What is the concept behind this project?
We embroidered garments which we collected from companies that increased their profits through the Covid-19 pandemic and other companies associated with the working class. The composition is simple. It’s a combination of embroidery and logos from iconic companies.
How did you choose the embroidered wording?
They say the current situation is widening economic inequality and that the upper and lower class will be at the center of our society. That is where I got the idea for this project. There are many theories to the wording I chose for the embroidery but the most famous are that they were used by U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during their terms of office to describe the economic trends of the time. As of recent, it seems to have been mentioned in a book by Thomas Piketty’s and anciently it’s said that the The Gospel of Matthew has some sort of relation to it as well.
Among the items in this project, there were items from brands which are considered as luxury in the fashion world. How were they collected?
Almost everything I collected was through auction sites. I spent about 50,000 yen on one piece of clothing for example (laughs). The cost of the items we collected ranged from around 300 yen to tens of thousands of yen.
You say the cost varies from item to item, but the unit price of the t-shirt and the hoodie are the same.
We decided to put a price on the concept rather than the value of the clothing itself. I want to break the systematic mentality of “I bought it at this price so I have to sell it for this price”. Originally, I was going to price them based on the cost per share of the company but there was too much variation to the prices and some companies did not hold any shares, so we chose to keep the list price equal.
Generally, upcycling items is associated with constructed garments. In this project, on the other hand, the clothes themselves have not been modified in the slightest.
Constructed garments are not really my personal taste to start with. I prefer garments that look completely different by changing the angle you present them at. As I was walking through the streets of Tokyo recently, I realized that what mankind has ended up with is a combination of a T-shirt, sweatshirt hoodie, pants, and sneakers (laughs). I don’t think you can find anything that is more comfortable than that.
Are there things you are conscious of when you put together your own outfit?
If I am going to be fashionable, I like to construct my own fashion by multiplying, subtracting, and adding items by combining pieces from a certain era with another piece from a different era. Recently, however, I only wear my own brand, CARHARTT, and folk art (laughs).
In your eyes, how do you see the recent sustainability phenomenon?
Designers are essentially on the side of creating, so the world probably sees us as the bad guys. So, I think it would be really great for the environment if people like us disappeared.
That is what you say, but you are also involved in projects related to sustainability aren't you?
I am working on sustainable projects under my own name. I recently started a project called AIR GARMENTS with Nishikawa Shokai, an automobile recycling company in my hometown of Tottori. The airbags are removed from the dismantled cars at Nishikawa Shokai, the textiles are made of airbag seams at a sewing factory in Tottori Prefecture, and then are constructed into clothing.
Soon after returning to your hometown of Tottori from New York in 2020, you launched LE FRAIS, a brand that recycles kimonos.
There were no fabric stores in Tottori, and due to a lack of funding, the selection of fabric available at stores in other prefectures was limited. It was around that time when I suddenly stopped by an antique market and saw kimono fabrics that I never would have been able to make myself, such as kimonos made entirely out of silk or cloth made from kasuri thread. They were being sold for dirt cheap on top of that. This was the inspiration that led me to create the collection. We weren’t so conscious about sustainability from the beginning, but rather by continuing to choose the most rational option, it gradually became a part of the sustainability phenomenon.
I feel that all your projects consistently have an ironic approach towards the existing system surrounding value and price. What is the reason for your attraction to this?
I have always been interested in how you can add value to things that have no value. And rather than what I personally want to do, I like to work backwards depending on the environment and circumstances of the moment and build it up like a game. For some reason, I get fired up when a difficult subject is thrown my way.