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Mihara Yasuhiro

The offbeat designer on menswear, monsters and letting sublime meet ridiculous

You can always hear the call of the wild in a Miharayasuhiro collection. Since Yasuhiro added menswear to his sneaker empire eight years ago, the label’s eponymous(ish) founder has been roaming the great outdoors, producing collections that merge a romantic notion of nature with an urban sensibility. The richly textured silhouettes are rooted in English tailoring, but executed in spliced-and-diced fabrics printed with painterly motifs from his homeland, and often presented alongside live performances by Japanese artists. For spring/summer 2013, Yasuhiro turned his gaze upon American rockers, transforming hard-as-nails leathers into something altogether more poetic to create an anti-hero outlaw.

This year, Yasuhiro is gracing the UK with two major events: a place in Tate Britain’s Pre-Raphaelites Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition, where his spring/summer 2012 womenswear film Ophelia Has a Dream by Paolo Roversi will be shown alongside Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, and a pop-up store at London boutique Browns’s menswear store, the scene of our interview.

How did you approach the design of your Browns installation?
Mihara Yasuhiro: I wanted the room to give an insight into the work that goes into my clothes. So I wallpapered the space with images from the shoe factory I use in Tokyo, and the chairs in here are inspired by the workers’ chairs in the factory. I like the look of the chipped paint – you can see it’s been in use. Each chair represents a different stage in the work process and the craftsmanship and hours that go into making the pieces, like the camouflage and Japanese motif suits from AW12.

Could you explain your thoughts behind this idea of weaving in camouflage with traditional Japanese clouds and cherry blossoms?
Mihara Yasuhiro: My collection is called Inside Out, and plays on different aspects of that notion. There’s a Japanese expression that says your outside shows your inside, but I wanted to challenge this idea by creating pieces that show both – pieces where you don’t know which is which. The needlepoint prints are part of this idea and were done at an old obi factory in Tokyo. The flowers and waves are traditional patterns from the kimono, blended with camouflage to contrast the ancient and pure with the military connotations of modern amouflage. It’s also about what’s hidden. Camouflage is about hiding among the trees and flowers, but this camouflage clearly displays itself. So I was playing with the hidden meanings of an outfit.

Is the idea of man versus nature something you think about?
Mihara Yasuhiro: I find the contrast very beautiful. Tokyo especially is a very grey city – all concrete and asphalt – and the reality is that most fashion today is seen in a grey cityscape environment, so people become the nature element. I like to draw on nature themes in my work, but I also like to then do them in an all-grey medium, like the Japanese obi prints.

How much of your work process is an intellectual response and how much is an emotional one?
Mihara Yasuhiro: Good question. I think I’m more of a realist than a dreamer. At art college I was very caught up in the emotional side, and a lot of artists probably maintain that way of working. But as a designer, the practical can overtake the emotional. Patternmaking and production are quite unemotional. Everything for me starts with an emotional response, but I have to intellectualise my feelings. The point where I’m most emotional is when I have to explain a piece to the craftsman who’s going to make it. Then I tend to get very passionate. But a lot of the time it’s a hidden emotion.

Is there an idea or concept that you always return to?
Mihara Yasuhiro: The idea of ‘sublime meets ridiculous’ really fascinates me. For example, these two contrasting tartans on the jacket I’m wearing might seem ridiculous to some, but at the same time the expression is also very noble. I’m always looking at the clash between the two, and how things might change depending on the viewer.

You’ve collaborated with samurai guitarist Miyavi and Japanese design studio WOW for your shows. What is your secret to a successful show?
Mihara Yasuhiro: A show is such a fleeting moment. When you’ve worked on something for six months, day and night, you want that moment to make an impact. I’m interested in giving people something unexpected. I want them to leave with a story to tell.

Jun Inoue’s live calligraphy at your SS13 men’s show was striking.
Mihara Yasuhiro: Previously, I’ve been a bit against using certain aspects of Japanese culture in my work, and there was a time when I thought something like shodo calligraphy was too Japanese. I’ve had similar feelings towards the kimono. Living in Japan, you can feel very removed from all that nowadays. It’s like a costume from a bygone age that you can’t relate to, and it’s become almost a cliché. But I’m seeing all this in a new light now.

So what do you think of non-Japanese designers working with the kimono?
Mihara Yasuhiro: It may look Japanese, but it’s not. But then, tailoring came from the west, and (Rei) Kawakubo and that generation of designers became famous for destroying tailoring. So I think about what western designers think of my tailoring. They might feel I’m destroying the concept of it, but I hope people can see I’m trying to retain the structure while making something new. Which is also why I’m now rethinking my views on aspects of traditional Japanese culture. There’s always more than one side to everything.

What part of Japanese pop culture inspires you the most?
Mihara Yasuhiro: Manga. I love it. I buy manga magazines every week, and my collection keeps growing. Manga is a very immediate and often critical reaction to what’s going on in culture and society right now, and a medium that reaches a huge amount of people. What do you hope to convey with your work? It’s quite simple, really. I want to see people happy. It might be impossible to change the world or the economy, but at least you can change how people feel.

Text by Susanne Madsen
Photography by Gareth McConnell

Taken from the December issue of Dazed & Confused