Rei Shito is a photographer and journalist who takes photos of off-runway fashion not only in Tokyo, but all over the world. Also supported as a fashion icon, she is good at wearing not only the latest fashion but also archives in her own refreshing way. This time she will show us some of her best garments that has survived inside her closet through the years to give us insight into the charm of gems loved by all generations. This interview links the past with the present by looking back at the early 00's, which has particular significance to Rei Shito as it was right after she had started out with street photography overseas, she says.
---We heard you collect items from the Tabi series by Maison Margiela (formerly Maison Martin Margiela).
“I have about 10 pairs of boots designed with adjustable openings, sneakers and pumps. The shoes I'm wearing today are actually the first item I got from the Tabi series. My ex-boyfriend I used to date back in the early 00's found them on an auction and gave them to me as a present. The paint has gradually worn off, giving them a design that can be enjoyed for its timeworn beauty, which I like. They [the Tabi series] still inherit Martin Margiela's DNA, even after John Galliano became the creative director. That's why I keep liking their shoes. I often buy them as a reward for myself after having worked hard with taking photos at Paris Fashion Week. I deliberately refrain from looking any shoes up beforehand so that I can make my choice based on "what I've yet to see".”
---What is it about brands that you find charming?
“The first person to teach me about brands was one of my best friends who also presided over TOKYO RIPPER: Hideaki Satō. He used to tell me enthusiastically about his philosophy, so it rubbed off on me. That's when I realized that I can turn familiar things into something completely new just by slightly changing my perspective. For example, if he had a ring with a diamond reminiscent of a wedding ring, he would boldly cut it into halves. Another example would be when he enlarged or shrank an item to get rid off that feeling of having seen it too much. I like that his method of approach is very simple, yet it makes the items appear so new and fresh.”
---What was it that piqued your interest in the Tabi series?
“I was taking street photos of a guy back in the early 00's who was just so incredibly cool in a black pair of Tabi boots that he was wearing leisurely. They just looked stunningly natural on him even with the split toe, which may partly have been because the heels were not as high as women’s shoes. It was also around that time that friends of mine wearing them [the Tabi series] began to pop up around me, eventually leading me to want them as well.”
---You have been doing street photography in places like Paris and Milano since 2006. Have you noticed any difference in the number of people wearing the Tabi series overseas?
“Now that I look back at the scene 13 years ago, the people wearing them were so few that some even jokingly asked me "what are you, a deer?", haha.
The Tabi series might be very popular among classy women in Tokyo, but that's not quite the case overseas. Trends within the world of fashion just grows shorter and shorter, making it difficult to sell expensive items. The price of the Tabi series are also gradually increasing, so seen from a global perspective they only have a handful of fans out there. When taking the market into account, there is a tendency to buy affordable items that you don't have in your wardrobe, which I believe leads many to archives which in turn act as a meeting point for rare designs."
---Please tell us some more about the clothes that you matched with your Tabi boots.
“My skirt is an archive from COMME des GARÇONS. When I held a flea market together with Naoto Okutomi, who runs the second-hand clothes store BOY in Shibuya, we traded clothes with each other. When thinking about the fact that it was a man wearing womenswear, you get quite surprised. I regard this as my treasure, not only because I like its design but because I received it from a friend that I hold dear. The T-shirt is a novelty that I picked up on the opening of Mister Hollywood. I've been living by a proverb that Satō — who introduced me to Maison Martin Margiela — taught me during my university years, namely "wine and T-shirts are best when aged", haha. I thought the time was ripe, so I dragged it out of my closet.”
---Your collection that you have shown us today gives the impression that its enjoyability lies in its timeworn beauty or that items shine with the lapse of time, but how would you express these thrilling archives in your own words?
“I think many archives have aggressive designs. I get excited when I run into high level items that makes you feel the designer's discipline. So if I had to put it in my own words, I'd say "that which is challengeable". By that I mean that I want to wear something exciting that inspires me to take on new challenges. It's because I don't want to have my feet on the ground that I wear archives.”
Street style photographer representing Japan. She introduces street photos that she has taken all around the world on her blog "STYLE from TOKYO".