INTERVIEW Vol.10 Designer REIJI HARIMOTO
FJ2:How did you become interested in fashion?
－To tell the truth, I initially was not interested in fashion at first. When I was about to graduate high school, I did not know what to do after that. At that time my father, who was a garment retailer, said “I wish that at least one of the four brothers will succeed me”. After I heard that, I thought “why not me, then” and decided to go to a fashion school. So it was after I started to go to fashion school that I started to have interest in fashion.
FJ2:Please tell us about the internship you experienced when you were student.
－I interned at AGURI SAGIMORI for one season and I think I enjoyed the most when I was creating clothes as an intern. I saw the clothes, which I created as an assistant, on a show and I was so moved that I started to cry. That was about the time when I started to think that “this industry is quite interesting”. During the internship, being emotionally moved by making things and completing it was the biggest event that happened. As I learned more and more from the internship, I started to dream about becoming a designer from around this time.
FJ2:Why did you want to work for Yohji Yamamoto?
－Basically, I am the kind of person who thinks “if you adore someone, then that’s it; you will never be able to surpass him or her”, thus I do not want to adore anyone. But the only person I adore, or admire, was Yohji Yamamoto. If I were to learn from somebody, then I wanted to learn from the best designer for me in the world, and I entered Yohji Yamamoto.
FJ2:What was the biggest thing you learned from working at Yohji Yamamoto?
－It was a very big thing. The brand Yohji Yamamoto I saw before working there and the brand Yohji Yamamoto I saw after I started to work there were totally different. People working there are all well-skilled and Mr. Yohji himself was also a talented person, so everything I experienced there for three years was very fruitful.
FJ2:What was the most difficult about starting up your own brand?
－This is something any brands can face but I think it was cooperation with factories. In Japan nowadays, the number of factories is decreasing. On the other hand, the number of brands is increasing. So even if you could find a factory, it is often the case that they are too busy producing other brands’ products. It was very difficult to find a factory that could produce what I want and are capable of doing it together for years.
FJ2: What is the happiest thing that has happened to you as a designer?
－Not yet. But I guess I would be happy if I see strangers wearing my clothes on a street. I would also be happy if I see them on magazines or used in drama. More than anything else, as a creator in manufacturing, right people wearing my clothes in the right place is the happiest thing for me.
FJ2: What exactly is REIJI HARIMOTO‘s concept “Clothes with Essence and Truth“.
－I emphasized the importance of fundamental quality. Usually, I do not think that clothes or design require essence and truth. If I were to buy a cloth, I wouldn’t see them, even if they did have them, we cannot see them. But I want to convey this message that design is not just superficial, through REIJI HARIMOTO clothes. If you want to make meaningful clothes as a creator, then fundamental quality such as pattern, stiches, and tailoring should be valued to make good products. That is what I think is the clothes I want to make; “Clothes with Essence and Truth“.
FJ2: Please tell us what you thought about your first collection exhibition.
－I worked overnight and did not have enough time so it was exhausting. I didn’t feel like it was over at all. For people who see the display, that is the very beginning, so in fact exhibition is the starting point.
FJ2: The first collection was only women’s. Do you have plans to start men’s?
－If possible, I would like to start with men’s clothes. I guess men have more favorable opinion about clothes I make. Rather, I think for some elements, only men would understand. Jackets and coats of my brands are sewed manually by special staff. I am not quite sure if this is what women want. That is precisely why I want to propose them as women’s clothes and started the brand.
FJ2: Do you have anything that you cannot compromise on making clothes?
－I think patriotism. A lot of people in the factory who support apparel industry have experienced the war. Especially the artisans are people who made effort to strengthen Japan in the post-war period. But in apparel industry today, these backgrounds are invisible because of the brands standing before them. I wish to bring these factories and artisans in the front, so I have artisans sew the jackets and coats.
FJ2: On making clothes, where do you the inspiration from?
－I think international affairs and films. I don’t know what directors think when making a film but I can clearly sense that there are directors’ political messages in films. When I see those films, I feel various kinds of inspiration spring up.
FJ2：From the clothes you have brought here today, please tell us what you like the most.
－The coat and jacket are tailored like a men’s suit and the part I like is the internal design. Women’s clothes with this many pockets are rare, I think, and there are penholders, ticket pockets and cigar pockets which are convenient functions for working women.
FJ2：What kind of person do you want to wear REIJI HARIMOTO?
－Ideally, socially independent women who work vigorously. Strong women, I think.
FJ2:What is your goal? What do you want to achieve in the future?
－For now, to expand overseas, I think. I assume that Scandinavia, like Sweden and Norway, would understand my clothes the most.
1986 born in Osaka. After graduating from Vantan Design Institute, he gained experience at Yohji Yamamoto Inc. as a patterner for 3 years, and became independent. He launched a self-named brand “REIJI HARIMOTO” in 2014.