeting face-to-face, so I want them to come. If we don’t have merch we can’t keep the business going on. Japanese people aren’t listening to music anymore, they only listen to J-Pop, K-pop, so we have to do the merch. It’s crucial.

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