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Namesake is the Taiwanese label using fashion to resurrect family secrets



The three brothers behind the LVMH Prize-nominated brand are fusing personal history with basketball-inflected tailoring

“This is who we are,” Steve Hsieh – one-third of the brother-founded Taiwanese fashion label Namesake (以父之名) – says, propping up a bright red, 3D-printed basketball shoe in front of his Zoom camera. Modelled on adidas’ Kobe 2 trainers and embedded with rows of crisscrossed netting along the sole, the shoe pays homage to the Hsieh family’s fishing business – juxtaposing their father’s traditions with the aesthetic flavour of Steve, Michael, and Richard’s own generation. “Fishing plus basketball plus futuristic, technical stuff really represents Namesake,” Steve adds. 

Namesake, which translates to “In the Name of the Father” in Mandarin, is the second time all three brothers have collaborated on a business venture. In 2013, after years spent between Taiwan, Japan, and the US – where they studied sensible, academic degrees encouraged by their parents – they opened up NE. SENSE, a Taipei-based concept store stocking high fashion and streetwear brands running the gamut of Rick Owens to Diesel, Wales Bonner, and GmbH. Seven years later, the brothers launched Namesake as a tribute to their father, who was the first to introduce them to the artful side of fashion.

The brothers approach Namesake as a way to honour the disparate cultures they grew up in, even if they often felt like outsiders. “We always feel like we’re not ‘in’ yet,” Michael says. But with its genderless tailoring, futuristic accessories, and sustainably-sourced fabrics, the label’s high-end take on basketball culture has garnered a cult following from NBA basketball players and streetwear fanatics alike. Now, just weeks after debuting their latest collection, the brothers have been shortlisted for fashion’s prestigious LVMH Prize.

Below, we catch up with Steve and Michael Hsieh on their reaction to the nomination, the inspiration behind their AW23 collection, and balancing family traditions with their own voices.

Congratulations on the LVMH Prize nomination! How did it feel finding out that you’d made the shortlist? 

Steve Hsieh: It feels unreal. We’ve been in the industry for almost ten years since starting out as a buyer. Our dream was always to have our own voice, create our own brand, and tell our own story, but we thought that by starting our own shop it’d be easier to gather a community behind us. 

We just want to let people know that there are a lot of different routes to get here. You don’t have to go to design school to be able to be recognised. I think we showed a different route for people, and that’s the most important thing for us, to inspire the next round of people. To be recognised by LVMH is just an extra boost for us to work harder.

When did you decide you wanted to work in fashion?  Were you all on similar paths?

Steve Hsieh: We all went to different schools for university. I went to a school in California for civil engineering, Michael went to school for psychology, and Richard went to school for biology. When we were growing up, our parents wanted Richard to become a doctor, me to become an engineer, and Michael to become a lawyer. Before I applied to college, I knew I wanted to do design, but my parents weren’t really supportive because I had pretty good school grades, so they thought it was a waste of talent.

When I went to California on my own, I found out that design was what I wanted to do, so I got an internship and started working in a warehouse and slowly worked my way up to becoming a designer for the brand. It was around that time that we all gathered together and decided to do our own thing – and to not go down the paths our parents wanted us to.

“We just want to let people know that there’s a lot of different routes to get here. You don’t have to go to design school to be able to be recognised” – Steve Hsieh

Namesake draws a lot of inspiration from your father and the way he introduced you to art and creativity. Are there any specific moments from your childhood that stand out today? 

Steve Hsieh: Originally, my dad wanted to be a designer, but in an Asian family you usually have to take over the family business, so he couldn’t. Growing up, I feel like he used us as a way of showing his desire to design. He’d dress us in the stuff he wanted to wear – always suits or Ralph Lauren. He’s so interested in fashion and now he houses a tonne of magazines and things. I think we were subconsciously in this design environment and that influenced us a lot. 

Michael Hsieh: We all went to Japan for high school and when we went there, our dad showed us a lot of Japanese magazines, so we’d sit around, flipping through them. We three brothers were more interested in Japanese brands and Harajuku style but our dad introduced us to high fashion. I remember he brought us to Dover Street Market in Ginza. 

You grew up between Taiwan, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Seattle. How do those places come through in your designs? 

