People | 20 QUESTIONS

David Wang: Designing a space between Asia and the world

by Mio Yamada

Staff Writer

Name: David Wang
Age: 26
Nationality: Canadian
Occupation: Business development at Pinkoi Japan
Likes: Drinking milk after a dip in an onsen (hot spring)
Dislikes: Onsen temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius


1. What is Pinkoi, the company you work for? Pinkoi is the leading online marketplace in Asia, where you can find original designs from independent and creative brands all around the world. Our mission is to empower brands, champion great products, and enrich people’s lives through good design.

2. Sell yourself and your job at Pinkoi. I connect Japan and the rest of Asia through design. I believe that the accessibility of e-commerce and the universal language of design can shrink the distance between cultures and it reminds us that we are not so different after all.

3. Do you own anything pink? I used to have a pink polo shirt and I wore it with the collar popped. Embarrassing.

4. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen on Pinkoi? It might be this washi (Japanese paper) tape with cockroach designs. Yes, cockroaches — it’s kind of cute though!

5. What’s the toughest part of what you do? Most of the projects I lead are new and involve many stakeholders, so there’s no set procedure to follow — I have to figure it out along the way while striving toward a win-win relationship for everyone.

6. How does Pinkoi choose brands? We carefully vet each seller. We look at the story behind the brand and its potential to go global, the quality of product photos and descriptions, and most importantly how uniquely designed the products are.

7. What is it you think you said or did that landed you your job? I was prepared with questions. I think in the end I asked more questions than I was being asked.

8. You’ve scouted Taiwanese and Japanese brands — have you noticed any fundamental differences between them? Many of the independent Taiwanese brands I have worked with are much more aggressive on expanding internationally. Maybe it’s a function of geopolitics and economics, but because of the relative small size of the Taiwan market, scaling up has always necessitated expanding abroad. In Japan, most of the small- and medium-sized brands have been able to sustain themselves with just the domestic market.

Things are changing, though, given the shrinking and aging population, so Japanese brands are slowly realizing that relying on the domestic market is not enough. I actually think it’s a great chance for independent brands in Japan to “re-invent” themselves internationally, as technology has made it easy for brands to now go from local to global.

9. How would your best friends describe you? Someone who marches to the beat of his own drum.

10. What makes you dance for joy? When there is free ōmori (large portion) at restaurants.

11. Who is your Japan hero? “Iron Chef” Chen Kenichi. He showed it was possible to successfully present a foreign culture to the Japanese mainstream while being authentic, but also putting his own unique, and personal touch on it.

12. Do you have a secret identity? I have a Japanese alias for booking restaurants. The pronunciation of “David” is sometimes hard for staff to understand, so I decided it would be better off for both parties if I just had a Japanese pseudonym. I came up with Hayashi-san, as the kanji for Hayashi is also my mother’s maiden name, but when several restaurants asked for a first name, too, I panicked and chose Daisuke because it was the closest thing to my real name. Now, I can’t stop giggling to myself every time I use it.

13. Describe something silly you did in your youth. When I was a student, guys in my grade would perform the “Leaf Village Secret Finger Jutsu: One Thousand Years of Death.” It’s a prank based on one in the “Naruto” manga. You’d put your hands together in the shape of an imaginary gun, then poke an unsuspecting victim in the anus. It became second nature to look around before bending over to pick something up. It kind of inspired us, though …

14. How so? When I started a streetwear label with several classmates during senior year, we named it Thousand Years Apparel. We made graphic T-shirts, sweaters, even hats. We ran it for several years, but then we all started getting busy with other commitments. We even missed an email from Macklemore’s manager, who was looking for local streetwear brands that the rapper could wear during the Toronto leg of his tour. That might have been our big break!

15. What was the last thing you googled? Where to buy “American-style” bacon near my house. The “bacon” here is closer to ham, and you need to add oil to fry it — and then it doesn’t even get crispy!

16. What’s one of your best Japan experiences? Dancing to ’90s West Coast hip-hop in a tiny basement club in a small Shizuoka Prefecture town, and then getting the freshest kaisendon (seafood rice bowl) for breakfast after.

17. Any tips on learning Japanese? Does watching Terrace House count? It’s highly addictive, offers an insight into youth and daily life in Japan, and is great for intermediate speakers who are looking to learn useful casual Japanese.

18. What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received? Fake it till you make it. Confidence you can fake — competence, not so much.

19. The world would be a better place without what? Comic Sans MS.

20. You are an item being sold on Pinkoi, what are you? Definitely this bear-shaped screwdriver set. Functional, yet playful — bringing joy to people’s lives everywhere.

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