BELIEF
Interview with Mei Yong (Liberaiders)
Before Liberaiders Mei Yong has come a long way which is quite worthy a movie. Our interview provides an insight into his life in socialist China chasing after forbidden music records, his moving to Japan and first acquaintance with local street culture as well as his visiting of Russia and exploration of Tibetan region, all of which become parts of great journey of a man who projects all his life and doings into work.
Before Liberaiders Mei Yong has come a long way which is quite worthy a movie. Our interview provides an insight into his life in socialist China chasing after forbidden music records, his moving to Japan and first acquaintance with local street culture as well as his visiting of Russia and exploration of Tibetan region, all of which become parts of great journey of a man who projects all his life and doings into work.
You, Mei, grew up in socialist China which lacks access to world-known western culture including music, art etc. Nonetheless you've managed to get your hands on rock and roll recordings even then. Could you recall those times when music was that much of a treasure to you and tell which findings affected you the most?
I was born in 1967 and went through the beginning to mid 80's from when I was 10 to 20yrs old. China had just begun to reform and open up. Since I was born and raised in Beijing, we had a very good environment for growth, such as the chance of contact with foreign students or foreigners.
China didn't even have a record store back then, and Western culture was not allowed to be exposed in public. Therefore, junior high and high school students of our generation could only collect tapes from overseas students. Of course, we had no choice of music, so we listened to whatever they had.

That was when I fell in love with Western music and that was the environment I was exposed. After going to university, I discovered that not only the children in our district were exposed to Western culture. There were groups of kids like this in every district in Beijing. I didn't know but if I look back, 1984, 1985, and 1986, those 3 years are the first generation of Chinese rock music. In other words, our generation is the first generation of Chinese rock n roll, and our generation is particularly yearning for the West through music because we were in an environment where we could only listen to music and imagine the West. We all thought the West was very good, and we all yearned for the West. That was our environment at the time.
You, Mei, grew up in socialist China which lacks access to world-known western culture including music, art etc. Nonetheless you've managed to get your hands on rock and roll recordings even then. Could you recall those times when music was that much of a treasure to you and tell which findings affected you the most?
I was born in 1967 and went through the beginning to mid 80's from when I was 10 to 20yrs old. China had just begun to reform and open up. Since I was born and raised in Beijing, we had a very good environment for growth, such as the chance of contact with foreign students or foreigners.
China didn't even have a record store back then, and Western culture was not allowed to be exposed in public. Therefore, junior high and high school students of our generation could only collect tapes from overseas students. Of course, we had no choice of music, so we listened to whatever they had.

That was when I fell in love with Western music and that was the environment I was exposed. After going to university, I discovered that not only the children in our district were exposed to Western culture. There were groups of kids like this in every district in Beijing. I didn't know but if I look back, 1984, 1985, and 1986, those 3 years are the first generation of Chinese rock music. In other words, our generation is the first generation of Chinese rock n roll, and our generation is particularly yearning for the West through music because we were in an environment where we could only listen to music and imagine the West. We all thought the West was very good, and we all yearned for the West. That was our environment at the time.
We know about you moving to Tokyo at the age of 20 and starting to work in a CD/DVD rental place. What are your most precious impressions about that period of your life and how it influenced your future likings and passions?
I was 20 years old when I arrived in Japan in 1988. Very few people from our generation can come to Japan and go to the United States. Since I was on a work-study program when I went to a university in Kyoto, I had to work by myself to pay my tuition.

I chose CD/DVD rental place without hesitation when I was looking for a job. I didn't care about the salary because being able to listen to all music and watch foreign movies for free was much more valuable. That's why I decided to work there for two years.

I was a young man who was very interested in different cultures. I would bring CDs and DVDs home to watch after work every day. These two years helped make up for my lack of contact with Western culture in the past 20 years and built a foundation for me.
After living in Japan for 33 years, I realized that during my years in Japan I learned a lot more than I did in school. That includes studying abroad and outside of class time. It had a lot of influence on my current work.
We know about you moving to Tokyo at the age of 20 and starting to work in a CD/DVD rental place. What are your most precious impressions about that period of your life and how it influenced your future likings and passions?
I was 20 years old when I arrived in Japan in 1988. Very few people from our generation can come to Japan and go to the United States. Since I was on a work-study program when I went to a university in Kyoto, I had to work by myself to pay my tuition.

I chose CD/DVD rental place without hesitation when I was looking for a job. I didn't care about the salary because being able to listen to all music and watch foreign movies for free was much more valuable. That's why I decided to work there for two years.

