Takahiro Miyashita on Being the Soloist

Takahiro Miyashita on Being the Soloist

Fashion,Features/Op-Ed

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Takahiro Miyashita by Takao

Two weeks ago I met with Takahiro Miyashita, the Japanese fashion designer of the men’s brand TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist. Miyashita’s original brand Number (N)ine made a mark on men’s fashion in the previous decade, when menswear was at its height in terms of reinterpreting youth culture. Number (N)ine, along with Undercover in Japan, Raf Simons in Paris, and Cloak in New York was the punk answer to the pop-music of contemporary fashion. Miyashita drew heavy on references such as Gus Van Sant’s films and 90s alternative music to create a world of his own. The brand was a critical and commercial success, but Miyashita was not fully satisfied with the way Number (N)ine operated and he left the label in 2009. He spent a year soul-searching before making his next move.

We met in the morning in his Paris showroom, located in a courtyard in one the back streets of Marais. Miyashita is guarded, almost shy, in a way of a man who prefers to observe rather than be observed. I have never seen him without sunglasses. He speaks softly in good English, but his replies tend to be short and he takes time to consider them, as if words are simply not up to the task of truly expressing his thoughts.

Few successful designers today have the freedom to be a true auteur. Miyashita is one of them. He called his new brand TheSoloist to underscore that very fact. “Number (N)ine was a band,” Miyashita told me. “It was a big company, and often I did not get to do what I wanted. So I thought that I need to be a completely independent designer. I wanted to be a solo singer. Just like John Lennon who quit The Beatles to be John Lennon.” Today, Miyashita designs everything by himself, without a single assistant.

TheSoloist is now in its twelfth season and it has gone from strength to strength in terms of Miyashita’s vision. “I feel more free to design for my own label. The clothes are closer to my mind than Number (N)ine,” he told me. Miyashita would return to speaking about his mind as an independent entity that gives birth to ideas that he manifests into clothing. The ideas are never straightforward, nor are the garments – there are virtually no archetypal, sure-sell menswear staples like a perfecto jacket or a trench that Miyashita tinkers with. Menswear is notoriously limited in its offerings and Miyashita takes it as far as it can go. And while he continues to mine youth culture for his references, they are not always readily discernible. For example, the S/S 2017 collection, one that is in stores now, was inspired by David Bowie, but you won’t see anything in the clothes that owes an obvious debt to Bowie’s costumes. Instead, it’s Bowie processed through Miyashita’s singular mind.

When I look at Miyashita’s clothes, I often think that he is the last hippie in fashion, meaning that he is free to do whatever pleases him, practical considerations such as cost constraints be damned. The results, like double-faced cashmere coats can be absolutely stunning (and stunningly expensive). Since TheSoloist’s first season, when Miyashita presented heavily handworked deconstructed tailoring, he has shown time and again that his attention to detail is next to none. So it was with the F/W 17 collection he was presenting now, in which jacket and pant seams were finished with leather piping. What looked like fleece turned out to be a cashmere/wool/silk blend. Even Miyashita’s “basics,” like hoodies and track pants are never basic. The amount of detail in each, such as raw seams, the pulls, the neckline details, are all well thought out and demand one’s careful attention.

“The inside of the garment is my favorite part,” Miyashita said when I asked him about his fascination with detail. As a matter of fact this collection was about taking the lining and making garments out of it. It was deconstruction at its finest – with jackets and fur-lined long tunic coats made from wool ripstop fabric and that closed with tassels, their pockets designed so they could be accessed from the outside and from the inside.

Miyashita continues to be influenced by music and film, and also by the people he sees on the streets, though he does not go out much, preferring to stay in his head. (When I asked him where the inspiration for the last collection came from, he laughed and said, “I don’t know – ask my brain.”) Asked whether a lot of his work comes from the subconscious, he nodded affirmatively and said, “Sometimes I think it’s a different person designing the clothes. Sometimes I will see a finished sample, but I don’t remember doing it like that.”

Miyashita used to make music and have a band in Tokyo, although he hasn’t made new music in three years. He continues to go to concerts whenever he can. And he continues his friendship with Jun Takahashi from Undercover, whose showroom in Paris is adjacent to his.  “I think I was around twenty when I met Jun,” he told me. “He was already successful. I was beginning at Number (N)ine and he called the studio and wanted to see my clothes. The first time he came, I just came out, said ‘Hello,’ and left, because I was nervous. But we have become great friends since. We go drinking together in Tokyo, and I have made music for some of the Undercover’s shows.”

Miyashita grew up fascinated by clothes, but he did not think he would become a designer until a store owner where he worked offered Miyashita to design some pieces for the shop’s house line. Miyashita came up with twenty designs. He was nineteen years old. In 1997 Miyashita launched Number (N)ine. With TheSoloist he is firmly in the saddle, doing exactly what he wants. Miyashita never looks back on his work – each collection is a song in an album he never stops writing. His only wish is for enough time to get everything out of his head and into the world. “I wish there were 36 hours in a day – that’s how much time I need,” he mused at the end of our interview, reflecting every auteur’s wish.

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Lookbook photos by rrosemary

About the author

Eugene Rabkin

Eugene Rabkin is the founder of stylezeitgeist.com. He has contributed articles on fashion and culture to The Business of Fashion, Vogue Russia, Buro247, the Haaretz Daily Newspaper, and other publications. He has taught critical writing and fashion writing courses at Parsons the New School for Design.



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