Technicolor Dreams: Catching up with Super Mizu Store
Based in Tokyo, Japan, Lily Gibson’s Super Mizu Store is an online haven for fashion enthusiasts. With inventory ranging from Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake to Gosha Rubchinskiy and Louis Vuitton, Gibson has something for everyone—streetwear-fiends and archival collectors alike. Gibson brings her unique range pieces to life through vibrant campaigns and all-star styling, constructing an altogether irresistible brand aesthetic that we just can’t get enough of. On her New Zeland roots, lifelong fascination with Tokyo, and inspiring approach to shopping, we talk to Super Mizu Store's founder, Lily Gibson.
Kate Marin: You’re from New Zealand but have made Japan your home. When did you first become interested in Japan/Japanese culture and how? Was your interest immediately in Japanese fashion or a different element of Japanese culture?
Lily Gibson: I studied Japanese and French from the age of 13. We had to study two languages. I wanted to go to Tokyo and Paris because I knew they were the best cities for fashion. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with Japanese language and people. There is so much beauty in Tokyo and Japan generally, it’s a very inspiring and creative place for me.
KM: Did you collect clothing on your own before starting Super Mizu Store?
LG: Absolutely. I’ve always been obsessed with clothing. I’m not afraid to spend a chunk of money on a great piece, but I don’t have a big collection. When I moved to Tokyo, the urge to collect was overwhelming—everywhere I went there was something incredible. This eventually made me more discerning because, of course, you can’t have it all. Super Mizu Store was a natural progression from the way I think about clothes and collecting, and turned my main activity into something I can share with people.
KM: Super Mizu carries a far-reaching yet curated selection of designers, making the shop appealing to a wide range of customers while still feeling extremely cohesive. To you, what do all of the clothes you sell have in common?
LG: I don’t know, people are multi-faceted dichotomies. Strong and sensitive, colourful and monochromatic, smart and ridiculous. The Super Mizu wardrobe tells the story of someone who has a really varied life, dresses with a sense of humour, and likes to make a point about subverting expectations. Someone who might wear a suit on their day off, and a vintage white Yohji dress to a big meeting. Someone who can’t be categorised. I hope people see that when they look at the collection.
KM: Does your New Zealand upbringing play any role in the way you dress?
LG: Definitely. Being in New Zealand (you realise this when you leave) is quite isolated creatively and culturally. Generally, people are really casual, but there’s an awful lot of freedom because there are no ‘style leaders’. There are no fashion bloggers. There are no kids with a $50,000 streetwear wardrobe. We’re all the leaders of our own style and there’s no pressure to follow anyone else.
There’s a lot of great design coming out of New Zealand from young designers and, I would argue, it’s in part a result of our isolation and relative lack of outside influence, combined with the new opportunity the global economy presents. People like Wynn Hamlyn, Harman Grubiša, and Shark Week are making things of, for, and by us, but they appeal to an audience from anywhere because the output is unique and new.
Growing up in New Zealand gave me an appreciation for clothing that is both affordable and an investment that will last years and be versatile in different areas of life. New Zealanders are practical and see through marketing schemes and $800 screen-printed logo t-shirts. The clothing I wanted to wear was never available to me in New Zealand, and if it was, it was hugely overpriced. I started Super Mizu Store to solve that problem.
KM: Now that you've been exposed to a wider range of clothing options in Japan, do you dress differently than how you did when you lived in New Zealand? When you return, do you continue to dress the way you do in Tokyo?
LG: I dress better now than when I lived in New Zealand, I think. Of course, it wasn't until I moved to Tokyo that I really had the access to the clothing I wanted to wear. When I’m in Auckland I dress the same as I do in Tokyo. I have a really small wardrobe so it’s out of necessity more than anything else.
I do sometimes meet people and they ask where I’m from, explaining I don’t look like I’m from ‘here’. That always makes me feel good, to be honest, but I’m always proud to respond “I am from here, actually. Grew up just around the corner.”
One of my Australian friends told me I had to get rid of a Vetements hoodie I wore all the time because it made me look like a dick. In Tokyo, no one would bat an eye, and in New Zealand, most people don’t know what Vetements is, so, I’m pretty free to proceed without judgment. Also, I don't care what people think so, there’s that.
KM: What does your personal archive look like?
LG: It’s small and filled with utilitarian garments. I like to get up every day and work as hard as I can, and what I wear helps me get into the right mindset. It’s like a uniform. Today I’m wearing red Pleats Please pants and a neon pink Pleats Please turtleneck. My apartment in Tokyo is next to the Issey Miyake offices. I’ve always been inspired by the workers standing outside smoking in full Pleats Please.
KM: It seems you've mastered the art of curation both within your own wardrobe and through Super Mizu. What advice can you give to someone who is looking to curate their wardrobe and develop a unique sense of style?
LG: Don't bother trying to interpret how you’re going to come across to other people. If you dress only for yourself, you’ll certainly make some mistakes and look back and cringe, but it’s a good way to grow organically into yourself. I tend to take risks and wear really strong looks when I’m most nervous—in a job interview, or an event, for example. I think the best way to present myself is by thinking: “If I had all the confidence in the world, what would I wear?” Clothes can help you embody the qualities you most admire in yourself. Courage is always a good one.
KM: Do you wear everything you own?
LG: Yes. I don’t save anything for a special occasion. Life is a good enough occasion, don't you think?
KM: What advice can you give someone looking to shop more sustainably?
LG: You don’t need to spend more necessarily, but invest where you can. Buying second hand is fantastic, but buying less is more important. When I go to a vintage store, I shop with my eyes closed. There can be a lot to sort through on one rack, so close your eyes and feel all the fabrics. It’s the fastest way to sort through junk and find quality fabrics you can live in.
KM: What do you think Japanese designers in particular offer that other designers do not?
LG: The uniting qualities across Japanese designers are simplicity, utility, and appreciation for quality and the design process. Gender seems irrelevant to the shapes and concepts of a lot of classic Japanese design, and therefore irrelevant to the wearer. I’ve learned about these values through Japanese designs, and they’ve helped shape my points of view about things that aren’t related to clothing at all.
KM: What are your go-to spots in Tokyo?
LG: For clothing, I love going to Omotesando to wander through Yohji, Issey Miyake’s four stores, Super A Market, visvim, AMBUSH, and the many secondhand and small streetwear stores. My neighbourhood, Tomigaya, has the best casual izakayas, wine bars, coffee and food. Path for breakfast and dinner, Ahiru wine bar, Camelback sandwiches, Fuglen for coffee, Mimet for the best lunch set. You don’t need to leave the neighbourhood. I love Muji in Yurakucho. It’s cliché for a foreigner in Japan but I can’t get over it. You haven’t had a Muji experience until you’ve been to Muji Yurakucho. I am obsessed with Muji’s products and philosophy.
Go to all the parks. Go to shrines big and small. Go everywhere. See everything. Eat everything. Don’t leave. Just move to Tokyo.