Decibel Starts a 'Live Out Loud' T-Shirt Movement

How do you live out loud? For some people, it's the music they play or sing, the way they dance, the pictures they shoot, or the paintings they create. But for Azusa Tojo and Chris Nomura of Decibel (dB), it was fashion and their eclectic taste in music that led them to start their own T-shirt company. "Our online store just started last month. But our original brand concept of decibel was the brainchild of Chris (my husband and business partner) when we lived in Japan," says Azusa, who was born and raised in Japan and moved to California to start a new life with her husband Chris, who is from Los Angeles, California. Azusa and Chris originally made their current Cultural Revolution line as a co-promotion for a number of DJ events in Tokyo. A lot of their designs were heavily influenced by house, electronica, and hip hop music.

"Jazz and hip-hop are musical forms that allowed for self-expression outside the confines of other musical genres when they developed. There are a number of “freestyle” aspects to these musical forms that allow for freedom of expression. Punk music provided an outlet of expression against the establishment. These musical styles span a gamut of moods, ranging from cool and composed to raw and even angry. This provides us with an inspirational set of guidelines when we go into our design process. In our brand concept, the meaning of Decibel is the degree of loudness. Loud things are always powerful and noticed and also imply big impact. Especially in music and DJ culture, being “loud” is something to be respected. Through our design and artwork, we want to express our message “live out loud”. The designs that we are making reflect and embody the many genres of music that we like to listen to," says Azusa.

"Living out loud" is an integral part of the Decibel philosophy. Their designs encourage their customers to express themselves and share what they're most passionate about in life. You can see the subtle differences in the influences of their design. While the T-shirt denotes an all-American look, there's a label that is hidden underneath a sleeve, which gives a Japanese perspective of fashion. Azusa says the main cultural difference between Japanese and Americans is that people in Japan tend to be quiet and humble, although they have incredible creativity behind a quiet front. However, Americans are very straightforward and expressive. The images in their T-shirts represent an Asian perspective that is also loud and expressive. Through their bicultural relationship, Azusa and Chris marry their two perspectives. "We want to encourage people to get loud expressing themselves in their way. While the world continues to get more complicated with different cultures and different values, dB wants to support the people who pursuing their dream and expressing themselves," says Azusa.

The Cultural Revolution particularly played a significant part of their current line. The striking images of political ideology and empowerment influenced them to channel that same energy and encourage people to voice their opinions. Azusa and Chris combined these images with a hip-hop theme so the T-shirts still relate to a younger generation. "These images depict Asians in what we feel is a cool way. This was another goal of the project. Initially we were worried about the response we would get from some our friends from main land China. In fact, we have several friends who grew up during the Cultural Revolution who have commented on the designs. Their reactions ranged from positive, like "That’s cool” to curious, such as, “Why did you use these images”, and nostalgia, "I remember these original images.” We were happy that people felt positive about the designs," says Azusa.

While Decibel has not expanded their clothing line beyond T-shirts, Azusa says it's not really a fashion brand but a collaboration of individuals who live by their own philosophy.