INTERVIEW WITH KUNIHIKO MORINAGA
ANREALAGE’s Kunihiko Morinaga talks about his archives, how A and Z aligns next to each other.
ANREALAGE will sell its carefully selected archive pieces at OR NOT from its 18 year brand history. We asked Morinaga about his collection work including some of his one of a kind pieces made by innumerable handwork, as well as the key to producing his new collection which he is finding in his past work.
As I glanced through the ANREALAGE archive pieces that you will be offering from OR NOT, they made me reaffirm the words you often mention, “god is in the details”. Tell us if you have had any fundamental experiences that led you to maintain that attitude for your creation.
It’s been 18 years since I established my brand which originated in my patchwork. When I started making clothes at 19, I had no skills to actually make it, no funds to prepare textile, nor had any advantage what so ever. From exploring what I could do, by contemplating to find a feature that would differentiate myself under that circumstance, I headed to utilizing my enormous free “time” and working on “details”, far more detailed than anyone could sew. For example, when a piece of clothes is made with 20 parts, I tried making the parts more detailed, into 100, 500, and 1000 parts. The more parts there is, the smaller and smaller each parts became, inevitably requiring more time to sew them. And by doing this, I found my own ground “in details” that is not easily achievable, that I wanted to pursue entirely. And this is the origin of my brand.
Has your perspective on “details” have changed during the 18 years?
After departing from my patchwork, I’ve gone through different seasons. I’ve had formative season where I designed one button, and have had utilizing technology season when I formed a thread with various combination of pigments. Each of these details is the first step of creating clothes as well as a collection. In another words, how much I can do in a new way for creating fine detail has become my identity.
The brand name ANREALAGE is a created word with “real”, “unreal”, and “age” combined. Is the word also relative to focusing on “details”?
Yes. I’ve always considered how we go on unaware of the unrealistic, unordinary matters in our realistic daily life. They can be extremely small, like a button or a piece of unwanted fabric, and are often called “detailed” things. I believe in creating these unrealistic matters through fashion. And there exists the very nature of quality we pursue.
How many people did you start your brand with?
It was just me in the very beginning. Back then, I had a part-time job at a textile store called TOA in Shibuya. My job was to cut the fabric for customers and they tend to throw away unwanted sections and small scraps. So I asked the store owner if I could have the daily thrown away scraps and he kindly agreed, therefore, those unwanted scraps of textile started to pile up my house. Since I couldn’t sew long distance or in curves, I kept on sewing in 2 inch straight lines over and over which ended up in a patchwork piece. Making clothes one by one like that took time and a month went by without even realizing, it was hard to produce quantity. So I asked my buddy from middle school to help me since the rental video store he was working at at the time was closing due to DVDs taking over the market. I said to him, “why don’t you try sewing? Even I could do it.” He was always listening to hardcore and punk music and had no interest in fashion. And yet, it’s been 20 years since then that all patchwork of ANREALAGE has been made by him. The 200-part piece in the beginning gradually became 2,000 parts where each parts is not even 1 centimeter (2/5 inch). We could also sell that very early piece from OR NOT someday (laughing).
Tell us about the piece you are offering from OR NOT, the jacket with over thousand pieces of various gold buttons you released in 2007 Fall/Winter “Harukaharu” Collection. I hear that it weighs over 22 pounds.
It was the first piece of the collection which took about 3 months in production. As I advocate “god is in the details” and was contemplating about the next thing after patchwork, the next detail that people might be overlooking in clothes, I thought about small buttons always being considered as attachment. I made the piece with an idea of making a clothing with only buttons. The decoration is quite fierce creating an impressive look. What I wanted to do for that season was to create a noise with the buttons clashing with each other as the models walk down the runway, where the noise comes out to be interpreted as voices and screams of clothes. Lady Gaga contacted us to wear it while she was visiting Japan and this one is the actual piece she wore.
What was the production process during that 3 months?
I placed the piece in my atelier and all of our staffs added buttons to it little by little. It kind of played a role of a calendar since it was completed in increments as the collection show date became closer and closer.
Tell us how you decided to sell this particular piece, as well as other pieces you’re offering this time.
While producing this piece, I wasn’t sure if adding extraordinary amount of buttons represented our origin. And yet, “Harukaharu” was a season I wanted to express my root impression in the collection. It’s been just about 12 years since then and I showed another “Harukaharu” collection in Paris with a title I translated to English as closely as I could. It’s my wish that the place I return to is always clear and sunny so I called it “CLEAR”. I used the photochromic technology to create a collection focusing on black object becoming clear. The first piece of the show was actually similar to the first piece of “Harukaharu” to which I added innumerous black buttons that photochromically change into clear ones, and they also created clashing noise while walking. Although people who know the current ANREALAGE brand have stronger impression of the buttons changing color, we have a stronger idea that the root of it takes place 12 years ago that lead to creating this new line. We’ve had many different concepts and yet, the core of them all is the wish for “changing realistic and ordinary to unrealistic, unordinary”. It’s a prayer for “changing unordinary unrealistic matters to ordinary reality”. Many of the pieces I’m offering this time are like our soul. I believe you can feel the brand’s mind through them. We as a brand would be very happy if you could feel and understand how there is an aspect you may not notice in the short-span perspective and how there is something about these pieces connecting to the current collections. So the pieces I decided to sell at OR NOT resemble that idea.