Steve Hsieh: Our mindset is that we want to keep Chinese traditions, Japanese elegance, and American freedom; those are the three things we want to represent our brand. When we went to Tokyo, we realised the social structure was very rigid but, at the same time, there’s a lot of elegance and craftsmanship which influences what we’re doing right now. When we went to America, the sudden release of freedom was what we wanted to express to ourselves as well. For us, there’s always a juxtaposition – we want to be free, but our family background is so traditional. It’s a combination of the two.

Your collections also explore the juxtaposition between past generations and your own. Why does it feel important to your work? 

Steve Hsieh: We always feel like we’re the outsiders in any community that we go into because when we moved to Tokyo it was hard for us to get used to the environment. When we were in America, it was a totally different background. When we moved to Taipei, it felt very familiar, but still very distant. That’s the juxtaposition: we always try to bring together two contrasts but find the common ground between them. I think that’s the engineering part of me – I always like to give myself questions that I can answer through the collection. Having two contrasting things and finding similarities is like finding the answer to these questions. 

Michael Hsieh: That outsider mentality is something that we always keep in mind, because it’s something that’s kept us grounded and humble and honest. Even though we’re in the fashion world, we’ve always felt like there’s a lot of creativity to improve on. I really enjoy being an outsider because sometimes it means you can really see what’s going on on the inside.

Can you please tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your AW23 SILK ROAD show? 

Steve Hsieh: Each collection starts from a family story which we then translate into sports. We make it into a bigger story so that it resonates with more people. For AW23, the story is about myself. When I was growing up, I was sent to a fake Buddhist camp where all the kids were physically abused by the monks – it was pretty big news at the time and they’re all in jail right now. But the moral of the story is that even though it was a really tough experience for me, I feel like I wasn’t that traumatised by it. The motto of AW23 is talking about tenacity. I feel like I learned it from this experience.

I always compare life to horse riding. You feel like you’re going in the direction that you want to go towards, but you can’t control it. Life is like the horse, and the horse is in control, so you can only enjoy the ride. This is why horses are a really symbolic reference this season, plus my Chinese name has a horse letter in it and our parents’ favourite brands have the horse symbol in them – they like Ralph Lauren and Hermès, which both became a big inspiration behind the style of the collection.

“The most important thing about basketball is the ethos of life lessons and teamwork. We feel like that can resonate bigger than basketball” – Steve Hsieh

Is there a piece from this collection that you feel represents Namesake as a brand? 

Michael Hsieh: Each one of us has a different opinion on this! That’s something interesting about Namesake because normally families all dress in different ways, but you can still look at them and see that they’re family. I think that’s what Namesake represents. I like a more formal style, which resonates with my dad. We made this big suit crew neck – it looks like a crewneck, but we constructed everything in really fine tailoring and then included a rip on it. It’s like a Ralph Lauren cardigan, but we turned it into a crew neck to represent casualwear with a sports, basketball vibe. You can put your suit on without thinking and go out. 

Craftsmanship has always remained an integral part of your work – taking basketball fashion into a luxury space. Why is that important to you?

Steve Hsieh: We grew up in a fishing harbour, and our parents wouldn’t let us play any games. They just gave us a basketball and said ’Go to the harbour and play’. So we grew up with basketball while looking at the harbour and agriculture. From there, basketball became the common language between us brothers. We loved it so much, but before we started Namesake we felt like there was no basketball brand that really resonated with people who love both fashion and basketball. There’s definitely a community for that and that’s why we wanted to start Namesake. 

To us, the most important thing about basketball is not the act of playing it, but the ethos of life lessons and teamwork. We want to translate that to everyone, and we feel like that goes beyond basketball, too.

What do you want people to feel or connect with from your clothing?  

Steve Hsieh: We want to give people hope. Through each story, we want to encourage people, saying, ‘Don’t worry. You can pass through this.’

Michael Hsieh: I never had confidence growing up and our SS23 collection was a story about myself finding confidence after finding my passion. When I was growing up, I always felt like I looked weird in a way and fashion kind of saved me and gave me a lot of confidence. I want that to translate into our product and customers.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about your brothers since starting the label that you didn’t know before? 

Steve Hsieh: We have a sixth sense by now, knowing what the others are thinking or feeling because we live together and work together. The interesting thing, though, is that we still always come up with ideas that surprise each other. 

Check out Namesake’s AW23 collection in the gallery above.

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