|Interview. Kazuki Kuraishi|
Of all places in the world, we met Kazuki in a small town just outside of Nuremberg/Germany. And what was he doing there? And what coincidence brought us together...? The sneaker professors among you might have already guessed it - the town is Herzogenaurach and the 'coincidence' which had invited us there and also employs Kazuki is adidas. The occasion - a visit to the adidas campus, factory, and a presentation of the new adidas lines for fall/winter '04/'05 (full report is still due...).
What had caught our eye immediately and gave us a very impressive introduction were Kazuki's rainbow-snakeskin adidas Super Ape Skates and his accompanying statement - "I designed them". Ok... Over the course of a fine dinner we got to chat a bit about his work and his clients who are all also his close friends: *A Bathing Ape, Wtaps, Visvim, or Neighborhood, to name only a few of the Japanese chapter.
As we didn't have pen and paper ready at that evening, we decided to catch up with Kazuki later on talk in more detail about graphic design, his projects, and the people he works for. One usually does not get to hear much about the designers behind abovementioned labels - so here is our feature on one very productive one...
Did you know Beinghunted before this interview? If so, how did you get to know about it?
I knew about Beinghunted before. My friends in London mentioned it when I worked for the adidas and BAPE collaboration project.
What are your favourite hunting areas in Tokyo, or any other place?
Harajuku and Daikanyama area. Any clothes and sneakers that you are looking for will most likely be found in this area
Where are you from and have you lived outside of Japan?
I was born in Tokyo. After graduating from high-school I went to Colorado, USA because I wanted to pursue my interest of snowboarding and mountain biking more seriously and then I decided to move to New York to study design.
What was your formal training/education?
I studied computer graphic design at New York School of Visual Arts. When I came back to Japan I started to work for NIGO (whom I knew from before) as a graphic designer for BAPE.
Why did you decide to go to New York to study?
I originally wanted to study fashion design so I went to New York in search for a good and reputable school.
Besides, New York is one of my favorite cities of all.
What did you like most about living in the Big Apple? What differences to Tokyo were most apparent?
There are many art galleries in New York which is amazing. I am fond of contemporary art so the gallery museum was a favourite daily hangout place for me. As a student, I didn't have much money to spend so to see all these wonderful pieces of art for free was such a great experience and very influential for who I became as a designer/creator today. The differences between NYC and Tokyo? Perhaps the less interest in art in Tokyo.
You are involved with many of the most influential Japanese brands – how did these relationships evolve?
I am just lucky to have all these friends. Such great friends include, just to name a few, Gary from UK adidas, Ian Brown, Shin from Neighborhood, Visvim's Hiroki, and DJ/producer Hiroshi Fujiwara. From this tremendous and solid network I had the opportunity to work for various and most influential brands and I am very thankful.
Through your work you've met a lot of interesting people. Are there any that you're particularly fond of having met/dealt with? Who would that be and why?
I have met a lot of interesting people but I see Hiroshi (Fujiwara) on a daily basis. I am actually sharing (he lets me share) his office so we talk about everything everyday. Hiroshi and the time we have been spending are very important and inspiring.
Where do you get inspiration for your work?
I get my inspiration from contemporary art and music especially UK Rock. I tried to get out of Japan, when I am looking for ideas or in slump, to NYC and London.
If you could travel back in time – which period would you choose in regards to art/design? Which artist would you like to meet in person?
I would choose a period when Peter Saville designed posters for the club Hacienda, Manchester. I would love to see how he designed each work. He is a designer but his work is definitely art.
Over the past decade, computers have changed the profession of graphic design considerably. Fewer and fewer people actually use pen and paper anymore. How do you work?
It is so true that if you use Mac, anyone can be a designer, such is the current time. But everyone has a different way of expressing things. For example, when you design T-shirts, the positioning of logo or artwork can change the whole look. What I attempt to do with my design is to fuse analog (pen and paper) and digital. E.g. What I wrote on my hand I duplicated on top purposely using computer graphics to make it appear more dense and intricate.
How do you work for a client like Neighborhood – is there a lot of interaction in the design process or do they leave you complete creative freedom from beginning to end?
When I am asked to design, I will tell my image and concept at the early stage but after that it is all left up to me.
How did you come up with the concept for the folklore logo for Visivm?
Hiroki had a very clear image for this design concept so I tried to follow his vision with my design. He was very excited with the design which made me very happy. It always brings the best result when you work with someone you like.
How did you did you get involved with the BAPE x adidas collaboration?
Without Gary from adidas UK, this project would not have been possible. Ian Brown introduced me to Gary and we connected very well. We thought of working on collaboration immediately and the result – we all know.
As a designer you stood in the middle between BAPE and adidas. How did you handle both sides? Any momentous situations?
Both NIGO from BAPE and Dean from adidas respect my design and passion for sneakers. I just simply made what I would like to wear and they both let me do so.
What is the design philosophy behind Neighborhood?
Neighborhood has been leading the street fashion scene for the last 10 years. Neighborhood's brand philosophy is to invest a great deal particularly in details and its brand attitude "No Compromise" to fashion trends has gained it a deep trust and core fans from the top creators worldwide.
If you could pick only four of your designs for your portfolio – which ones would it be. What's the story to those designs, how did they develop?
Of course ape x adidas shoes, ape x UNKLE (jacket, T-shirt, shoes), Highlander (Neighborhood x Wtaps x me) Tartan fabric series, Visvim x Zucca shoes. These are all collaborations but they are very organic. I don't have my own brand so I picked these.
What does your office/workspace look like?
As mentioned previously, I am renting a space in Hiroshi's office. He has so many books! Art books, music books student-union demonstration documents, all the books I want to read are there as my personal library.
What kind of music do you listen do while designing?
UK guitar band!
What projects are you working on at the moment?
My most exciting project at this moment is the design I did for Visvim shoes for the Zucca's Paris collection. I am very satisfied with the work and I cannot wait to see the sample!
What are your plans for your new agency "Two 7s Clash"?
Nothing has been decided for this as of yet… just the name.
What are your pastime activities after work?
Visiting galleries, museums and checking out movies. However this becomes "work" at times, so spending the time with someone you like is simply the best.
What are your 5 most beloved items at the moment?
* iDiom's new apparel line and snowboard.
* Neighborhood's new collection.
* Visvim's Fall/Winter apparel and shoes.
* Neighborhood and Fragment collection
* Visvim and Zucca shoes
Thank you very much to you Joerg for this very long interview. (joking)
Looking forward to re-unite again somewhere soon!
Who should we interview next?
Maybe Hiroshi Fujiwara, or Shinsuke Takizawa from Neighborhood or Gary from adidas UK (Head of the Global Entertainment Promotion).
Beinghunted says thanks for the interview and all the best for the future!
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