Interview: Award-Winning Kimono Designer Sato TAKAHIRO

 

Sato TAKAHIRO

Ö.Burcu: How did you start designing?


Sato TAKAHIRO: Since I was a child, I had a big interest in taking apart something and drawing. Like creation and picture, I think it was a start point to design for me.
What I had interests in earnest is the product design of the car.
Honestly speaking, I wanted to go to college to study product design but my family is not rich so I gave up that way for my mother and went to the Automotive Technical School. In those school days, I felt each part for a car, even a screw, has each function and designed for its role. In other words, we can say a large design CAR is an aggregate of small design, each small part had each function. I was so impressed with this. I think the reason I can design the structure of clothes is from those thinking ways for objects and aggregates of design.

 

Ö.Burcu: When it comes to kimono, a certain pattern comes to mind. For a designer, it should be difficult to work with a product that has a tradition-bound background. Why did you choose the kimono? 

 

Sato TAKAHIRO: First, I’m an apprentice knife smith and my feeling that loves Japanese culture and spirits for creation is the base. When I cleaned out my mother’s belonging I found she kept my anniversary kimono and her favorite one with care. I tried to wear kimono after a long time, I thought it’s wonderful again. Until then, as same as almost Japanese people, I also wore kimono only on a special day like 七五三(Shichigosan - celebrate the day for children ) but this experience became a trigger to have interests on the current situation of kimono and I got to know they are in a critical situation. If when kimono is a very common outfit in Japan it may be difficult to design Next Kimono for a new designer like me but now it’s a reform term for both kimono itself and its business world. It’s a special term that a designer like me, having frank and honest opinions like “I like kimono but I can’t wear it by myself.” I think we must pass this culture to next generation but I don’t know where I go wearing kimono. ”There is a word “守破離(Shuhari) ”in Japanese traditional culture. 守is a protecting, 破 is breaking and 離 is leaving. Even there is this word to mean the way of thinking that not only protecting a tradition but also important breaking and changing it, now in Japan, kimono becomes an “Expensive Haute couture on wear only in special days .” So I want to pass to the next generation by “破” "離”.Now it’s a special changing term to be able to do it. I think. 



Ö.Burcu: What is the message you want to give with your brand?

Sato TAKAHIRO: The theme of KUDEN is “Things that make you feel like telling someone important for you .”KUDEN is from Japanese "口伝" meaning "tell something important to someone by mouth, teach, and instruct.” It’s used between artisans and their apprentices for succeeding traditional techniques and also handing down among people. I put my thoughts to this theme, “I never create something I can’t tell to a loved one and provide to the customer.” For example, KUDEN protects the working environment, shows the reason for the fair price, and also making jobs for sewing factory. After all, I’m a father so I don’t want my son to wear and use something at expense of others like working in a terrible working environment, unfair wages cause problems for the natural environment, and so on. I think customers who love my design agree with this so to try my best to provide something that they need and enrich their hearts as possible as I can through design, I design with this slogan KUDEN=Things that make you feel like telling to someone important for you.

 

Ö.Burcu: How would you describe your style? How do you want people to react to your designs?


Sato TAKAHIRO: I design Samurai Mode Series, especially Jacket for people all over the world who work hard for someone, live with strong beliefs and values, and have the will to carry on. For me, wearing clothes is the same thing to wear a second skin. It’s a very hard time and many things happen in this society. Sometimes I also get anxious and downbeat as a business owner, a person, and a father. Even in those situations, to encourage people who are determined to do something for themselves and other people, like "OK, I can do it; I believe in myself." “Put my heart into each action.” and also to express such a feeling, I design Samurai Mode Series. I’m honored if you wear on your important business day, special day, and daily life as a part of your skin. 

 

Ö.Burcu: What are the things that inspire your designs?

Sato TAKAHIRO: My son. He has disabilities but very good at drawing and has a great sense. I feel he always leads me. Giving a good impact on each other, I also feel like “I want to give it to him too” and these thoughts affect my design. I think everyone feels like that.

 

Ö.Burcu: Which one do you think is important in design; creativity originality, or long-term usability?

 
Sato TAKAHIRO: I think the design is not only what we can see by our eyes. These days, design thinking is touted, but in my opinion, as a root of design, the design is a tool to express and control words and visual to tell something or make it true. Design is to actualize hopes that want to help someone, want people to think so beyond words, generation, country, and values. The design has the power to do that.

 

Ö.Burcu: You have been awarded the IRON award in Italy in the 2019-2020 social design category. This is one of the most important awards in the world in design. What does this award mean to you?


