With the spread of COVID-19 across the world, movement of people and things across various countries is limited; as a result, the Paris Collection for men’s fashion held every year in June has been cancelled and moved its presentations to a digital format. We were able to interview Mr. Fujita from sulvam, one of the Japanese brands represented on the official schedule of the Paris Collection, about his experiences with the recent Spring/Summer 2021 presentation.
--- First, we would love to hear something about the men’s collection for the Spring/Summer 2021 season in general; what kind of concept or message were you trying to purvey with this collection?
“I generally don’t really start with a set theme every season, instead opting to just create clothes according to my own feelings; if I had to mention anything, it wouldn’t be something like a movie or song, but instead things that people should probably prioritize over fashion like COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter question; this has become a year or even a few months in which we’re instigated to consider a lot of these things in our daily life. Designing clothing in a period like this, I don’t have a theme that I can put in a single word, it’s more of a general message in this case. My main message for this season is that I would like for people all over the world to start being more optimistic through clothing and fashion. For example, we’ve designed a series of reversible outfits together with Givency, which has a pearl printed on the backside reflecting this message.
I also designed an outfit in a style which uses elements of camouflage clothing. With the situation in the world becoming like this, I remembered that when in March 2011 a big earthquake shook up Japan, I remembered thinking that the camouflage clothing that the people of the Self-Defense Forces were wearing looked really cool, even thinking that these clothes were kind of symbolic for the act of helping people. But when you walk around the city of Paris these last few seasons, you see more and more people protesting and the people wearing camouflage clothing in these cases are often clashing; in other words, the image seems to be returning to camouflage as a symbol of war, of fighting. Of course, this is probably the original meaning of these clothes, but they still looked beautiful to me. While thinking about which of these is normal these days, I felt I wanted to at least express this view of camouflage clothing as a beautiful thing, which is why I designed this outfit.”
--- We’d also like to hear about the online format that was used this time. Can you tell us something about your experiences?
“Up until now I’d been going to Paris myself to show my collection so the only people I could show it to were those who came to Paris as well; that means that online, you’re able to stream to people all over the world at the same time and show it to everyone. Considering I was able to have many more people actually look at my items, I think there’s merits to this format. But the big idea behind clothes is also that they only show their full potential when people are wearing them and the cloth also moves with them, so not being able to show the clothes from that perspective is definitely a demerit to me.”
--- Could you tell us something about the materials used for this collection as well as the professionals you worked with, the background and base that formed this collection?
“Every season I try to use only Japanese materials as far as possible as a principle; to be honest, even looking from a world-wide perspective, Japanese materials are top class. I feel their quality is number one, so as a result I end up using mostly materials created within the country. As far as the production process goes, I should mention the denim jeans that have become a standard since last season.
I use materials from this place called Kojima between Hiroshima and Okayama which are locally produced and it’s amazing.
In the process of dyeing the fabric, known as aizome or indigo dye, you use water, right? So, because you use the water for dyeing, the water of course gets dirty. But these people have been using a filtering system for over several decades which only returns the water to the nearby river in a clean state. This is, I assume, not an easy feat to accomplish that is quite costly as well. In the culture of the area, there is an idea being carried on to the next generation that you shouldn’t pollute the area you live in yourself, which is to them a completely natural idea; producing quality materials is of course important as well, but I personally started using denim because the material created in this area is close to my ideals.”
--- About sustainability
“I think everyone has their own thought about the matter. There’s the idea that the earth is warming up so we should stop using chemicals, which is sustainability from a standpoint of developing materials. But there’s also people focusing on not making unnecessary things in the first place or reusing old materials. Materials made from old plastic are a thing as well as old cotton, these are interesting in itself but the process ends there; when thinking about whether the air and water are getting polluted while making these, you realize that there’s still a lot of air pollution going on in the end.
The materials I use in the end all go back to the earth, perhaps you could even say the Earth. I don’t put any special effort into using sustainable materials. The lyocell that I use every season is a good example; the fabric comes from trees, so in the end it will return to the earth, which is basically my way of handling the concept of sustainability. At the same time, these days a lot of people are talking about leather. What used to be called fake leather is called eco leather these days, but my opinion is slightly different. They actually use a lot of chemicals in order to create fake leather; of course, there might be people making fake leather in a purer way but those are the rare cases. Obviously, leather is animal skin, but these animals aren’t actually bred for their leather; most of the times, they are eaten for their meat.
From my perspective, it’s the left-over hides that turn into the leather items we use, so leather as an item in itself is actually fairly sustainable; it’s just like wool is sheep hair. In the process of making materials, the big premise is always that fashion is in some way connected to the Earth. How to protect that Earth without polluting it is one of our goals and tasks. Ideas like fast fashion, where you throw away old clothes you don’t need anymore doesn’t fit with that idea, so the clothes ate sulvam are made so you can combine without problem items from the older seasons with the new season; in no way are we preventing you from doing that. We would love you to combine these clothes from any season in any way you want.
If the products are of good quality, people will not get rid of them that easily, so to give an extreme example, it would be great if these clothes are carried on from me to my children; having clothes be carried on from one person to another is probably the action that in the end will prove most sustainable. Instead of creating new materials from zero, the idea is to continue using older items, not throwing away items, not letting them go to waste. The Japanese word mottainai encompasses this spirit of sustainability quite well, I think.”
--- You just shared some of your ideas about different interpretations of concepts, different approaches between European and Japanese designers in designing; could you tell us about how you draw every pattern by hand and why you stick to that way of designing?
“More than the simple fact that I put focus onto drawing these pattern by hand as well as the process of me handing the design over to the patterner to make clothes, having them create the toile (test fabric) and correcting that, to me the pattern in itself is the design for me, so I’m already thinking things like, the piece should curve a bit here in my head while drawing. But to be honest, that’s a really small nuance. I draw pretty freely, like ‘this should probably go like this’or ‘I would love for it to drape here.
So it’s like a dessin of the pattern. Like the people drawing the actual design, mine is also a specific stage of the design, so I have an ideal shape inside of my head and I just start putting it on paper. Compared to the concept-focused style that is popular in Europe, it’s closer to a skill-based approach. I don’t think there’s very many people, whether in Europe and America or Japan, designing like this. They probably don’t feel like doing it in this way which can be a big hassle.”
--- Could you tell us about your future plans abroad?
“I want to start a company in Paris. Right now, my company and atelier are in Japan but I’m basically only thinking about presenting these items in Paris every season and I’ve also started presenting my items at places like PITTI UOMO and the Milano Collection, which made me realize I should really be in Paris. So I have a big wish to let sulvam take root in the city of Paris. I’m thinking of making a store as well, but first of all I need a base camp so I want to have an atelier first. I think it would be best if I could create a lifestyle that takes place half in Japan and half in Paris.”
--- Finally, what are your thoughts about how the current COVID-19 pandemic is going to influence these future plans?
“To put it simply, I’ll keep on making good clothes whatever the situation. I want people to gain something, to feel something by seeing them. Living in pain and having to be patient is boring, so I want them to walk forward in some way. I hope that fashion can provide a good impulse to change in that way.”
Born on October 9th, 1984 in Chiba Prefecture. Fujita worked as a sales staff and buyer for a boutique from 2003 to 2006. From 2006 to 2013, he worked at Yohji Yamamoto as a patterner. In April 2014, he founded his own entity, and launched sulvam.
Photography_ Masaya Miyazaki (Mukta)
Interview &Text_ 1729Agency