I was a young man who was very interested in different cultures. I would bring CDs and DVDs home to watch after work every day. These two years helped make up for my lack of contact with Western culture in the past 20 years and built a foundation for me.
After living in Japan for 33 years, I realized that during my years in Japan I learned a lot more than I did in school. That includes studying abroad and outside of class time. It had a lot of influence on my current work.
What captured your interest in Japanese streetwear scene back then and how do your present feelings compare to those at the time you've just moved?
When I first arrived in Japan, many aspects gave me great culture shock because I suddenly jumped from a closed socialist country to a very advanced capitalist country.

Regarding Fashion, I felt like a newborn child at the time, and I was very new to everything. When I was in college, there were some fashion trends I chased after, but after a while, I found that there are people, such as skateboarders, surfers, and music lovers who wear very different styles compared to the common popular ones.

At that time there was no such thing called street wear. Now, if you look at it, I think these skateboarders back then were the source of Street Wear. Since I was 20 years old, I spent my entire youth in Japan. I think I was in sync with the young people at the time, and I still have a very strong desire to absorb these cultures.
What captured your interest in Japanese streetwear scene back then and how do your present feelings compare to those at the time you've just moved?
When I first arrived in Japan, many aspects gave me great culture shock because I suddenly jumped from a closed socialist country to a very advanced capitalist country.

Regarding Fashion, I felt like a newborn child at the time, and I was very new to everything. When I was in college, there were some fashion trends I chased after, but after a while, I found that there are people, such as skateboarders, surfers, and music lovers who wear very different styles compared to the common popular ones.

At that time there was no such thing called street wear. Now, if you look at it, I think these skateboarders back then were the source of Street Wear. Since I was 20 years old, I spent my entire youth in Japan. I think I was in sync with the young people at the time, and I still have a very strong desire to absorb these cultures.
You've spent some time in the USA working with American brands as of now. What was your experience at the very first time you've dived into work there?
After starting my university life, I used my summer vacations to go to Hawaii and other places in the United States. I found a job with a trading company after I graduated. California was the destination of my business trips the first 7 years. I made many friends of the same age over there. The company I was working for was a Japanese company, and Japanese companies are very strict and have a lot of rules.

Among all of the American brands I worked with, and the friends I made, several have become famous designers worldwide. I felt they were living a life of doing what they wanted to do and not taking work too seriously but still making a good living.

That was inspiration for me. I started picturing when I would be able to do what I want freely and not be too serious while also making enough money to manage. This left a deep impression on me working with different American brands and designers at the time.
You've spent some time in the USA working with American brands as of now. What was your experience at the very first time you've dived into work there?
After starting my university life, I used my summer vacations to go to Hawaii and other places in the United States. I found a job with a trading company after I graduated. California was the destination of my business trips the first 7 years. I made many friends of the same age over there. The company I was working for was a Japanese company, and Japanese companies are very strict and have a lot of rules.

Among all of the American brands I worked with, and the friends I made, several have become famous designers worldwide. I felt they were living a life of doing what they wanted to do and not taking work too seriously but still making a good living.

That was inspiration for me. I started picturing when I would be able to do what I want freely and not be too serious while also making enough money to manage. This left a deep impression on me working with different American brands and designers at the time.
You are clearly passionate about photography judging on your ability to capture every trip you take part in and every person you take a picture of though photography itself seems like a hobby to you, the thing which you just like to do and as is. What is your overall experience as a person with a camera always on his shoulder?
When I went to the United States when I was young, I had to buy film because during this time it was the mid-90s and mobile phone or iPhone didn't exist. I was very busy every time I went and didn't have enough time to sleep and that caused me to take many photos. I just wanted to record many scenes through photos, so I didn't think much about how to take them.

After I wash out the photos after returning to Japan, I always find many scenes that I didn't notice at the time. As my motivation for taking pictures started from there, I started taking more and more photos. Photos are memories and journals to me. I can see the places I have traveled and the people I have met through photos again in more detail. Until today, no matter where I go, I still have the same habit of taking my camera to take pictures of what I want to remember.
You are clearly passionate about photography judging on your ability to capture every trip you take part in and every person you take a picture of though photography itself seems like a hobby to you, the thing which you just like to do and as is. What is your overall experience as a person with a camera always on his shoulder?
When I went to the United States when I was young, I had to buy film because during this time it was the mid-90s and mobile phone or iPhone didn't exist. I was very busy every time I went and didn't have enough time to sleep and that caused me to take many photos. I just wanted to record many scenes through photos, so I didn't think much about how to take them.

