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Kei Kagami's 10 Year Retrospective

The elusive Japanese fashion designer speaks to us about the upcoming exhibition of his avant-garde shoes in Amsterdam this month

Kei Kagami has made a career out of avoiding the spotlight. If he had not, it’s likely that the Japanese fashion designer, who founded his label in 1997, would have received a level of attention more commensurate with his achievements. The most recent of which includes selling his showpieces to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and being specially commissioned by the Arnhem Mode Biennale in Holland to create 'The Water Dress', which was exhibited alongside the work of other esteemed and experimental designers such as Comme des Garcons and Hussein Chalayan.

Using an eclectic mix of materials, Kagami’s conceptual pieces are the result of a previous stint as an architect, which saw him work at the studio of the award winning Kenzo Tange, before - attracted by the prospect of being able to maintain his involvement from design to production – he gave it all up for fashion, “I thought it was wonderful that I could express myself in each process and could wear it at the end”, says Kagami. “I make clothes so I can express what I want straightaway. In architecture things would not go so smoothly”. Kagami is offering us a chance to catch up on the last decade of his work as a shoemaker, with a 10-year retrospective. Taking place at the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam this November, the exhibition will feature 60 pairs of his avant-garde creations, as well as a live performance. We got in touch with Kagami to find out more…

Dazed Digital: How do you go about selecting shoes for the retrospective?
Kei Kagami: I just picked up three iconic styles from each collection since Spring/Summer 2001.Twenty two collections are going to be on display and we are also presenting our latest shoe collection for Spring/Summer 2012 which you can order at Steinbeisser.

DD: Can you explain to us the live performance in detail?
Kei Kagami: 
The performance is going to be a long score of scenes. We don't have it all set, but what I can say is that three performers are going to be sewing, exploring the form as a connecting activity. Sewing clothes, pieces of textile and paper to each other, they will create a huge assemblage. Created in one hour, the assemblage will be in constant movement - expansion / contraction - since every object and move are connected to each other. We explore through this choreographic score the movement of sewing...

DD: You are a trained architect so why did you decide to go into fashion?
Kei Kagami:
In Japan I studied architecture at university and tailoring at an evening course in college. When I was studying, I used to consider both as the same thing in the sense of creating space and structure - and in the sense of realising two dimensions into three dimensions. I finished my studies in 1989 and decided to go for fashion, which lead me to London to work under Galliano. I did not see a big difference between fashion and architecture; the important thing was that I just wanted to create something, which could express exactly what I wanted. And I thought it would be more possible to do it within fashion as I could do every single process by myself - designing, choosing fabrics, drawing patterns and stitching.

DD: Your designs are very complex, how did you start off designing each shoe?
Kei Kagami:
In order to decide what I would like to express in the collection, I always analyse myself first. I look at what I am interested in, what attracts me, what I see beauty in, what I am angry about at the moment and so on. The most impressive subject among the elements I analysed often becomes the main theme of the collection. Then I go into the material and technical research. Once I have decided on the theme, the materials, and the techniques, I just try to design as sincerely as possible for what I wish to express.

DD: Do you have a favourite pair of shoes from the exhibition? Are there any that are particularly meaningful to you?
Kei Kagami:
It is difficult for me to say which pair is my favorite as they are all something, like my children. I love all of them in a certain way and in the same time I know they are not perfect. Often the worst 'kid' could be the sweetest and most loved, so I can't answer that question. But I will say that deciding to make a pair of shoes, which involved fiberglass, resulted in one of the biggest technical struggles I have ever experienced.

For more information visit Steinbeisser