Takeshi Osumi started a men's brand, SWAGGER in 1999. In 2004, he launched the men's brand, PHENOMENON, which he says "condenses everything that I wanted to do." He made his runway debut in the 2010 Fall-Winter Tokyo Collection Week. Currently, he has a store in Harajuku, and his clothes are also featured in I.T. in Hong Kong and Club 21 in Singapore, etc.
PHENOMENON boasts enormous popularity among the men’s brands in Tokyo. The brand is growing at an overwhelming speed, achieving its runway debut in the previous season and attracting purchases from all buyers that visited the exhibition ― a feat unheard of for a debuting designer. The collection that the designer, Takeshi Osumi, himself says is “easier to wear than the previous collection,” is worth checking out.
What is your theme for the current season?
Osumi：I always get my inspiration from the music that I’m listening to at the time. This time, I often listened to music of the Chillwave genre, such as Surf Rock and Washed Out, and classic house music and tribal house music of the 1990s. I wanted to create this summery sense. The music I listened to was very fresh and exhilarating.
How did you incorporate the image of the music into your designs?
Osumi：For instance, I got the hint of balancing a proper shirt with a loose-fitting wrap (like a skirt) from the formal attire of tropical countries, such as the outfit of the concierge of hotels in those countries. The triangle motif that is heavily used in the patterns was inspired by the tattoos of the Maori. I think that a tattoo-like feel was achieved by printing the triangle motifs on organdy. The other thing is the flies. When you think of summer, you think of flies, right? (Laughs) Therefore, I wanted to incorporate this “harsh reality of summer.” The fly studs are custom-order, of course, and look nice because each one was individually carved.
The vest made of wicker that appeared in the second half of the show was the true pièce de résistance!
Osumi：I wanted to design clothes made of wicker, and as I was conducting research, I happened to meet a wicker artist called Akimichi Hashimoto. Normally, he creates objects such as jugs and imaginary animals. The vest that he made is very intricate and I don’t plan to sell it, but if I was to put a price on it, it would be about 2 million yen… The small objects have been commercialized.
I heard that at this show, the venue was packed, and there were 1,172 viewers (unique number) that tuned into the JFW TV (JFW×USTREAM), which was the third highest viewer rate in the world.
Osumi：It was only our second show, but I was fortunate that so many people saw the show. Many key figures also came to see the show, and we got a greater response than for our previous show (2010-11 Fall-Winter).
In terms of design, I’m told that this season’s design is simple and easy to wear, although I wasn’t particularly conscious about this fact. For the previous collection, we had kind of let loose in a way, and the clothes may have been more eccentric. I imagine that some people thought that the clothes were difficult to wear, but it was probably easier to choose clothes from this collection. Actually, the expansion of our brand to foreign countries was all decided after our previous show. Foreign buyers that saw our show called to make an appointment the following day, came to our showroom straight away, and ordered our products. We also got a lot of positive feedback from foreign buyers for this show.
What made you decide to become a designer?
Osumi：I think it started with my love of music. When I was in middle school, I liked punk rock, and I started to become interested in clothes because I wanted to wear the same clothes as my favorite singers. Therefore, the simple rule of “music=fashion” has not changed for me.
What does your brand name, PHENOMENON mean?
Osumi：To put it simply, I borrowed it from the title of the song “Rap Phenomenon” by one of my favorite rappers, The Notorious B.I.G. The framed portrait of The Notorious B.I.G. that is hanging in the entrance of the office is the original print that was posted in “The Source”（Source Magazine). I received it from the photographer that took the photo. It is now like my lucky charm.
What differences are there between PHENOMENON and your existing brand, SWAGGER?
Osumi：I started SWAGGER twelve years ago. Originally, I launched the brand with my friend that I played music with, and we design street wear as we have done since the beginning. Six or seven years after launching SWAGGER, I decided to launch PHENOMENON because I wanted to create clothes that were personal and that I genuinely liked.
What do you consider “Tokyo-like”?
Osumi：Hmm…that’s a difficult question. I feel that the atmosphere in clubs where I listen to music is very Tokyo-like. It’s something that isn’t visible, so it’s hard to define the style though.
Which creators and artists have you got your eye on?
Osumi：I idolize Rei Kawakubo of COMME des GARCONS, and Jonio（Jun Takahashi）of Undercover. I’ve always loved these Japanese designers, and am heavily influenced by them. In terms of music, there are many good DJs in Tokyo. For instance, DJ MAAR who handled our music for our latest show. The atmosphere of clubs in Tokyo is unique from all other places in the world. The kids that hang out there are really stylish and interesting. I often hang out at Le Baron in Minami Aoyama
How do you spend your days off?
Osumi：I don’t have days off.（Laughs）It’s like I take 365 days off a year. It always feels like I’m on holiday, and it also feels like I’m working… I’m always engrossed in thought, so I feel like my hobby and life are one. I don’t go home often, and spend most of my time in the office. I like places where there are people, and where it’s airy. Otherwise, I become depressed. The cycle of presenting our collection twice a year is not enough time for me. Although I can’t say for sure that being at the office makes me more productive.（Laughs）I like being in places where my mind is always working.
What are your future plans?
Osumi：I’m releasing a limited Christmas line consisting of about 20 pieces in collaboration with the bag brand, MCM. We plan to continue designing clothes with MCM in the future, and we expect to create outrageous designs, so please look forward to that.
Is there anything that you want to try in the future?
Osumi：I want to live in NY. I hope to be based in NY one day and design clothes and work on my brand. Of course, I also want to do a show abroad. But I’m not yet certain about my plans, since it’s also fun to do shows in Tokyo. I would also eventually like to try my hand at women’s clothes. PHENOMENON is essentially a unisex brand, so right now there are some women who wear the men’s S-size as women’s clothes, but one day I would like to create a separate line for women.