A Love of Basketball and a Passion for Running Influences This Creative's Style
Whether behind the DJ booth or on the road as a running coach, the intersection of sports and culture has always been a part of Lono Brazil III's life.
"Beyond the Fit" is a series that explores how emerging creatives weave together personal style and identity.
Expressing individuality and creativity comes naturally to Lono Brazil III, even when he's literally part of a crowd or one of his running clubs, weaving through the streets of Tokyo. You wouldn't think that running as a group is a particularly effective means of self-expression, but every runner's stride is unique to them.
Lono, who's half Black and half Japanese, doesn't subscribe to just one identity. Having lived in Los Angeles and New York, Lono now spends his days as the director of the Tokyo outpost of famed streetwear boutique Union, and as a coach for the local Nike Run Club. The true cultural multi-disciplinarian is also a DJ, model and member of the running crew Athletics Far East (AFE). But running isn't just something he does to stay healthy, or even just to socialise. Running directly defines his signature style, and provides yet another way to power his creativity while expressing his style and cultural influences. "I realised pretty early on the connection between sports and fashion, and how those cultures collide", says Lono. "That middle ground has always been my style". Here, Lono discusses how his style has always been rooted in sport, whether as a runner today, or during his early years when he and his dad would bond over Jordans and basketball.
You've had a remarkable upbringing, spanning multiple cities and two continents. When did you start paying attention to fashion, and how did some of these early experiences affect you?
Growing up, first in New York and Los Angeles, then in Tokyo, I definitely saw a lot of different styles. Both of my parents worked in the music industry, so the people around my mum and dad were always artistic, interesting characters that expressed their unique styles. My dad worked in hip-hop, and there was always a big style and fashion aspect to that work. He was always well dressed and paid attention to his style, whether it was suits or casual sportswear. He is a huge basketball fan, and he introduced me to the sport. So I saw how basketball players and artists, especially hip-hop artists, would style the same clothes. Being exposed so early to basketball and hip-hop culture, sportswear—specifically Nike—came into the picture early. My dad always had me in Jordans. There's a picture of me where I'm barely a year old, wearing Jordans. [Later], watching Jordan on TV while wearing the same shoes was the best feeling ever. Sneakers have always been statement pieces for me.
Did you and your father ever debate which Jordan is the best?
Not sure if I've ever debated because he was always right! And the best model is hands down the Nike Air Jordan 11 'Concords'. That patent leather under the stadium lights on the hardwood floor had the classiest and most luxurious feel to me the moment I witnessed it.
You were influenced by the individualistic style that the NBA and hip-hop are renowned for. But it seems that, growing up in Japan, expressing that originality wasn't necessarily as encouraged. How did you balance that?
That's actually pretty interesting. Going to school [in Japan], it's more about blending in and not standing out. [But] obviously, every day I felt like the oddball, just due to my ethnic mixture. I was a little bit different and I knew that, but I still wanted to blend in. So, I tried to dress like the other kids here. Then I realised I was either really tall or just kind of looked different. That's when I started to understand that I don't have to dress a specific way because I'll always be different. So, why not just do whatever I want to and wear my own stuff? It took me a while, though. It was probably around high school or university when I realised that my experience helped me do my own thing, creatively and stylistically.
"Whatever I do, including running, is about artistic expression".
Compared to basketball, running doesn't have a lot of fashion icons or influencers. How has running informed your personal image?
I picked up running in university, and it has brought a more unique style to me, probably because running never really had that much of a "street" presence. You didn't really see musicians or people with fashion backgrounds wearing running gear, except when they were actually running. I realised that and thought it was cool to bring some of that look into my day-to-day [outfits]. The different aesthetic—slimmer fits and shorter shorts—definitely influenced a change. I started paying more attention to sizing and fit. You can see running's influence on my overall silhouette. I thought it was fresh to incorporate some of Nike's running heritage into my everyday fashion, like the vintage Nike running jackets, tracing back that style and mixing it with my own.
"I don't have to dress a specific way because I'll always be different. So, why not just do whatever I want to and wear my own stuff?"
Like music and fashion, running is something you can enjoy by yourself or with a community. What's it like running with AFE?
The leader and founder of AFE, Mr DKJ, is an inspiration to me because his vision for this team is so organic [and he has] such great love for sports. He understands that bonding for this crew is important. Also, not stressing on the typical Japanese age hierarchy culture creates a comfortable atmosphere for young members to bond as much as the veterans on the team. AFE members are the most serious non-serious runners I know in Tokyo. What they would do for the sake of bonding and post-run drinks is like no other. Runners in this team have such a good relationship with running and personal/work life. The vibe is never stale, and everyone likes to chat about the newest items—not only running shoes, but fashion items, gadgets and anything else cool.
It seems like the through line connecting all of your interests is that they're outlets for creativity. Do you find running complements your artistic endeavours?
Whatever I do, including running, is about artistic expression. Everyone has a different story as to why they run. For me, running is about incorporating sport into a bigger picture. The art of running is using a physical activity to find out more about yourself, your mind, your spirit and your creativity. It keeps me creative, and that's one of the main reasons I still do it. When I'm running, it's almost like I'm not thinking. But at the same time, it lets me think about so much. Like when I want to figure out what to play for my next DJ set, my body starts to warm up and I can start flowing. Once you're running, I feel, like, you can understand a feeling more than just sitting in your room and listening to music.
My favourite [running] route tends to be on busy streets in the Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku areas. It's an amazing view while listening to my favourite house music tracks. Running unlocks something creative and positive. It gets you into this flow state, which feeds into my other hobbies and creative endeavours.
Words: Jon Moy
Reported: October 2020