Posts in Japan
Takuya Isagwa and the creation of Japan's hottest new fashion label: mister it.

“Do you know the Japanese concept, Iki? There’s no translation, and it’s very hard to explain. But it’s a part of our culture and style.”

Here’s what we learned. Iki is to be cool, but understated. A small detail. Human, subtle, but surprising. “It’s not a big oh wow, but it’s a small approving head nod.” When you realize it, it’s really special.

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"Women often hold a baby over the arm, so this detail is placed so that the baby’s eye will catch the mark. It's Iki."

Takuya Isagawa’s work is really special. We met at his studio, in a building filled with creative-types, to learn about his journey to launch his fashion label mister it.

Takuya’s story as a designer began as a young boy in Osaka.

As is often the case for a younger sibling, admiration for his older brother and a subsequent introduction to the world of sneakers quickly grew into a deep passion for fashion. “When I was six years old, I tried to dress like my brother. At first I just wore cool sneakers and a cap. But it wasn’t long before I wanted to make something myself.” 

As soon as he made the decision to be a designer, he had a singular drive: to study in Paris and to work for his favorite designer, Maison Martin Margiela.

He did just that.

Takuya finished his fashion studies in Paris and won first prize for his final collection. Even so, he was worried because he did not think he was proficient enough at French to land the dream job.

But he didn’t let that stop him.

He enlisted a friend to help him prepare for the interview. “I memorized the presentation in perfect French” and he landed the job he’d always wanted at Maison Martin Margiela. And a dream it was! Takuya told us that the team at Maison Martin Margiela felt like family, and always welcomed him even though he admits, “I still couldn’t speak French well." 

When he eventually left the job to launch his label, he wanted to show his gratitude to his teammates. Collection 00 from mister it. was not for the public, but rather was designed for ten specific people - a gift to his former colleagues. Each piece was thoughtfully crafted specifically for each person. The four images below feature examples from this collection. Takuya describes these as (1) an outfit to highlight one of his friend's tattoos, (2) an integrated eyeglass chain for a forgetful friend, (3) an ironic McDonalds joke, and (4) pants that make walking impossible. He explains the pants saying, "when I was working at Maison Martin Margiela, I was running all the time. But for the launch of my brand, I designed pants for myself as a symbol. I wanted to stand still so I could simply watch and be grateful."

 
 
designer clothing

Takuya's inspiration always come from those right next to him, from the people he knows. He describes, “the importance of this work is for more than just beauty. My idea is to make things for real people. The brand’s concept is this simple.” The pieces combine of functionality with design and put the person wearing them at the center. He intends to make pieces that will be cherished. "My hope is that these clothes can last for a very long time. If people take care of them, they can last almost forever. These are things you keep wearing and even pass down through your family."

You can find mister it. products in multiple locations in Japan! His pieces are available at EDITION, n id a deux, VISIT FOR and ocaille

Please take a peek at their website, misterit.jp - we guarantee that Takuya Isagawa and his label, mister it., will soon be well known names in the fashion world.


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Welcome to Daijiro's Monochromatic World
Daijiro Smiling

My university professor once described creative power as the ability to comfortably hold two opposing ideas at the same time. By this definition, contemporary artist, Daijiro Hama, has supernatural creative power. Throughout our conversation, every point he made had a counterpoint. He explains, “there's always something good and there's always something bad. That is actually the reason why I started painting monochrome."

Painting in only two colors is liberating for Daijiro. Before he began painting in just black and white he tells us, “color started to feel like too much information. With color I started to think instead of paint. I wanted to be more pure or natural.” Self-reflection and conveying his most true self is an important part of Daijiro’s work. As he describes, his art helps him, “see the truth.”

 Daijiro begins every day at his study by painting one small sketch and taping it to the wall

Daijiro begins every day at his study by painting one small sketch and taping it to the wall

Daijiro was born in Japan, but he never felt like he fit in. ”I always felt really uncomfortable in Japan, always kind of doubting the Japanese system or some general Japanese mindset,” he explains. So, when he turned 20, he left for Canada to try the vintage fashion business - a line of work he thought would be inspiring, creative and really fun.

