The garments that graced the opening of the 2014 SS Collection were shirts and pants with a bold lattice pattern, slightly blurred. They were produced using techniques called Itajime (dyeing of fabrics sandwiched between two panels of wood) and Nassen (printing). “I think young people have this impression of dyes as being something primitive.” But Takahashi feels that the antiqueness only enhances style.
“A 27-year old is, generally speaking, pretty young. And so the downside of my freshness is shallowness.” Though Takahashi’s words demonstrated a sharp self-awareness I was puzzled as to how this was relevant in light of his creations. He proceeded to divulge, “I thought, tradition against youth might strike a nice balance. So I picked a robust dye method to make a popular and modern pattern.” It turns out that the mindset young Takahashi took in order to live up to the weight of a brand like ISSEY MIYAKE was mirrored directly in his design; “Edge against Edge”.
Takahashi’s love of dyes goes further. He disapproves of the rash tendency to “do away with the dyeing process because it creates an old-fashioned impression”, reasoning that “a minor alteration is all that it takes to change something old into something contemporary.”
I was lucky enough in this interview to receive a more detailed commentary of the aforementioned dyes at the opening of the show, with consideration to the fact that to the average person, craft processes are elusive at best. Rolls of virgin fabric are folded over multiple times and sandwiched between two panels of wood before they are dyed, producing Itajime. Several factors influence the dye seep of the finished material, such as the number of times the fabric is folded and the type of fabric used- whether the fiber is twisted and textured or flat. The dyed fabric is then washed and dried. Next it is taken to a Te-nassen (hand printing) mill where the white portion of the black lattice pattern is overlaid. As each step requires its own specialist, the material must next be taken to a steaming mill to have its colors set. This was but a simplified description of the entire process. Dyes are a unique and valuable aspect of our tradition, the fate of which is in the hands of the next generation to inherit and protect.
Takahashi feels strongly about the familiarization of traditional Japanese craftsmanship to the youth of today. His sense of duty is evident; “Young people perceive only colors and shapes and can’t tell dyes from prints. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. If that curiosity could lead them into our shops, to talk with the clerks and get a glimpse of the diversity beyond…that’s where I feel my role is, to widen that entrance.”
His interest spans everything from fashion to architecture to design to art. Experience abroad broadened his perspective. One gets the impression that even as a student, he already possessed the sort of foundation that shares vital qualities with Issey Miyake’s corporate culture. Yet Takahashi is modest. “Since joining the company I’ve come to appreciate the importance of sustaining an inquisitiveness for things other than fashion.” The young designer cannot afford to lose himself in the task at hand; he must constantly be aware of things happening on the horizon, in every direction.
・Only Just Begun
To witness someone who I have watched grow up, embark on such a global career is quite thrilling. His debut show excited me and his appearance at the end dazzled me. As a fellow Japanese I am, of course, rooting for Takahashi, but for the very reason that I expect great things from him as a central figure in Japan’s design industry, there were some sober words that I felt compelled to say to him. One media phrase I chanced upon was “Yusuke Takahashi, the leading man of ISSEY MIYAKE MEN”. Yet Takahashi’s journey has only just begun. If I might say so, to label the designer as the brand leader may be a little near-sighted as he is after all still in the phase of “leading” through the courtesy of his supporters.
No man can make a design come into being on his own. Technical staff, shop staff, storefront displays and mill workers are all part of the supportive network. This means that the designer, in turn, takes on a major responsibility towards the people in that network. That is not to say that the will to lead such a team under one’s name is not a profound one.
There is little doubt that on a daily basis, Takahashi is feeling the rigor of designing a collection to pass the eagle eyes of Issey Miyake himself. As he put it personally, he has indeed, “only just begun.”
Return to the beginning.