After I wash out the photos after returning to Japan, I always find many scenes that I didn't notice at the time. As my motivation for taking pictures started from there, I started taking more and more photos. Photos are memories and journals to me. I can see the places I have traveled and the people I have met through photos again in more detail. Until today, no matter where I go, I still have the same habit of taking my camera to take pictures of what I want to remember.
Are there any specific events or outside triggers you can elaborate on which pushed you towards creating Liberaiders?
In the past 20 years, I have worked with many streetwear brands and have made many connections with many different designers. I started Liberaiders when I was 48 years old in 2017, I started to think about how I should be doing more of what I'm interested in after turning 50, and what exactly I'm interested in.

At that time, I felt I learned so much after been working with so many famous brands and designers for so many years. I should use my experiences for my own work and to create products that I can be satisfied with after I reach my 50's. This is my biggest motivation for establishing Liberaiders.
Are there any specific events or outside triggers you can elaborate on which pushed you towards creating Liberaiders?
In the past 20 years, I have worked with many streetwear brands and have made many connections with many different designers. I started Liberaiders when I was 48 years old in 2017, I started to think about how I should be doing more of what I'm interested in after turning 50, and what exactly I'm interested in.

At that time, I felt I learned so much after been working with so many famous brands and designers for so many years. I should use my experiences for my own work and to create products that I can be satisfied with after I reach my 50's. This is my biggest motivation for establishing Liberaiders.
The last few seasons are obviously all about Japan due to the lockdown. How does it affect your work now and what's the strategy for the closest future of upcoming collections?
Due to the impact of the epidemic, we were unable to travel overseas for 20FW and 21SS seasons. It means I couldn't go where I want to go but only where I could go.

We may often overlook the scenery in our daily life environment, perhaps because it is too familiar, or because of the fast-paced lifestyle. Although the epidemic limited my ability to travel, it gave me the opportunity to be familiar with Tokyo again.

I discovered the changes of Tokyo over the years and the beauty of it that I didn't notice in these 33 years.
In the next season of 2021FW, I want to go to Lhasa in Tibet. Although we have been to Tibet, the trip was very short at that time. I think it is not enough to show Tibet in one season, so I want to go there for our next season.

This time when I go, I want to experience Tibet more deeply and also learn more about the local youth and their culture, and show it during the next season. I am still not sure if I am able to go, but even if the procedures are difficult, I still want to try and get there. This is my plan for the next season.
The last few seasons are obviously all about Japan due to the lockdown. How does it affect your work now and what's the strategy for the closest future of upcoming collections?
Due to the impact of the epidemic, we were unable to travel overseas for 20FW and 21SS seasons. It means I couldn't go where I want to go but only where I could go.

We may often overlook the scenery in our daily life environment, perhaps because it is too familiar, or because of the fast-paced lifestyle. Although the epidemic limited my ability to travel, it gave me the opportunity to be familiar with Tokyo again.

I discovered the changes of Tokyo over the years and the beauty of it that I didn't notice in these 33 years.
In the next season of 2021FW, I want to go to Lhasa in Tibet. Although we have been to Tibet, the trip was very short at that time. I think it is not enough to show Tibet in one season, so I want to go there for our next season.

This time when I go, I want to experience Tibet more deeply and also learn more about the local youth and their culture, and show it during the next season. I am still not sure if I am able to go, but even if the procedures are difficult, I still want to try and get there. This is my plan for the next season.
Our store, BELIEF and its origin are closely intertwined with Tibetan region you've already been to. How unique was the experience in that specific expedition?
For me, someone who was born and raised in China as well as other Chinese people, Tibet is a very mysterious and religious place. When I was young, I yearned for the West but at this age, I think it makes more sense to express Tibet through my brand. When I arrived in Tibet the first time, I felt that although the ethnic group was different, it was indeed a mysterious place with its own religious beliefs and values, and spectacular sights that can't be compared. We did not go to the city the first time we went but spent 10 days in the countryside. I live in Tokyo, one of the busiest and most developed cities. By going to Tibet, you will feel this wonderful place help you forget all your worries and cleanse your soul. It is a sacred place that I want to go again and again.
Our store, BELIEF and its origin are closely intertwined with Tibetan region you've already been to. How unique was the experience in that specific expedition?
For me, someone who was born and raised in China as well as other Chinese people, Tibet is a very mysterious and religious place. When I was young, I yearned for the West but at this age, I think it makes more sense to express Tibet through my brand. When I arrived in Tibet the first time, I felt that although the ethnic group was different, it was indeed a mysterious place with its own religious beliefs and values, and spectacular sights that can't be compared. We did not go to the city the first time we went but spent 10 days in the countryside. I live in Tokyo, one of the busiest and most developed cities. By going to Tibet, you will feel this wonderful place help you forget all your worries and cleanse your soul. It is a sacred place that I want to go again and again.
The summer season of 2019 was devoted to Russian history which can't please us enough. Did you like anything in particular during your visits to Moscow and Saint-Petersburg?
Being born and raised in a socialist country, I am deeply influenced by Soviet culture. The education I received from childhood, the music I listened to, the books I read and the movies I watched were all from Russia or the Soviet Union. Compared to Europe and America, our generation received a lot of Soviet education until adulthood. I lived in Beijing at the time where many buildings were constructed with the help of experts from the Soviet Union after the founding of the People's Republic of China in the 1950s.

