THE HARD BALANCE BETWEEN CONCEPT AND BUSINESS. 纠结的平衡——概念 VS. 商业。
Takayuki Tanaka is the designer from Divka, Tokyo-based independent label. After graduating from Saint Martin in London, and collaborating with John Galliano and Miki Fukai, Taka started his own brand back in 2001. Since then he has been looking for a balance between his desire to innovate the fashion panorama, and the necessity to make his business sustainable.
We met up in Omotesando when I was in Tokyo, and, over a very foamy cappuccino, we discussed about Japanese fashion scene and the challenges for independent designers in a world dominated by fast-fashion giants like Uniqlo and H&M.
How would you describe Tokyo fashion scene?
I would say it’s completely different from Europe’s. Even Tokyo Fashion Week, which is supposed to be the most interesting event of the year, is not particularly interesting, there is nothing new and no international coverage and exposure. It’s a pity, because the underground scene is pretty vibrant – it’s just that the big public in not yet aware of it.
You studied in London. How does this influence your style?
Studying abroad is very important for every Japanese designer. Here at fashion school they teach you to develop your practical skills – and this is why we are in general very good at doing clothes, at keeping the quality high. Abroad it’s more about the concept behind a collection – they teach you how to do research, how to draw inspiration out of your daily experiences. I personally chose London back in 2006 because it looked so exotic to me. After having been to Parsons for a summer course, I found NY somehow similar to Tokyo, and really wanted to try something different instead.
What’s the message you want to share with your public?
I grow up in the Nineties, when everything around fashion was vibrant and exciting. . Today it’s not like this anymore. Young people are not interested in what they wear – they wear Uniqlo or H&M. And don’t think it’s about a tight budget: when I was a teenager I would save money for months in order to buy a designer piece. I think it’s about misinformation – they have no idea about what’s going on in the fashion world. My message is to educate them about the difference in owning a fast-fashion product or a designer one.
How would you define your new collection?
Everything about it is interesting. Starting from the creation phase: we drape the fabric on the body directly – we don’t do any sketches, as we find it would stop the creative process. I have everything in my mind from the very beginning and I try to be innovative and to break the rules. We don’t think in terms of fabric or design. We just go with the flow, and the choice of the fabric is just the very last step.
Whom do you sell to?
We mainly work with local and international buyers, but we also have a base of loyal customers. They are manly people who are interested in fashion, and they are our biggest supporters. For now we only do womenswear; this is because we love women (!) ad because in general dresses are more interesting than suits & co. But we don’t rule out the possibility of opening to a male audience: some of the pieces in our collection are in fact unisex.
Do you only use black and white in your collections?
We use black and white, and all the colours in between. Most of our colours love and are used to wear dark colours, so we need to keep them satisfied. But an important part of our mission is also to educate them to like and enjoy something new and different. This is why we are planning to have more bold colours in the future!
Who is your favourite designer in the fashion history?
I used to like Yohji Yamamoto a lot – his avant-garde spirit, and his power to create designs far removed from current trends. But at this time I don’t understand what’s going on with big names out there. They behave like stars, not artisans. I’m not sure if the whole fashion world turned upside down, or if I’m just different from the fashion student I used to be before.
Taka seems to be somehow uncomfortable in the contemporary fashion panorama – he doesn’t understand young people and their style choices and at the same time he doesn’t recognise himself in any of the trends currently on.
He just humbly keeps doing his job – and he made me think that the vibration should start from a well-designed and realised dress and end with a glamorous twirl of money, celebrities, glossy magazines. And definitely not the other way around.
Takayuki Tanaka e’ un designer giapponese che ho incontrato a Tokyo. Dopo ager studiato a Londra, e’ rientrato a Tokyo e ha fondato il suo brand. Oggi si trova a disagio nel fashion system: dice di non riconoscersi ne’ nei giovani che non prestano attenzione a quello che indossano, ne’ nei designers che sono sempre più stars e sempre meno ‘sarti’. E dice che si presta attenzione agli aspetti sbagliati: celebrity, denaro, pagine patinate. Come dargli torto?
For the chat with Takayuki Tanaka in Omotesando I was delighted to wear:
Coat 大衣: Weekend by Max Mara
Scarf 围巾: 加普亚Capua (位于罗马马尔兹广场32/33 Rome, via di Campo Marzio 32/33)
Bag 包包: Gucci
The picture of Taka and me was taken with my Sony NEX-5T. For all the other pictures, special thanks to Takayuki Tanaka.
Translation by Jasmine Wang.