Port meets with iconic designer Hiroshi Fujiwara to discuss his Moncler Genius collaboration
Before the internet, there was Hiroshi Fujiwara. Acting as a crucial connection between Japan and the West in the early 80s, the now legendary designer and musician started out by ferrying clothing, records and style from London and New York to Ura-Harajuku, acting as a vessel for cross-cultural exchange. Through friendships with luminaries like Vivienne Westwood, The Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and Shawn Stüssy, he connected and converged a number of previously disparate sub-cultures. His love for punk and hip hop was so infectious that it spread through Tokyo like wildfire, bleeding into youth culture just at the time when national, conservative tastes were rapidly declining. It’s difficult to overstate the man’s influence – his fingerprints can be found on streetwear and products throughout Nippon and the wider world thanks to his creative design consultancy Fragment Design, collaborating with artists such as Haruki Murakami and Eric Clapton, as well as brand behemoths like Louis Vuitton, Levi’s, Nike, and most recently, Moncler.
The latest in their series of Genius collections – which sees the fashion brand partner with a new creative for each drop – is military wear in peacetime. Created under the banner “Team Positive Force”, the 7 Moncler Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara collection centres around interpretations of the traditional parka and bomber jacket, with contrasting sleeve twists, allusions to retro Mod cuts and chequered flag details running along hems. In addition to the soberly coloured martial items, soft kaleidoscopic crewnecks and shiny nylon laqué puffers feature alongside a surprising collaboration with Pokémon, producing bold three-way branding and inventive reworkings of a certain iconic electric mouse.
Port had the pleasure of grabbing coffee with Hiroshi in Mayfair just before the launch. He had the following to say.
What different identities and materials were mixed into the collection?
Moncler already has a strong identity already with its winter clothes and such quality with its down jacket, so I had the idea of bringing in vintage military, putting it together with a heavy-duty style.
How did the collaboration between yourself and Moncler practically work, what was the ebb and flow of the design process?
Over a year I made two corrections and visited Milan once a month to meet with the team to discuss ideas. It was balanced, a 50:50 split.
Why was Pokémon a good fit as an additional collaborator?
I was working with Pokémon a couple of years back and Moncler saw my designs with them and said they want to bring it into the collection, which the Pokémon team were very happy to do. It’s rare that you get a proper collaboration as opposed to a license with something that established – so I could play with the brand.
Do you have a favourite Pokêmon, from the original 150?
And a favourite piece from the collection?
I like to wear the military mod coat, very 60s. The original one had coyote fur, but we used Moncler soft down instead. When you wear it, it’s very comfortable, like someone’s holding you.
I understand punk and hip hop had a big influence on you growing up, how has music shaped you and has it found a way into the collection?
Music and fashion used to be tied, but I don’t see this much these days. Back in the 70s and 80s music and fashion were always together, if you want to go to a punk concert, you have to wear the uniform – if you wear a suit you’ll get beaten up! Now everyone wears practical outdoor wear to listen to music, to do everything, and for me, it’s kind of boring. It’s normal, there’s no minority tribes anymore. My collection tries to bring these two creative forces together again.
What was it like living and working in Ura-Harajuku back in the late 80s – having moved from Ise?
Ise is pretty much the countryside. If you want to do something like fashion or music you’ve got to live in Tokyo, so automatically I moved when I was old enough.
And it’s still the place to be?
Yes, Tokyo’s still the place to be, possibly in the world. People are happy to come here as well, from all over.
Previously, you’ve been described as “the living internet” – why do you think you were given this label?
Before the internet, I was carrying so much information from my travels – meeting great people and bringing it all back to Tokyo. Now that it’s really here, you can get information instantly.
Your landscape as a creative has changed then?
Yes, but people still need a filter to get good, or better information than everyone else. So that’s what I’m trying to be, a better filter, an authority.
How has our imagination and pop culture at large been altered in the digital age?
Pop culture finished in the 90s when information technology took over, nothing is gone now. Back in the 70s, things were forgotten and people were interested in digging and rediscovering things. But in this culture now, nothing is vanished, everything’s permanent. Previously, something from the past had more impact, now it’s ever present.
Why does good design, in your own words, disturb?
Disturb is not quite right. Many people look at fashion as a lifestyle brand, which is more comfortable, easy to wear, but fashion is not only one way. Sometimes you want to wear a chain on your neck or a leather jacket, something uncomfortable. It’s important to express yourself and sometimes through culture you want to disturb yourself.
*Hiroshi gestures to my ear*
You don’t need to have an earring, it’s impractical, but you do it anyway.
And do you think Japanese people are more confident in expressing themselves?
Yes, and the project’s still ongoing.
I’ve read that you primarily work completely solo – where do your ideas come from?
If I need help I’ll talk to my people, or look at my archive work if I’m stuck.
Where else in the world outside of London, New York, Tokyo, do you look to for inspiration?
Eastern and middle Europe and doing some interesting things at the moment. I really like London though.
Would you live here?
Yes, when I was 18 I came here and stayed three months and I keep coming back. I was in Camden town, 1982, sleeping on some friends’ floors. Japan seemed really Far East to a lot of people, there were not many Japanese here at all. Everything I saw was so new and different. Post-punk nightclubs, creepy spots, people dressed crazy – it was a fun time. I learned a lot coming here by myself.
Is there any recent work of yours that broke new ground?
I just designed a yacht.
Do you have to learn new disciplines quickly when entering previously unknown fields like this?
All my clients have professional teams I can give my ideas and drawings to, plus my MacBook does everything for me! I’m trying to learn graphic design myself at the moment. I’m also about to design some uniforms for a school in Tokyo, Junior High and High School. I wasn’t entirely sure what I had to do, they asked me to do socks, ties, t-shirts and scarfs. But it’s always fun to enter new categories like this.
I assume there’s plenty of work you turn down, just from the sheer amount of request vs how much time you have?
I do it a lot – I’m good at saying no!