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He quickly found that discovering vintage goods did not fulfill his creative drive, and spent his afternoons drawing and painting in cafes - so much so that other regulars started to notice his work. Daijiro credits the people he met during this time for his artistic career. A group of friends in Toronto opened him up to the world of art. He says, “they started to take me to openings and galleries. I'm from the countryside so I didn't know about galleries or even that there are people out there who buy painting.”

outside Daijiro's Studio

Today, Daijiro lives in Kyoto. He returned to Japan six years ago, and feels comfortable here now. He is inspired by the quiet rhythm of the city (though he worries there might not be enough tension to push his work forward...remember: there is a good and a bad side of everything). He explains, “in Kyoto it’s easy to get bored in a good way. The best spot for this is Kamo River, you just go there by yourself and just don't think about anything. Just keep walking and you get an answer.” He starts every morning with a run along the river, seeking inspiration and peace in this daily routine.

To see more of Daijiro Hama’s work, visit his website: http://www.daijirohama.com and find him on Instagram


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Inside Kyoto's Mysterious Modern Culture

Most Kyoto guidebooks suggest visiting the city’s stunning shrines, ancient temples, and traditional teahouses, but the advice seems to stop there. As a visitor, it is tricky to tap into modern Kyoto—a place with a rich sense of tradition, a culture of patronage, and hidden pockets of arts and music.

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Enter Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto, a travel company dedicated to providing visitors with a deeply personal experience of the city.

 Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

We chatted with Sara at Walden Woods Cafe, a coffee shop designed to emulate the feelings evoked from Thoreau's writing. Yes, it’s places like this - thoughtfully designed spaces and experiences - that make Kyoto, Kyoto. Sara explains, “I don’t like using the word unique to describe a city, because every city is unique. But it's the only word I can use. Kyoto is very unique, even in Japan.”

Throughout history, Kyoto has been the cultural hub (in addition to being the actual capital for over 1,000 years) of Japan. Walking through Gion, viewing manicured gardens, and visiting the beautiful shrines is truly awe inspiring. As Sara says, so much of “the charm of the city” lies in the commitment to preserve culture, heritage, and tradition.

However, it is the delicate combination of both past and present elements that Sara finds so inspiring about the city. She tells us, “Kyoto really knows how to mix modern elements and traditional elements together. That's why I love the city. They still have the old, but know how to make it relatable to people. That's really hard to do. It can easily become tacky, too modern, or too cool and lose that charm. But in Kyoto, they know how to do it in a subtle way.”

Subtle is a word often used to describe the city. Sara says, “Japanese culture is subtle, but Kyoto is particularly subtle. This includes communication here. We're not very loud. Even our design and creativity is subtle.” But she is quick to add, “but there's an edginess to Kyoto as well that's being created by the younger generation. It’s just starting to pop up.” Sara explains that due to a relatively low cost of living, “people feel like they can focus more on freedom of expression rather than what will sell commercially.”

 Gion, Kyoto

Gion, Kyoto

Sara describes these new modes of expression as, “Freedom. A way of expressing without conforming to the Kyoto way or Japanese culture. Japanese culture is very rule based. These artists have given themselves permission to be more themselves.” Y Gion is an example of a new space that aims to support this emerging scene. The multipurpose venue was started by Takuma Inoue to bring the creative community together. Despite the prominence of galleries and cafes, there previously weren’t places for artists to go and feel free. Thanks to people like Takuma, that’s starting to change.

There is so much to discover in Kyoto, but much of the scene remains under wraps. As an outsider, Kyoto remains mysterious, sublime, and fascinatingly unique. If you want a chance to peek into the creative side of Kyoto—a place that is growing a creative culture in a respectful, but modern way, we recommend reaching out to Sara and to book a personalized experience at Curated Kyoto. She gives a view into the side of Kyoto that just can’t be found in a guidebook.

 


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