HOW THE NEEDLES TRACKSUIT BECAME A MYTH
Nepenthes started out as an importer and retailer of American products in Japan but quickly expanded to designing its own products under the Nepenthes and Hoggs labels. However, Hoggs had trademark legal issues causing them to rebrand. Due to this, Needles was introduced in the late '90s in response to the growing scarcity of vintage pieces produced in the States. The brand then began to reproduce classic American designs using Japanese fabrics, creating an aesthetic that was both nostalgic and eccentric by combining both Californian sportswear and North American workwear. During the 1980’s, while Shimizu was in America, he saw an actor wearing Adidas ATP Track Pants along with a tailored jacket and t-shirt in a movie - the look struck him and inspired him, so much so that he introduced his first pair of track pants in Needles' FW08 collection. The idea to create the track pant came about during one of Shimizu's many trips to America. While he was in Berkley, he saw a yellow and burgundy pair of track pants, with five stripes instead of three, in a vintage store and decided to take inspiration and produce his own version. In addition to the five-stripe detail, an embroidered butterfly was also added to the final design, inspired by the '73 film Papillon, starring Steve McQueen, of whom Shimizu was a big fan. The butterfly design, which later became the Needles logo itself, originated with the track pants - a rare occurrence in fashion. Logos are often created along with the brand itself and not ten years after. The first two models were produced in Black/Purple and Bordeaux/Yellow - which are still the classic colorways today, among numerous variations. Inspirations for different colorways still come from American college athletic teams, though the initial idea was to separate the track pants from sportswear.
The side stripes were originally created by deliberately slowing down the pace of the textile machines to give the fibers a more lived-in, wool-like appearance. All of these fabrics are produced by a single vintage machine in their Japanese factory - when it finally breaks down, it will no longer be possible to reproduce that fabric. At first the track pants were not a success - but for almost a decade Shimizu continued to wear them as a substitute for classic jeans. Soon his habit of wearing them was passed on to the staff of Nepenthes stores and eventually to the brand's buyers, which led to the style's explosion in popularity within seven or eight years. The main reason for this was A$AP Rocky, who started wearing them during the streetwear boom. This attracted the attention of the public who discovered the history of Needles and turned the craze for the brand into collectibles. Not only that, but over the course of their thirteen-year lifespan, track pants were produced in various colors and unique fabrics for every collection, becoming the key piece of every collection. Shimizu himself said in an interview that he first decided on the colors of the pants and then created the rest of the collection around them. Doing so stood to him, so much so that Shimizu recalled, in the same interview, how many regular customers came to the store wearing Needles tracksuits, as if it were a uniform to show to their dedication to the brand's community.