Interview & Text: Miwa Goroku Photography: Hidemasa Miyake Translation: Oilman
Nowadays, the phrase “styles uninfluenced by trend” has become a cliché expression amongst many brands and the media. However, if you track back to the origin of the phrase, the first person you will encounter in the field of fashion, is probably Takashi Kumagai. Having began his career in the 90s as a stylist in Paris, Takashi has continually expanded his field of work, not only in areas of photography and directing, but also to the extent of fashion. Recently, he has also acquired fame for his direction of Biotop, WILD LIFE TAILOR, and other stores. What is at the base of the styles created by the multitalented Takashi Kumagai? Here, we will introduce an interview recorded at the 2013-2014 autumn-winter exhibition of Takashi Kumagai’s men’s fashion brand, NAISSANCE.
– First, I would like to ask you about the 4th season of NAISSANCE’s running collection (2013 spring-summer). What sort of image did you have in mind when producing this season’s characteristic colors of green, yellow, and navy?
The theme was based on Alan Delon in the movie “Plein soleil” (1960). The linen jackets and shorts were designed in the image of southern France. I guess if there were Asians in Cote d’Azur, that is how they would look. I think the lengths of the shorts are the shortest in the industry.
– They were certainly very short. How did people react to them?Very well. I myself like to wear undersized shorts, whether it be swimming trunks or anything else. I wear them on a regular basis. I think they enhance the style of the legs. Upon designing the shorts, I was very particular about recreating a form representative of the 70s. The rest is common NAISSANCE style. I ignore the current trend and acquire inspiration from French and American vintage clothes that I love.
– I noticed the jacket you’re wearing is also a new NAISSANCE release. You seem to wear it casually, but is it a tuxedo?
Yes, it’s a linen tuxedo. I was very particular about producing this perfectly colored green.
– Are there any differences in the way you direct your two main brands, GDC and NAISSANCE?
I have been working as the creative director for GDC since 1998 and its customers range between the age of 20 to early 30s. On the other hand, NAISSANCE is a new brand we started in the autumn-winter of 2011, and it’s targeted towards age groups ranging from late 20s up to the 70s. Its growing fan base clearly reflects our expectations. The select shops that deal with NAISSANCE, such as Biotop and WILD LIFE TAILOR, have a rather mature customer base. I feel the clothes successfully reflect the lifestyles I propose.
– What motivated you to establish NAISSANCE?
I wanted to make a good brand that I could grow old with. When I become 60, I’m planning to make clothes for 60 year olds at NAISSANCE. Conversely, I direct GDC so its designs won’t age. If the brand ages with me, the core of the brand will go off track, maybe leading to the eradication of the logo or the modification of its killer item stadium jumpers, which are currently being made for our gardening and botanical series.
– So you wear NAISSANCE on a regular basis?
Yes I do. However, when I go to buy plants, I wear GDC, because we make botanical-buying-suits that enable you to carry sickles and hoes. On the topic of gardening, GDC also creates uniforms for SOLSO, the architectural planting group. I consider GDC to be the young me + greenery, and NAISSANCE to be the real me.
– As a director, you must be engaged in quite a number of projects.
I’m only responsible for the total direction of Biotop and the WILD LIFE TAILOR stores in Ebisu, Marunouchi, and Umeda that were mentioned earlier. Regarding SATURDAY SURF NYC Daikanyama, I assume the role of advisor for its business in Japan. As for the number of projects I’m engaged in at a time, usually no more than what I can count on my fingers.
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– How do you feel about the widespread popularity of your suggested lifestyles amongst the general public?
I’ve been proposing lifestyles for quite a while now. I’ve talked about my aspirations to the media and I consider lifestyles and interiors to be my hobbies, so I’m sticking to my word and making sure I continue what I started. Those who are aware of my aspirations and wish to start a business or work in collaboration with me come forth and make an appeal. After a talk, if I feel we’re headed in the same direction, I go for it. Recently, I do a lot of work with Shin Ohori from GENERAL DESIGN. It usually doesn’t work out if we’re headed in different directions.
– What do you consider are the roots to your current lifestyle?
I loved insects, plants, and animals since I was a child. The two people I used to look up to were Fabre and Seton. I always used to look through pictorial books and I guess that just happened to become my job. The young men of the current generation are truly amazing. At Biotop, the male workers seriously worry about what flower pot to use. An unimaginable scene just a while back. As I see it, everyone potentially possesses a certain amount of interest in plants. However, they never really had a chance to reach out, maybe due to embarrassment or simply not knowing where to buy them. In other words, it’s similar to how people fixate on vintage Levi’s. You know how men like to look up trivial knowledge on this and that, such as which plant is succulent or not. This is exactly the road I hoped they would pursue, and I consider myself lucky that things are proceeding accordingly to my wishes.
– That’s because you set them on that particular path.
I’m the kind of person who needs to be comfortable whether I’m at home or in my studio. It’s basically my hobby.
Takashi Kumagai / 1994 Started working as a stylist. 1998 Started working as a photographer under the name Lake Tajo. Currently works for advertising and magazines as a photographer under his real name Takashi Kumagai. He also works as a director in various fields that include branding for fashion labels and the direction of shop interiors.