Takahashi found himself perplexed to discover that his college of choice was a place to study the process of art creation. Textiles were merely one art medium among many and emphasis was placed on learning how to interpret one another’s artworks. The bottom line was that this was a school where those thirsty for success in the field of art came to demonstrate how ready they were to outdo their rivals. In this environment Takahashi’s mental fortitude was naturally toughened, and he acquired an optimistic immunity to even the most negative of feedback.

With their priority on concept contemplation, the classes were sluggish to move into practice. Before long Takahashi began to feel anxious over his lack of solid skills. This happened to coincide with the London "Cool Japan" trend where "The windows of Liberty were lined with Japanese brands like NUMBER (N)INE and UNDERCOVER. They seemed to be telling me that Japan was the fashion source, that there was little point in my remaining in the UK."

It also bewildered Takahashi that he needed only to cite Japanese anime in his reports to get top marks. "I saw then that if I stayed in London and went on mixing Japanese subculture with whatever else I learned, then I’d be admired for it. But that was hardly the recognition of personal identity I was after." This objective analysis of his own situation lead to the eventual decision "to attend Bunka Fashion College in order to study sewing and other practical skills." Gone was the youth who once pursued magazine-defined fashion, he now questioned his identity- in the way that many do in the wake of experiences abroad.

The fruits of his expedition would be reaped in the following years. "I had to hand in four reports a week for the Criticism classes. I studied English like crazy." At his Paris debut show Takahashi was seen answering to interviews without the aid of interpreters, prompting me to wonder when he had had the opportunity to study English. It was a linguistic gift from his London background; an indispensable skill for someone with an international career in perspective.

"I felt I had to brush up my skills before I could do anything globally. That was my motivation when I began thinking about joining ISSEY MIYAKE. Another totally different incentive was my passion for chairs in the first two years of college. I fell in love with Eames Chairs and eventually discovered the Tokujin Yoshioka Honey-Pop chair. I thought, wow, what kind of chair is this? Then I looked into Yoshioka-san’s biography and found that he had a career at Miyake Design Studio. I thought, if I go into fashion and it doesn’t click, I can take a cue from him and be flexible. It was around then that the 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT kicked off and I was in awe of his ideas." At this point Takahashi was as yet unsure of which path to take. His uncertainty regarding his compatibility with apparel design, whether he would have the talent to make it in the field still lingered about him.

In April 2009, Takahashi garnered the SOEN award and by mid-April was sitting in front of an eminent interviewer panel. By this time he had decided on his goals. "What differentiates a professional from a student is the capability to produce marketable pieces. These are new items that reflect in wearable form, the taste of my SOEN award portfolio." This was the statement that Takahashi made as he presented a lineup of ten new articles at the screening. "It is probably fitting to say that I exerted myself for the SOEN award in preparation for the ISSEY MIYAKE interview." Once his sights were set, there was no hesitation to his delivery. I admit that he had initially given me a capricious impression, but it seems he was capable of bringing together all that dispersed attention to focus, once determined to commit. Perhaps it was a strength disguised as a weakness.

In this way Takahashi was welcomed into ISSEY MIYAKE where he became an invaluable asset to the house and was appointed to designer in July of this year. He was coached under Yoshiyuki Miyamae, another graduate of Bunka Fashion College. He had some knowledge of ISSEY MIYAKE clothes (such as A-POC) from his London studies, but was required a far deeper understanding of textiles. For instance, a wrinkle design jacket could be made using a multitude of threading and processing methods.

To be continued into 4/4.