Could you also tell us about the next piece, another one of a kind jacket with about 5000 sewn buttons you released for 2007 Spring/Summer Collection “Inori (Prayer)”. It also has pearls and crystals beside buttons.
This jacket is the last look of “Inori” collection and it actually is a sequential piece that shares the same mind as “Harukaharu” of next season. Being in Tokyo then, I had an ambition to create a piece of clothing by using more handwork than anyone around. As I continued the work of adding decorations one by one to a plain white jacket, I noticed myself making the clothes with a feeling that I was praying for something. Even though pearls, crystals, and accessory buttons vary in original value as well as prices, they were aligned equally onto the jacket by hand. What is hard to forget for this season is how our no-name brand clothing got on the cover of WWD. I remember that this was the time I became resolute to really do this, that I must keep creating.
The patchwork jacket in flowered Gobelin fabric is from 2019 Fall/Winter Collection, a rather recent piece compared to the pieces you’ve introduced to us so far. You’ve kept the original patchwork method in most of your collections but is there any difference from your early work?
I picked out only the flower sections of Gobelin fabric, a textile originally used for curtains and cushions, and patched about 1,500 parts of them into a double pea coat. My early method was quite uncontrollable and the patchwork was not stable. There were some elongated or crooked square and triangle parts. The 2019 Fall/Winter pieces may rather have a calculated look to it even though it wasn’t. What I’ve always pursued from the very beginning is to “not make them patternized” so we’ve had just one rule that all parts need to be in a different shape, all 1,500 of them for this piece in particular. Even in our recent clothes based on triangle parts, each and every parts are shaped differently. We’re actually doing something quite technical to give variation to the parts while making them look the same.
The colorful stand-fall collar coat released in 2013 is also a patchwork piece.
My idea for the detail is consistent but compared to the usual patchwork where we use about ten kinds of fabric, we’ve used over a hundred different textiles for this to express a type of multifariousness.
It’s a piece that the actual color of clothes becomes complete with weather and sunlight so it doesn’t have a concept of color, an important element in composing a piece. In collaboration with our domestic client company, we researched and developed a pigment for the thread, solidified it, and created this fiber by injection molding. The feature of this clothing is the changing color that depends on the time and place of where the person wearing is. For example, if you see it under the sky of Tokyo in December, it looks greenish, but a half a year later in the sunlight of rain season, it changes to dark grey due to the different amount of UV ray. Once we are able to travel around the world again and perhaps see it in France or United States, it would change to dark green and khaki and such. Because the color depends on the time of the year and environment, there is never an absolute. It’s a clothing you only feel the interesting element of shift by wearing it. It includes my wish for the day people can go outside and move around freely again, the day it’ll be fun to wear this piece. Also, this same technology is used in the collaboration line with FENDI which will be available soon. It is quite unusual for FENDI to use a thread produced in Japan and it’s because they couldn’t do it anywhere else. We’ve already spent 7 years for continuous research in variations of color change and have progressed in giant steps since the very beginning. Because new technology does not mature quickly, we think we’re having to resolute to a 10 year cycle now that we’ve put our foot into it.
We’re having you look back on your past work but what is your perspective on archives?
When I poured every bit of my effort into clothes making for releasing them as a collection in 2007, for example, I desperately wanted to leave them right after and move on to “next”, I couldn’t even look at them. After a season full of work in excessive adding, I shifted to formative production with absolutely no handwork. Then, as I released more collections, my proposition gradually shifted to how well I use the tools. I used to think that I would never go back to my old methods. But recently, especially from “CLEAR” (2019 S/S) and on, I’m regressing to styles of “Harukaru” and “Inori”, then to styles of “◯△□” (2009 S/S) for the collection “DETAIL” of the next season in which I expanded the details to form shirts and trench coats into shapes of sphere, cone, and cube. On one hand, I strongly believe in driving myself forward and believe how our identity lies further ahead of that progress. But at the same time, I’m starting to think how perhaps that identity lives in our past work and I’m overlooking. We tend to think that archives are something you look behind from where you are but, for me right now, I could be taking an intentional detour. It’s such the time for me to think how amazing it would be to view archive as a matter ahead of me instead of behind me. The concept behind 2021 Spring/Summer “Home” collection is literally about a place to return to, about going back to our roots. With the Coronavirus crisis, it was a time we paused and hesitated about progressing even just for a moment. And this gave me the opportunity to reconsider value without the timeline of new and old. I haven’t quite found the appropriate word for it but even with passing time from here on, I’d like to create things that wouldn’t get “behind” me in ways I just explained.
Do you mean that reconsidering archives of the past seasons along with those’ concepts takes a part in current production of ANREALAGE collection?
During the “HOME” production, I was thinking about the “A to Z” alphabet system. If A was the beginning and Z was the end, we’re gradually heading towards Z as we complete more seasons. On the other hand, if those alphabets were aligned in a ring instead of a straight line, that “to” means going from A to Z where there’s that A again right next to the Z when you get to it. And you keep going into the next lap. That’s how I was feeling. As we once again follow the path we’ve gone through, there are many things we want to pick-up, just like the brand identity. While I thought there wouldn’t be any more “◯△□” collection, I found that it could possibly play a role of housing just by slightly transforming the size, that it could become a different sphere or cone than before. I only realized these things by revisiting it second time around. And in that process, I’d like to, once again, give attention to our handwork, embodiment, and use of technology that constitutes our brand identity,
interview text_ TATSUYA YAMAGUCHI