After visiting Russia more than 30 years passed since, I felt I was reliving my childhood memory. The Airbnb I rented is one of the buildings of Stalin's Seven Sisters. The reason for deciding to live there was because I felt very nice and comfortable. Everyone I met in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg felt different to me. My impressions of Russians were very tough, and all the friends I made during this trip gave me the feeling that I can change my heart and be lifetime friends.

Saint-Petersburg is particularly meaningful to me. Not only is our retailer there, but it is also the birthplace of the October Revolution. So, after seeing the buildings and warships parked in the harbor during the October Revolution that I saw as a child, I was really moved. Maybe only I have this feeling because I grew up in a socialist country and visited the holy land of socialism for the first time. This is how I feel about Russia. I would like to go for a second and third time if I have a chance in the future because I now have many very good friends there.
The summer season of 2019 was devoted to Russian history which can't please us enough. Did you like anything in particular during your visits to Moscow and Saint-Petersburg?
Being born and raised in a socialist country, I am deeply influenced by Soviet culture. The education I received from childhood, the music I listened to, the books I read and the movies I watched were all from Russia or the Soviet Union. Compared to Europe and America, our generation received a lot of Soviet education until adulthood. I lived in Beijing at the time where many buildings were constructed with the help of experts from the Soviet Union after the founding of the People's Republic of China in the 1950s.

After visiting Russia more than 30 years passed since, I felt I was reliving my childhood memory. The Airbnb I rented is one of the buildings of Stalin's Seven Sisters. The reason for deciding to live there was because I felt very nice and comfortable. Everyone I met in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg felt different to me. My impressions of Russians were very tough, and all the friends I made during this trip gave me the feeling that I can change my heart and be lifetime friends.

Saint-Petersburg is particularly meaningful to me. Not only is our retailer there, but it is also the birthplace of the October Revolution. So, after seeing the buildings and warships parked in the harbor during the October Revolution that I saw as a child, I was really moved. Maybe only I have this feeling because I grew up in a socialist country and visited the holy land of socialism for the first time. This is how I feel about Russia. I would like to go for a second and third time if I have a chance in the future because I now have many very good friends there.
LIBERAIDERS SS19 LOOKBOOK
Every Liberaiders collection is somehow inspired or based on the adventures you experience in different countries. How long is the list of countries you have already visited and which new Destination attracts you now or is it still Unknown?
I have already visited Tibet in China, Havana in Cuba, Kathmandu in Nepal, Moscow in Russia, Berlin in Germany, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Tokyo and Okinawa in Japan.

I was always keen on going to the United States and Western countries when I was in my 20's through my 40's, because I think their Street Culture is very cool and I was pursuing their style. However, after I reached 50, I had a feeling that I want to use Liberaiders to go to those difficult to reach places that I wanted to visit before but couldn't, such as Cuba, Tibet, Nepal, Russia, and Vietnam. I found the motivation through my brand where it allows me to go to some challenging places, also let me have some new discoveries to keep me creative and excited of what I do.

I want to go to Lhasa for my next stop. I don't think about where I want to go in the future because for me, when I design a Season, it's like a band making an album. You can't think about the next album when working on the current one. I want to make my current season perfect. A season that I can be satisfied with.

DESTINATION UNKNOWN.
Every Liberaiders collection is somehow inspired or based on the adventures you experience in different countries. How long is the list of countries you have already visited and which new Destination attracts you now or is it still Unknown?
I have already visited Tibet in China, Havana in Cuba, Kathmandu in Nepal, Moscow in Russia, Berlin in Germany, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Tokyo and Okinawa in Japan.

I was always keen on going to the United States and Western countries when I was in my 20's through my 40's, because I think their Street Culture is very cool and I was pursuing their style. However, after I reached 50, I had a feeling that I want to use Liberaiders to go to those difficult to reach places that I wanted to visit before but couldn't, such as Cuba, Tibet, Nepal, Russia, and Vietnam. I found the motivation through my brand where it allows me to go to some challenging places, also let me have some new discoveries to keep me creative and excited of what I do.

I want to go to Lhasa for my next stop. I don't think about where I want to go in the future because for me, when I design a Season, it's like a band making an album. You can't think about the next album when working on the current one. I want to make my current season perfect. A season that I can be satisfied with.

DESTINATION UNKNOWN.