Once upon a time, designer brand masterpieces of the past used to be collected only by a few fashion enthusiasts such as designers and collectors. Now, however, these masterpieces are called archives and have turned into a new movement encompassing a large audience that can understand their value. This time, we asked Hideaki Shikama – designer for Children of the discordance, which is highly acclaimed in- and outside Japan for its creations consisting of bold de- and re-constructions of carefully selected vintage clothes and valuable archives – about archives and his own background with producing branded clothing.
--- You have collected a great deal of designer brand clothing and vintage clothing over the years. How do you feel about the popularity archives have seen in recent years?
“When I was a child, vintage used to refer to so-called American vintage clothing such as Levi’s or Air Jordan1, and that was what I used to admire. Fast forward to present day 20 years later, and you will obviously find people in their twenties who got into fashion through DIOR HOMME. It feels as though this generation doesn’t have a distinct border between branded used-clothing and what we in our generation used to call American-European used-clothing, and just wear whatever they like. It’s also cool that the design from those times has made its comeback. But I still think people overseas have a greater passion for archives, in which the fact that the archive collector David Casavant lent his archives to Kanye and Rihanna played a crucial role. Artists – who up until then had been wearing clothes that anyone could buy – started to wear rare clothes, and a lot of people started to look for something which was only distributed in small quantities, resulting in their price escalation, I think. Yet I can understand why they came to be invested with that kind of value. Clothes made by producers such as RAF SIMONS, HELMUT LANG and Maison Margiela had their design meticulously calculated in their production, and the quality of their seams and materials were incredibly high. The brands back then probably had excess capital to conduct material development, and it was considered cool among us to wear that sort of clothes when street fashion and high fashion had just started to blend together.”
--- Raf Simons has especially high prices even in relation to other archives. How much have you collected from them?
“I only bought items from them between 2002 and 2004, but I still own them and haven’t sold a single one. Back then, I was just a B-boy with no intentions on becoming a designer, and when my part-time income didn’t suffice, I would sell my records to buy RAF SIMONS like crazy. During that period, I was totally obsessed with how cool RAF SIMONS was, haha.”
--- Was there any reason for why you didn’t keep that up?
“I went over to a collection that had a sporty mood after RAF SIMONS from that time had continued with the same taste for several seasons, and I lost my passion around the same timing as the release of RAF by Raf Simons.”
--- Where did you buy RAF SIMONS back in the day?
”I went to all sorts of places, haha. I looked for the items I wanted in stores like Barneys New York, Lift from Daikanyama, B2nd, Mid West and LHP and bought them as I kept looking. Peter Saville’s season was especially popular. Not only was the design cool, but all Peter Saville’s fans and the shop staff wore his clothes, making them quite difficult to buy. They also cost me a lot of money, haha.”
--- Peter Saville has made some great achievements within the fashion industry. He has also been active recently, making Burberry’s monogram, to name one example. I assume you have Peter Saville’s vintage items as well?
“Yes. I have an item that I bought for its cool design before he started to collaborate with RAF SIMONS, and I also have an item that I ran into by accident in a used-clothing store in Nagoya a few years ago. There were many bootleg versions of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures circulating back then, so I used to wear them as innerwear when skating.”
--- There were some archive items from Joy Division designed by Peter Saville that Children of the discordance de- and re-constructed. Did you take the archives that were used for the collection from your own personal belongings?
“Some of them were my personal belongings, but we collected about 70 garments over the duration of two years to de- and re-construct for the collection. We didn’t make those clothes just because we wanted to make something cool; we made them to reflect the culture that I had experienced.”
--- That makes sense. Did you listen to Joy Division or New Order back then?
“Back then I had an acquaintance, who had been in this field longer than me, that collected Maison Margiela’s Artisanal items, and he forcedly lent his records to me. At first, I didn’t listen to them, but I did after RAF SIMONS had awakened my interest.”
--- Did you buy Maison Margiela’s Artisanal items back then?
”I did have some, but that same acquaintance borrowed them from me and never gave them back, haha. In the past, you could buy Maison Margiela’s Artisanal items just by casually looking around. Back then I used to like Murajun, and there was this trend going on around us where it was considered fashionable to match Shantii with Maison Margiela.”
--- Have archives influenced your design?
“I haven’t been influenced by any sort of branded clothing in my clothing production, but I’m greatly influenced by skateboarding, hip hop and hardcore culture. Perhaps younger generations of designers have that sort of modifier, but I’ve been wearing collection clothing ever since I was young. I rather take hints from the kind of clothes you can buy for $10 at Walmart or thrift shop overseas. I also often look at hip hop music videos from the East Coast in the 90’s. I keep pausing mid-video to research their striped colors and other things. Recently, many designers seem to be in the mood for producing clothes based on the hip hop culture from that time.”
--- Indeed, some of Children of the discordance’s items have Nas’ lyrics inscribed onto them, making you feel the East Coast vibes. Have you ever listened to hip hop from the West Coast or thought of reflecting it through your clothing production?
”I do have an interest in it. I used to have some lowriders around me back when I lived in Yokohama, but I never dressed like that myself. And if I did, it’d feel disingenuous, so I haven’t used it as material for my collection.”
--- In other words, because you hadn’t experienced that culture yourself. Have you been making clothes ever since your hip hop days?
“I used to make T-shirts with friends in my student years. I liked to draw pictures and make graphics.”
--- Ever since your student years, you say. Were you aspiring to be a designer all along?
“No, not at all. I was doing hip hop when I was around 23 years old, but I was really just playing around, selling records and doing a part-time job in a factory. But I used most of my money on clothes and records.”
--- So you didn’t have any aspiration to become a designer. What was the decisive factor that made you enter the fashion industry?
“I actually had a decent wage for being a factory worker, but I was tired of that kind of life and my parents were telling me to find a permanent job. That’s when I got a phone call from the boss of SHIPS – for which I had been working part-time for a period of two years since when I was 20 – asking me if I would like to come back. I thought that would make my parents happy so I entered SHIPS. I always wore RAF SIMONS from tip to toe when going to work, but back then, RAF SIMONS’s design used to be eccentric, so I got quite dissed on 2channel being called things like “we had a freak joining our company”, haha. That might have done the trick, though, because I was promoted by a buyer/director for Acycle to oversee a store in Harajuku due to my funny character. At first, I had no idea what I was doing, but still ran the place for about six and a half years through trial and error. During that period, I made my own store brand. Nowadays, I think I’m having great use of the experience I got from making clothes with financial aid from SHIPS back then. I also think that I was assigned important tasks because my idiosyncrasy got highly prioritized within the company after I had appeared in magazines like TUNE thanks to Rei Shito taking my photos.”
--- So RAF SIMONS became one of the decisive factors. Tell us how it feels now that you have become a designer yourself.
“I think Raf Simons and Maison Margiela really are something special. They’re like gods. And now I’m in this crazy situation where I get meet all these designers and musicians that I used to look up to. I’m nervous to meet them even now, haha.”
--- In closing, tell us how you would define “archives”.
“Clothing with original design, which is outstanding and has high quality, I assume. I’d say it’s closer to “art” than actual “clothing”, and it’s something I’d put in a frame. Also, clothes, books, art and records are to be consumed, and thus destined to decrease in number as time goes by. In that sense, collectors will always be needed, because otherwise those things won’t remain for posterity, I think.”
Born in Kanagawa prefecture.
Designer for Children of the discordance
His original design consisting of bold de- and re-constructions of carefully selected vintage clothes and valuable archives stands in stark contrast to any other brand, and is high acclaimed in- and outside Japan.