While today we see western designers turning their eyes to the Japanese deconstructionism of the 80s for inspiration for their designs, here is a Japanese designer who grew up surrounded by the americanized Japanese street fashion of the 90s, loving Stussy, who had to take the train on Sundays to get a pair of Nike shoes, who discovered Margiela before Rei Kawakubo and who chooses to live between London and Tokyo. All of this we can see in the work of the Central Saint Martins graduate, Yusuke Maegawa: raw edges, layers, carefully pleated garments and biker jackets that present a strong point of view.
For his collaboration with MUUSE, he created a series of timeless pieces that show these references in a sophisticated way. Inspired by his graduate collection, my favourite garments are this black silk shirt with a clever detachable asymmetric ruffle and a beautiful cut in the back and the extravagant bomber jacket, a statement piece.
We asked a few questions to Maegawa in order to dive into his universe a bit more.
Your work is clearly inspired by Japanese Street Fashion, but we also see a big influence from the deconstruction movement. Describe your signature design style. What makes your garments unique and contemporary?
I was very a very americanized kid as, in the late 90s, the streets of Japan was full of American brands and influences. I loved Stussy, Nike, et c. And then, when I was 14, Margiela amazed me. Margiela also had a big impact on Japanese street style. I didn’t even know who Rei Kawakubo was at that time. I didn’t know that she was the key to it all.
I think the word “deconstruction” best explains Japanese fashion. For me, Japanese fashion is Yohji and Rei Kawakubo because I think what they showed in 1981 represented how Japanese people understands, appreciates and reacts towards European fashion.
The great thing about them is that they were brave enough and extremely creative in proving that deconstruction didn’t devalue fashion. It was a true expression of Japanese creativity and that is what we young Japanese designers are heading towards.
After eight years of experience in the U.K I feel like I am seeing those Japanese streets and the Japanese fashion history through semi-European eyes. I probably look at it in a little bit more exotic way than Japanese people. That might be my unique point.
Do you have a certain process when working on the collections? Do you have a sketchbook? Do you use personal experiences when creating your designs?
In order to decide what mood and direction I want to go I start by, most of the time, researching history, going through old magazines, books , photographs et c. I believe that in order for a collection to be original and personal, it cannot be without that.
Afterwards I add personal experiences and random inspirations on top of that, which mainly come from people around me or people I met.
You are originally from Japan and studied in London, where do feel more at home at the moment? Where do you feel more inspired?
My approach to design and way of thinking is definitely very much in a “London style” but my personal appearance and personality is very Japanese. Now I live in Tokyo and both cities are very inspiring but I feel as if I don’t have a home now. My hometown was really in the countryside and there was nothing there. I had to take the train for an hour to get pair of Nike shoes on Sunday.
What would you say is the biggest difference for a young designer in working between two environments?
What’s great with Japanese young designers is their passion for details. They diligently pursue perfection in detail and quality by using the latest technology and techniques. That inspires me hugely.
However from time to time, I feel like something is missing in there. I think that “something” might be rawness, eclecticism, personality, energy and passion for fashion. That’s very London. They have that taste.
What do you think about the current work situation for young designers? Do you collaborate with big brands? Are interested in doing so? Or do you prefer to work independently?
I think clothes do not sell that much and especially clothes by young designers. There are no “fashionable” stuff any more, fashionable length, fashionable color, fashionable fabric…etc We don’t follow one big thing anymore and trends all occur simultaneously. So we, as young designers, need to aim “smaller”. I am not negating but that is the key for our generation. The new definition of luxury is originality, personality and craftsmanship. If I could take that approach with a big brand that would be amazing.
What was your main motivation in collaborating with MUUSE?
MUUSE is a great platform for elevating young designers to the next level, but also simply because they are all nice people, which is the most important thing. I want to work with them and deliver good designs for them and their customers.
What do you want to express with the Ready-to-Wear garments for MUUSE, why did you choose to do them?
I used to only care about “how does it look” and deliver things that was somewhat odd and unconventional. Now I am more cautious about how the woman feel wearing them. Working with MUUSE enabled me to make practical clothes. Japanese cliché design with comfort if you will.
Who is your customer?
Any woman. But when I design, I think of a woman who seeks something new, someone who would wear something different which doesn’t necessarily mean something odd, but someone who’s strong and who is socially aware and socially conscious in order to be different.
Tell us about your plans for the future
I teach in Tokyo at the moment. I have been focusing on that in order to change Japanese young people. That made my collection very limited. But I will return very soon and produce something fresh and new that will surprise people.