Born in Aichi in 1975. While at the Tokyo Zokei University, Takayuki Suzuki started designing costumes for movies, dancers and musicians. In 2001, Suzuki launched his own womenswear label in his own name, “suzuki takayuki,” with 2002 autumn winter collection. He made his runway debut at Tokyo Fashion Week in 2007. In the same year, he started another label called “ikkuna/suzuki takayuki” , which specializes in organic cotton. To this day he continues to work on one-of-a-kind pieces with a ever-changing concept of “time and harmony”.
Suzuki was fast to focus on organic materials, pursuing the relationship between people and clothing based on concepts of “time and harmony.” His creations are characterized by the coexistence of gentleness and air of tension carrying strong messages that clothes should be timeless and not influenced by trends. His brand has a unique presence that sets it apart from the many organic clothing that floods the market along with the back-to-nature/eco movement. We interviewed designer Takayuki Suzuki, who takes a serious and unique approach to making clothes.
「ikkuna / suzuki takayuki」
Keywords such as “organic” and “eco” are drawing attention in the fashion world, as can be seen by the new buzzword, “Mori (forest) girl.” Since you launched your brand in 2002, you have consistently focused on organic materials; what do you think about the current craze?
suzuki: When I first started in fashion, there still weren’t many clothes like that. That’s why it meant something for me to make such clothes and presented them to the society. Nowadays, organic and natural clothing has become widely accepted along with awareness of environmental issues, and there has been an increase in relaxing loungewear and such. “Relax” and “natural” are major elements for me also, but the primary considerations for me are the relationships between the clothes and the human bodies and time. I choose natural materials because they the flow of time can be visualized and I can draw out human energy through the synergistic effect of organic objects. Therefore, I try not to be so swayed by the craze and hope that I can keep making my own creations.
You mention that expressing the “flow of time” is a major theme in your brand; how do you incorporate this specifically?
suzuki: For example, I think that garment treatments such as wash or distress are supposed to make you feel the passage of time, but all we can do is to create an entry point for the wearer to be conscious of time. My clothes may appear to have undergone a lot of treatment, but actually they are not treated that much. This is because I think it is meaningful for wearers to feel the time pass as the clothes age. No matter how authentic the treatment is, it is artificial, unlike the natural damage that the clothes undergo when the person wears them. Our clothes making is based on keeping in mind that the person plays the central role.
“Time and harmony” are the concepts of your brand. Can you also tell us about the “harmony” element?
suzuki: Clothes that I feel are beautiful contain various elements, for instance, they are edgy yet sweet, futuristic but also having a primitive energy, masculine yet feminine. I admire clothes which embody fine balance of all these elements. Social situations and human feelings are very complex. Therefore, I think that the clothing that exists in these conditions cannot be so simple. It’s not so simple as to be able to say that clothes using natural materials with a distinguished texture are ours; I would like to offer clothes that have achieved a finer balance.
Collaboration range with the jewelry brand “agete.”
Have you had such views since the time that you established your brand?
suzuki: Yes. However, I originally studied Graphic Designs in university, and only started making clothes after being influenced by a friend who I was talking to in a bar. (Laughs) Back them, after I made clothes, I burned them and hardened them with cement, and displayed them as art pieces in a gallery. In those days, I thought it was fine as long as the clothes were approved as artistic objects. Later on, I started to work on stage costumes for contemporary dance, and from then on, I started connecting with people in the fashion world. As more people wore my clothes, I became interested in how people reacted in my clothes, or how people communicated or what people are conscious of etc… which lead me to launch my own clothing brand. Of course, it is one thing to simply make beautiful pieces, but right now I want to make clothes that could make the wearer give a different impression.
Please tell us about your 2011-12 Autumn-Winter collection.
suzuki: This may contradict with what I’ve said so far, but this time, I made “clothes” in a more subjective way. I made basic items that could be put into categories such as “P coats” and “stand-fall collar coats” for the first time (laughs). Until now, I made clothes in a sort of random way, trying to achieve a balance by proposing my view of fantasy to the modern society which has tendencies to seek reality in everything. However, for this collection, for womenswear in particular, I felt like I could offer new values by putting my spin on the “basics” such as “shirts” and “coats,” which I had not previously made.
for the 2011-12 A/W collection
It appears that social suggestions and criticisms are at the root of your creations.
suzuki: That’s true. I tend to start by looking at times from a wider perspective, such as “what are people thinking nowadays?” or “what does the world need?” rather than focusing on clothing trends, such as silhouettes and items. Rather than simply pandering to social flows, I hope that by projecting my own ideas, the entire society including myself can change.
In Japan, there are not many places to which you can wear a dress. Therefore, I think there is a unique culture that differs from that of Europe and the United States, but when thinking about the potential of clothes, I think the elation and change that you feel when you wear the clothing is very important. For instance, I want to propose places to which one can wear dresses, and I think it will be necessary for future designers to create such frameworks and values as well.
Are there things that you place specific importance on as you make clothes?
suzuki: What I always consider first is the shape and bulkiness when a person wears the clothes, and the density around the body. I am interested in the three boundaries of clothes, the body, and space. I often create designs thinking “does hair count as part of the body?” or “Is the air in the skirt a part of the clothing?” I also want the person wearing the clothes to feel the ideological quality of the clothes, so I used to use unbleached materials as much as I could to keep other elements as neutral as possible. However, compared to the past, unbleached fabric can be seen as a representation of “eco-friendly” or “organic”, and it is not necessarily a neutral color anymore. So, what I do now is try to find the best neutral colors that fit in the society every season by adjusting the density of the natural dye.
Lastly, tell us about your future outlook.
suzuki: For designer brands in Tokyo like us, I think that there will be spotlight on what the brand will be proposing in the future. For instance, in terms of function alone, sportswear is superior, and brands that invest a lot of capital have an overwhelming advantage in terms of supply. Also, if you’re seeking status, you would go to the foreign big-name designers. Then, if we consider what we can use as our strength, suggestions of mental values such as the happiness theory and lifestyle are important. Rather than taking the attitude of not caring what we wear as long as it’s wearable, or not caring what we eat as long as it’s edible, I think it is very important to communicate with our customers and staff members, create links with other genres, share awareness with many people, and leave meaningful values and aesthetic sense to the next generation.