INTERVIEW WITH DAIRIKU OKAMOTO
When I visited DAIRIKU’s atelier, light shined through the large windows, and I found two walls covered with hints to the core of Dairiku Okamoto’s collections. There were clippings of images from various movie scenes, 90’s magazines and advertisements which is presently returning to people’s interest, and unique phrases handwritten on post-it notes. “Samples for next season (2022 Spring/Summer season) just started to arrive, and a small portion of it will be women’s items as well” he said. When I asked him about his most memorable collection, regardless of time, he immediately answered JW Anderson’s 2013 Fall/Winter men’s collection.
“Raf Simons, who I’ve always loved, and other collections from the 90’s crossed my mind. But now as a clothing designer with a strong mindset of wanting to work as a brand without separating menswear and womenswear, this particular collection that neutralized gender in a pleasantly straightforward way popped up in my mind. Right before I entered fashion school, when I was still able to look at various collections with a fresh feeling, I remember being shocked by the balance of uniqueness and the reality of styling that associated with womenswear. Tokyo’s CANDY or ZOZOTOWN carried it, but since I was living in Kansai, I wasn’t able to see the actual pieces which is frustrating even to this day...”
While we were looking back at the images of male models with tight, sleek hairstyles wearing ruffled micro pants and long boots, he said “the bonding and resilient materials popular at the time is used to their fullest, the knitwear with a pinch of pleats, the neutral color tones, and the way the skin is shown without being unpleasant made it look more elegant. JW Anderson’s collection at this time was monotonous with black slacks throughout (2014 Spring/Summer season), but it was clean, easy to look at and feels good even if something strong is being done. The round shapes, the way the wrinkles were added, the fluffy volume created by the jacket’s tucked shoulders, it was unlike the expressions of what other designers did in the past. I think it had the power to make men accept styles that remind them of womenswear and that ‘it’s okay to wear anything’”.
“I’ve always liked gender neutral fashion, actually not only fashion, but I like all things gender neutral,” he said while seemingly reflecting on his own tastes that are loosely connected to his current collection. “It’s more of a personal story than a generational one but before I even knew about tailoring or before I started wearing Raf Simons and JW Anderson clothes, I wore Keisuke Kanda’s frilly clothes when I was in high school. Looking back, I had little recognition that ruffles were a woman’s thing, so it was inevitable that I would identify with Anderson. There was a time when people would talk about gender in terms of color. For example, pink is a woman’s color. But the reality was, the people around me and I were comfortable with men wearing pink. People don’t say things like that out loud anymore, so that collection was significant because it expressed that the barrier between men’s and women’s clothing is ‘no longer relevant’”.
His hand stopped swiping the smartphone and said, “but when I look at it again now, the first look is starting to look like an alien,” he laughed and continued. “When you watch a movie, there are some films leaving you with questions. For example, an American movie from the 1960’s, you never lived in that era, and you don’t know what it feels like to be hit by the political waves of those times. So, if you say it can be ‘understood 100%’, I will think you’re lying. Nevertheless, the fact that people can’t get rid of the difficult questions stuck in the mind is a sign that one wants to understand and know more, and a sign of endless interest. Just like there’s a difference in my perspective when I look at the collection now compared to when I looked at it eight years ago. Now, ‘I can discover that the circle – the only motif used is a made-up shape,’ or that ‘it’s actually futuristic’. A collection that can be talked about using one’s imagination has a charm like a movie that wants to be watched even after time has passed. Which I think is just genuinely nice.”
Born in Nara in 1994. While studying at Vantan Design Institute’s Department of Fashion Design, he started his own brand - DAIRIKU. In 2016, he won the Grand Prix at the “Asia Fashion Collection” and presented his 2017 Fall/Winter collection at New York Fashion Week.
Text_ TATSUYA YAMAGUCHI