Black Than Crows / Number (N)ine, HUgE Magazine, December 2006
The romantic ideal of the tortured artiste is always in fashion — even so, the Number (N)ine designer Takahiro Miyashita seems to take special pains to suffer for his craft. When planning the portrait that accompanies this article, he asked that his face be obscured, perhaps fearing that the gigantic frames he wears wouldn’t provide sufficient cover. During our interview, he fielded several questions with enigmatic pronouncements like ‘‘You would have to ask my brain’’ and ‘‘I am a shadow.’’ At times, he simply stared into space, as if submerged in an autistic trance. Thus the sobriquet ‘‘Taka the oyster.’’
Miyashita is part of a relatively new wave of Japanese designers,including Junya Watanabe, Undercover’s Jun Takahashi and Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments and Woolrich Woolen Mills, who are obsessed with American style; in Miyashita’s case, his dark side yields clothes of paradoxical luminosity. His fall collection, My Own Private Portland, features updated Northwest classics like plaid shirts, fur-lined trapper hats and nubby, grungy cardigans. In the spring of 2009, his Lonesome Heroes dudes will be sporting a mishmash of brocades and Navajo patterns.
At 16, Miyashita came to the States and fell in love with Americana. While his contemporaries were struggling with algebra and first dates, he was assisting stylists for Japanese magazines like the defunct Check Mate. ‘‘I got expelled from school because I did so many things,’’ he says cryptically, before admitting to having smoked pot. Miyashita spent his days on the streets of Harajuku and Shibuya, the epicenters of Tokyo teenage street style; what little money he had he spent on clothes, which he’d tear apart in order to remake and customize them. Through this process he taught himself how to design and started working with Nepenthes, a label that specialized in American-inspired clothing. Eventually he began traveling regularly to the States for research, focusing on cities like Austin, Tex.; Butte, Mont.; and his favorite, Portland, Ore.
Miyashita wears his pop-culture infatuations on his sleeve — and everywhere else. On a recent afternoon in Paris, he sported old khakis with Birkenstocks, a lumberjack shirt, a Victorian-inspired vest, a dangling fur satchel, an assortment of necklaces and trinkets, a jeweled guitar pin, a large stone ring, a leather cuff, a big plastic watch, a rakish hat and a crumpled cigarette pack worn as a brooch. His shows are set to the tracks of idols like Nirvana and Johnny Cash. He constantly adds to the collection of vintage clothes, records and images that inform his work; ‘‘The Outsiders’’ and ‘‘Rumble Fish’’ are two of his favorite movies, and he’s crazy for Joseph Szabo’s pictures of American teenagers in the ’70s and Slater Bradley’s ‘‘Doppelgänger Trilogy’’ featuring Kurt Cobain.
‘‘What sets us apart from older Japanese designers like Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto is that we are much more influenced by youth culture and, especially, music,’’ says Jun Takahashi, Miyashita’s close friend. He’s right: while their predecessors have traditionally focused on intellectual experiments with texture and shape, these new designers have an innate understanding of global street trends. Miyashita, who not surprisingly loves American punk rock, has formed two bands, the Highstreets and the Ivory. ‘‘I still believe that music can change culture,’’ he says. (The name Number (N)ine refers to the Beatles’ ‘‘Revolution 9.’’) ‘‘I just made a song called ‘Dark Shadow,’ ’’ he says. ‘‘The lyrics say, ‘Please, please, please kill me.” All my work, whether it’s in fashion or music, is about rebellion and not being conventional.’’
He recently traveled to Portland to see Wipers, a favorite band, but says he’d instantly give up music if he had to choose between that and fashion. His men’s line is growing steadily, and he hopes to further develop his women’s range, which at the moment consists only of adapted versions of his men’s collection. ‘‘Without fashion, I would have nothing,’’ he says earnestly. ‘‘It’s my life.’’
It’s the quintessential designer sound bite, but in this case it feels painfully real.
– Armand Limnander
Image / HUgE Magazine
Text / T Magazine