Sato TAKAHIRO: First of all, I can’t make it only by myself. It was my first time to make clothes. I have worked in the design field but this award is the first prize for me as a designer. I’m so honored. If without people making my clothes, staff doing their best to start my brand together and customers, I can’t receive it so this is very special for me. Actually, many people told me “You should submit your design in the fashion design category “ but I really want to challenge in the social design category. Because the sewing factory where made my first clothes and many people who helped me a lot went bankrupt because of problems in apparel business world, short cycle fashion trend, unfair low wage, and short term delivery. I was really disappointed myself and this business world but that’s why I thoughts “We must change it” strongly. So I challenged as social design, not as fashion design. And then, my design received a great evaluation from Italy and design professionals in the world. It’s very meaningful for me. 

 

Ö.Burcu: Can you tell us a little bit about your collections? The Samurai-Mode Series sounds pretty interesting. Can you provide information about the inspiration point and the intended use?

 
Sato TAKAHIRO: As I said before, I got the inspiration when I sorted out my mother’s belongings. And the other hand, also my feelings through experience that closed my previous company because of sick by hardworking and made a decision to challenge again for my son have a significant effect. At that time, I felt “want to face to it like samurai .“Challenging again to something we failed before needs big courage. For now, I think I made clothes to make me the courage and give me a push on my back. I wear these clothes and a challenge to make a place that works with my disabled son. Those feelings make an impact to design and naming Samurai Mode, I think. And also, I take care a lot to re-boot kimono itself again. Of course, it’s a philosophy of kimono, I think one long fabric clinging to the body makes beautiful silhouette so how to express that silhouette by western dressmaking, how to actualize kimono that fits people who have each shape in the world without special technique to wear. I did trial and error again and again for those points. How to use it, I’m glad if you wear it when you have a fun, daily life, a special day, want to have the courage and make yourself calm. You can wear 3 pieces at the same time as kimono and also take 1 clothes to your daily fashion with kimono style easily. No need special technique to wear, I particular fabric and comfortable to wear. If you have the experience to wear kimono, I think you’re surprised by their lightness, delicacy, and comfort.

 

Ö.Burcu: Your brand not only covers clothing but also products made with care by craftsmen. Can you tell us about these products under your brand?

 
Sato TAKAHIRO: First, it’s again but I’m an apprentice of knife smith so I respect Japanese creation and artisans. I was born in Nikko, Tochigi prefecture in Japan. It’s a famous by world heritage Nikko Toshogu Shrine and also as woodcraft town. I grow up in an environment near a specialist in woodcraft so I have thoughts to introduce them. I’ll take them in design and item from now on too.

 

Ö.Burcu: What are your future plans for your brand?

 
Sato TAKAHIRO: The shirt that is the motif of 襦袢(Juban) and 半襟(Hann-eri) will be coming. Juban is underwear for kimono. Hann-eri is a customizable collar and one of the fun for kimono. This new JUBAN shirt has a beautiful silhouette and adds this fun on Samurai Mode. I’ll use not only new fabric but also a part of vintage haori and kimono that no-used long time and almost thrown away, now KUDEN handles as the vintage line.KUDEN provide a vintage haori and kimono in affordable price as a trigger to take kimono in their daily life but there are what not fit for sale because of dirty. I think it’s wasteful if we don’t use them so remake to Hann-eri(Collar) and use it as possible as we can. It’s also an ethical approach from KUDEN. I want people to enjoy Samurai Mode Series and traditional one together. They fit each other as fashion. To enjoy outfits variation, I have a plan for suggesting outfits idea, new accessories like bag and haori-strings (羽織紐). I want to provide a borderless way to enjoy them.


Ö.Burcu: From where can people around the world buy your designs?

 
Sato TAKAHIRO: For now, from the website of KUDEN. If we sell wholesale to a retailer as same as other general apparel brands, our product must be expensive so I put effort into direct selling to customers. Because I want to provide high-quality products to customers, never cut the wage to sewing factory unfairly, and generate fair profits to artisans. 

 

I introduced how to find the best size of Samurai Mode Jacket for you on Instagram and prepare to tell more detail of my products so I’m glad if you check our Instagram too.
 

Ö.Burcu: I really enjoy following your brand’s Instagram page. You show not only your designs but also the usage areas. In the meantime, you are promoting many parts of Japan, too. You also have interesting segments. Can you tell us about your Shodo4U and Washoku posts?

 

Sato TAKAHIRO: Cooking is very similar to me because my mother told me cooking since I was around 5 years old and also I’m an apprentice of knife smith. I study about food by myself because I got sick because of hardworking before. Also now I cook dishes for my staff in my company. I think if I introduce the way to cook Japanese cuisine without special cooking tools and ingredients to foreign people, I think they who like Japanese culture, spirits, and products may be happy. So I make a project about Washoku(Japanese cuisine) and Shodou(Japanese calligraphy).In the future, I also consider providing products about Washoku or Shodou by my sense. So I’m welcome to comments and message if you want me to make it.


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