Today, one of the biggest movement being observed in the fashion industry is the reassessment of designer labels’ archival fashion. With labels like RAF SIMONS, Maison Margiela, and COMME des GARÇONS spearheading this movement, the trend is rapidly and incessantly growing itself. How did this revaluation of archival fashion come to life? Who is the creator that we should be paying attention to most amidst this movement? What are essential items that we should be looking for? At OR NOT, we will take a deeper look into archival fashion through the voices of domestic and foreign renowned designers.
In this first volume, we have designer Teppei Fujita of sulvam, which is recognized today as one of Japan’s leading designer label, and has relocated from Milan to Paris as its headquarter for launching new collections. We asked him to name three creators that has influenced his work and to talk to us about archival fashion. He named Judy Blame, Ralph Lauren, and Giorgio Armani. How do young designers today view these three creators of different background and creative styles? Fujita explained to us about their iconic creations and archive pieces.
--- First, tell us about who Judy Blame is.
To me, Judy Blame was not a fashion designer, but an artist. He was in the center of punk culture with designers like Vivienne Westwood, but I would think that the only ready-to-wear clothing that he made were some graphic t-shirts. What was so fascinating about him was not his clothes making skills, but how he would do things like taking scraps of fabric or trash from a junkyard, and would then take an insane amount of safety pins or buttons and sew them all on together, and coming up with an artwork. He always had a strong “I do what I want” attitude, and he could validate that even from a piece of rag he randomly found. He’s the only person that can ever demonstrate that.
--- How did Judy’s attitude influence sulvam’s clothing design?
Even if I tried to do the same thing that Judy did, like sewing on a bunch of safety pins or buttons on to something, it will never turn out the same way like Judy did with his artwork. They will just look cheap and there will be nothing attractive about them. For 2012 A/W, THOM BROWNE launched a collection that featured pieces that used a ton of safety pins and studs, and they certainly looked cool, but those were just embellishments and did not quite express the sort of strong desire that Judy expressed through his works. For sulvam I have been creating clothes that I personally want to wear, but there are times when I take a step back before shearing more fabric and ask myself, “am I overdoing this? Would this sell?” But that’s when Judy comes to my mind and I’m reminded about how if this were him, he wouldn’t think twice about cutting away. So I think about Judy a lot when I have to make critical decisions.
--- Would you want to wear Judy’s archival pieces?
Because I already make the clothes I want to wear through sulvam, I don’t have the desire to wear Judy’s work or to start collecting them. I’m just satisfied from being able to acknowledge the fact that there are pieces of work that rabidly provoked the creator’s desire. There are a lot of custom made and one-of-a-kind pieces created in this world we live in, but Judy’s work just outstood from all of those. Unfortunately, Judy passed away last year, but even if he were still here with us today, his non-conformist attitude would stay the same, and I know he will continue to do what he did. As a creator, I have high respect for him.
--- Next, please tell us about Ralph Lauren.
During my first year in middle school, I bought a button-down shirt by Ralph Lauren at a local vintage store. This store had shirts of different styles and colors ranging from chambray, stripes, to dungaree, and I was amazed by how they were all Ralph Lauren button-down shirts but each of them had its own character. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with the brand. Oh, earlier I mentioned that I don’t wear other designers because I make what I want to wear at sulvam but Ralph Lauren is an exception. There’s something about Ralph Lauren’s clothes that blend in naturally with our lifestyles. Their lines include casual, suits, dresses to something eccentric like “RRL” and they are clothes made to be worn by anyone, from newborn babies to the elderlies. Ralph Lauren is the only designer that I could think of who could make that happen. His brand defines world standard. I find it truly amazing that he’s established such a brand in his own generation, and that he still hasn’t retired. You can take dozens and hundreds of pieces from their collection and there won’t be a single piece that would make you think “this doesn’t look like Ralph Lauren.” They all have a consistent “Ralph Lauren-ness” to it. When it comes to this point, no other brands can outdo what they do. Even if Ralph Lauren died today, I’m sure the label will carry on his legacy.
--- How does Ralph Lauren as a designer label influence your work?
While Ralph Lauren stands as a world’s standard, it’s also my own standard as well. Therefore, I always make it my own policy to create clothes for sulvam that do not replicate Ralph Lauren’s. Button down shirts, beautiful navy blazers, all of those things are already there, created by Ralph himself so we don’t need more of them. In other words, I think that I’m trying to make clothes that haven’t been created by Ralph Lauren yet.
--- Could you tell us about Giorgio Armani?
If Ralph Lauren is my favorite brand, then Giorgio Armani is my favorite designer. What’s fascinating about Armani is that he has a complete understanding of men and women’s body composition. In the 80’s, he launched a series of big shouldered clothes for his men’s line. They look stiff on the outside, but you can see when you remove the shoulder pads that the clothes actually sit perfectly on your skin. On the other hand, his women’s line was designed to use the shoulder pads to emphasize feminine body structures. About a year ago, we had a sulvam collection launch in Milan and I visited the fashion art museum located in Armani’s headquarter. There was an exhibit of prêt-à-porte and haute couture pieces from the 70’s and 80’s, and each one of them made perfect sense. And what I thought was very interesting was that these are pieces from the 70’s and 80’s, but they didn’t look outdated at all. They looked like something people can still wear today. If these were designed by someone else, they probably won’t have the same effect. There I saw Armani’s timeless essence. I may not be in the position to saying something like this, but I don’t think there will ever be a designer that can do better than him.
--- Would you want to wear Giorgio Armani’s clothes?
His suits, yes. I heard that even now, it’s Giorgio Armani suits that are making the highest sales in the import section of Japanese department stores. There’s an impression that it’s too glaring here in Japan, but I want to tell everyone to try on an Giorgio Armani suit at least once in their lifetime. Because they are that good. Once you have an Giorgio Armani suit on, it shouldn’t make you feel not good about yourself. Tom Ford is great too, but I always prefer Giorgio Armani.
--- Up to this point we’ve had you talk to us about three creators and archival fashion. What is your impression of today’s reassessment of archival fashion?
The term “archival fashion” is a relatively new term that we started to hear within the last decade, right? Until then, vintage stores would label items that were more than a 100 years old as “antiques,” and those that were less than a 100 years old would fall in the “vintage” category. So I think that the reason why archival fashion is suddenly in the rise has to do with how time is going by overwhelmingly fast these days. When designer labels were becoming a thing, next came street fashion, and more and more new things rolled out. And when people got blasé, what started to matter were asking ourselves questions like “what will remain, and what should we be paying attention to?” I think that archival fashion was one of the answers to those questions. And Rei Kawakubo was one of the pioneers to realize that. She changed used clothes that were regarded as worthless to archives that can be exhibited and sold to retain its value, and even better, increase its value. Her timing and presentation of the exhibitions were perfect too. Also, I think that the HERMES exhibition that took place during Margiela’s tenure has had a huge impact too. Because we’re living in a fast-paced society, I think that we’re starting to take the time to look in retrospect and make new discoveries from there. As a designer, I really appreciate this movement.
--- What does archival fashion mean to you?
A concept that is not a come-and-go, and that will always live on. I also don’t think it just applies to designer labels. It could be a custom made piece from before the 80’s, like a suit tailored by your grandfather. That could be an example of an archive. Basically anything that has lived during its time but still remains true today.
Photography_ TAKAO IWASAWA
Interview &Text_ SOHEI OSHIRO