“I like to be mysterious, I don’t think I need to explain what I do. You can say designer, producer, musician.Last night I was at this Prada party and nobody knew who I was. I just went as a guest of my friend, who took me there. I like that people don’t know what I do. Some think that I’m a designer but I am not. I don’t even know what I really do.” Tokyo-based fashion guru Hiroshi Fujiwara told SCMP in a recent interview.
Born in a coastal town in central Japan, Fujiwara moved to Tokyo as a teenager. After travelling to the US, he brought American street culture to Japan, turning the Tokyo neighbourhood of Ura-Harajuku, back then a sleepy area, into the epicentre of Japanese street fashion.
His foray into design, a label named Good Enough, was short-lived as he soon realised that he was better at working with other companies rather than making things himself, a low-risk strategy that puts him at the forefront of today’s collaboration-driven culture.
“I stopped doing what I was doing before, which was mainly retail, because I wanted to be independent,” says Fujiwara of his decision to become a free agent and to establish fragment design in 2003. “I decided not to make products in a studio or an office and to just start collaborating with other people.”
“One of the first collaborations was with Porter Yoshida in the late ’80s or early ’90s. My thinking was that Porter is a great company that makes great bags so if I want to make a bag I should do it with the best in the industry.
“Same with sneakers. I don’t want to make my own sneakers because Nike already makes them so I did it with Nike. Or Moncler, which has a great winter collection, or Levi’s, which makes jeans.”
Fujiwara, who admits that he cannot even remember all the brands he has worked with, does not take it personally when those companies end up not producing his work. “They steal my ideas; that’s what I do for them,” he explains. “I have a lot of freedom but sometimes the things I make are not made for sale and I don’t mind. That’s their decision and their choice. I just make stuff that I want to wear and that I like.”
He explains that the Japanese developed their own sense of style because they were never bound by preconceived notions of what an army jacket or a pair of denim pants should look like, twisting them and reworking them until they often looked better than the original.
While he is not entirely disillusioned with the current state of affairs, Fujiwara believes that “fashion itself is not trendy any more. People don’t buy as many clothes or want to become fashion designers. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with 5G and Google’s new game platform. I don’t play games but I want to see what technology companies will do,” he says.
Whether it’s a Moncler ski jacket, Nike trainers or a pair of Levi’s jeans, Fujiwara is drawn to things that are real and authentic. “Personally I don’t buy trainers from luxury brands. I’d rather buy real trainers but I understand why fashion brands want to do streetwear and why people want to buy it,” he says.
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