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Fashion | Brand Focus: Sakura Sport

This month, DJ Mag catches up with Dundee’s Henry Sampson, who combined his love of sports with streetwear to found Sakura Sport, a brand that’s supporting local creatives and businesses first

In 2015, Japan beat South Africa in the Rugby World Cup during the last minute of play, taking the 34-32 lead in what was dubbed the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history. It’s a moment that Dundee’s Henry Sampson remembers well. And it would, in turn, go on to inspire the name of his clothing brand, Sakura Sport. “The Japanese rugby team are known as the cherry blossoms, which in Japanese is Sakura,” he tells DJ Mag. “It’s sporting moments like these that make you think anything is possible.”

Watching sport bring “people and communities together”, and having an interest in fashion, the Covid pandemic gave Sampson an opportunity to merge his two passions.“During lockdown I witnessed the loyalty and commitment from local people for local businesses,” he says. Sampson is from Dundee, a coastal city on the Firth of Tay estuary in eastern Scotland. “Before then, I’d often overlooked smaller brands in favour of bigger shops and brands. After supporting local businesses during lockdown, it felt like the right time to brainstorm a brand image and vision.”

Launched at the beginning of this year, running Sakura Sport has been a process of learning in real time. With no previous experience, Sampson nods to his close friends and family — footwear designer Finn Rush-Taylor, Cameron Watt, Oli Page, All Good collective’s Nairn Spink and photographer Luke Mochan. “It’s been amazing to share the process with friends,”he affirms. “They’ve always been on hand to help, even with their busy schedules.”

As Sakura Sport approaches its one year anniversary, Sampson has stuck to his ethics of working alongside local innovators and businesses, through collaborations, pop-ups and events. Most recently, he teamed up with Dundee coffee shop EH9 Espresso, local brand Flyswats and the city’s All Good DJ collective for a fundraising night of coffee, garms and music, with all proceeds donated to charities helping those affected by the war in Ukraine.

Sakura Sport artwork

'The drops take inspiration from sport, nostalgia and music, and that’s something we’ll continue to do. We’re building a story behind the brand which aligns with the current Sakura Sport community.'

The designs for the products themselves, bold and neutral colours splashed with cartoon graphics or minimalist embroidery, are bounced between and filtered through friends for opinions, ideas and more inspiration. “Sharing ideas and bouncing concepts between each other gives me a feel for what types of designs and products will do well,” Sampson says. “The drops take inspiration from sport, nostalgia and music, and that’s something we’ll continue to do. We’re building a story behind the brand which aligns with my interests, and the current Sakura Sport community.”

In terms of Sakura Sport’s crossover with the music scene, some of Scotland’s favourite DJs and upstarts, like Glasgow’s Big Miz, and Macka and Lowree, as well as Ayrshire’s Ewan McVicar, have all repped the brand. “We also recently collaborated with Macka and Lowree to create a T-shirt to celebrate the success of their debut album, ‘Without The Music I Don’t Know Where I’d Be Dancin’,”Sampson says. “We’re planning a pop-up shop with Macka and Lowree too in the near future...”

After recently collaborating with Caledonia Hosiery to produce socks made in Scotland, Sampson is continuing to evolve the brand sustainably while keeping embroidery and printing in Dundee. “We’re also aiming to host more pop-up shops in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and bring a release involving pre-loved clothing. “In addition, we’re going to do more charity work,” Sampson continues, “and currently planning how Sakura Sport can have a more positive impact in Dundee as we move into the Autumn/Winter. It’s really exciting that I have the opportunity to help people through doing something I love.”

Amy Fielding is DJ Mag's digital staff writer and fashion editor. Follow her on Twitter @amybfielding

Want more? Check out our recent Brand Focus with Latent Goods, the UK-based brand focused on innovation and building the bridge between music and fashion