In an environment of menís fashion where everything is moving toward standardisation, Tokyo brand SASQUATCHfabrix stand out shining. The brand are influenced heavily by 90ís Tokyo streetwear, and the clothing of that period that mixed the avant-garde with the real and wearable, placing importance on the enjoyment and fun of wearing a garment. Tokyo-based journalist Akiko Jimbo recently interviewed the design unit behind the brand, known as the Wonder Worker Guerilla Band.
Akiko: Iím interested to know what the catalyst was that lead to the both of you becoming clothes designers. If I am correct you are both graduates of Nagaoka Institute of Design? .
Wonder Workers: Yes, although we were studying separately, Architecture and Textile Design. We were both really interested in clothes, second hand and Japanese brands and shared similar interests in culture and music, so we naturally got on well together. It was around about the time when Undercover had started, around about the end of the 90ís. At that time Macintosh had started, and we were making Mac t-shirts and stickers. Our university was in the countryside, so that was what we called fun!
A: did you progress down the road of being a designer straight after graduation?
W: No, we both got jobs normally. But we didnít really know what to do and were at kind of at our wits end... then we met up again after 3 years, and found that we both felt the same way, so we were like ďletís quit the standard working lifeĒ. There were a lot of people around us at that time, skaters, graffiti artists - guys considered heroes in their subcultures. We were influenced alot by these people and felt that we needed to get our own thing started...
A: What was the first thing that you made?
W: We made about 5 t-shirts and a photobook. We made a book documenting graffiti art, photographed by Japanese photographer PEI ONE. We also produced a CD. At first our stance was to go down the route of emphasizing cultures and scenes, so we also put our efforts into making things outside of just clothes. As for the clothes, the T-shirt designs were loud and flashy, but everything else like pants and shirts was really simple. All the buyers were like ďthatís too simpleĒ! It didnít go down too wellÖ (laughs)
A: When you launched in 2003 it was the period of the boom of Uraharajuku (an area of Tokyo) which brought with it the diversification of streetwear. Did you have a plan to time it like this?
W: We felt that complex items like outerwear were initially impossible for us, so we looked at how we could arrange and work with so-called easier pieces like t-shirts, shirts and pant. We have never thought of using T-shirts with existing bodies, but instead always make our shirts originally from the body onwards. We wanted to do things properly, and had the confidence to do that.
A: So you always take time to think things through like this?
W: No matter how many ideas you might have, if the point of wearing them is no good, then they canít be turned into a good physical productÖ When we make something, we are aiming for it to be the best that it possibly can be.
A: How are your roles divided when it comes to the process of making clothing?
W: There is no divide in particularÖ After the main theme of the season has been decided, both of us mix our ideas within that frameÖ In order to plan out our mutual intentions, unless there is a core idea, then itís not possible to make concessions or compromise. Thatís why it is impossible to create clothes when guided by an abstract idea or concept. For example, we think that it absolutely unthinkable to compromise in the quality of the clothing. Itís therefore important not to interfere and make sure that you achieve your concept.
A: I see. You guys are feeling a sense of danger that you are not allowed to fail, which is typical of art college graduates in a way. You would never want to show compromised works.
W: Yeah, naturally there is a clear line between what we can show and what we can't. We have quite lots of rules when it comes to making clothing.
A: For example?
W: We mainly have rules in terms of combining materials with colours. If we design something avant-garde, we try to work with comfortable materials, maintaining some elements of real clothes.
A: Real clothes?
W: We believe that denims, chino cloths, military items for men are generally comfortable materials and make you relaxed, no matter what shapes they take. We've got this feeling by wearing so many different kinds of clothes for the past years. We design showy and aggressive clothes, but wearability is also crucial to our design. We don't design clothes that are just aggressive. These are just a reflection of designers' ego.
A: Most designers go for standard directions these days, and you are one of the few that largely draw on motifs and showy stuff. You guys are sort of 'destroyers' (laugh)
W: We basically love standards, though. We've grown with them (laughs). In a way it doesn't really matter how fabrics and sewing are done. If you get into details too far, 'design' would become 'product making.' Originally, fashion must have been a lot more fun and exciting. That's why we are trying to actively design!
A: I think you are doing well in terms of expressing the fun part of wearing clothes. This A/W collection is even showier than the previous one with the continuous theme 'pirates.'
W: That theme is a combination of those pirates who go all over the world in search of treasure and Tokyo fashion scene that absorbs worldwide cultures. For instance, the way those young people in fashion snaps on magazines dress is crazy in a way, but they give us an impression of the impulsive power to enjoy fashion. They wear whatever treasurable to them, and it seems as if they were like contemporary pirates. We have also been slightly influenced by the early Vivienne Westwood's pirate clothes, so that we have arranged discharge printing and used ropes and meshes. The latest collection is our first European-oriented collection ever.
A: You are not interested in a runway show?
W: We are! But what matters is to whom we show our collection. Our clothes are not suitable for a runway show where the models just walk. If we were showing our collection abroad, we would change our concept completely, put some playful elements into it and give it our best shot. But creating visual images for our website seems more fun at the moment, and we are too busy to do anything else.
Special thanks to Akiko Jimbo and High Fashion Online. The original Japanese version of the interview was published on High Fashion Online and can be read at http://fashionjp.net/highfashiononline/