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TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai #2 : The Future of Fashion with Junya Suzuki from “chloma”

『TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai』#2 : chloma 鈴木淳哉と語る、ファッションの未来
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TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai #2 : The Future of Fashion with Junya Suzuki from “chloma”

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TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai is column series, which covers Tokyo’s latest cutting-edge culture! In this series she’ll be interviewing creators that have caught her interest, in order to discover the latest cutting-edge culture in Tokyo. For our first installment, we interviewed artist Ai☆Madonna, and for the second time, we’ll be interviewing Junya Suzuki, who has been working for fashion label “chloma”.


 

Julie: Hello! Long time no see!

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This interview was conducted via Skype./対談はSkypeチャットでやってます。

Julie: Excuse me for getting started so quickly, but I think there people out there who haven’t yet heard of the fashion brand you’ve been working on, chloma. Could you tell us a little about the brand’s concept?

Junya Suzuki (Suzuki): It’s a fashion label designed by Reiko Sakuma and myself, taking into consideration the relationship between people and technology, people and characters and people and the internet, taking influence from the world with our monitors and modern people who traverse the real world without borders.

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You can browse their website for 3D models of their clothing. /公式ウェブサイト。3Dモデルを操作、閲覧できる。

See chloma websitehttp://www.chloma.com/

Julie: So it’s a two-unit brand, right? How do you both decide your roles during the production process?

Suzuki: I do a large share of the design work, while Ms. Sakuma does the patternmaking. However I also do pattern work, and Ms. Sakuma also designs.

Julie: I see. Come to think of it, I remember your previous brand had a slightly different design. Is there anything that inspired your current style?

Suzuki: This first brand I did was called Junya Suzuki. After Ms. Sakuma and I really began to work together as a team, we decided to change the name and renamed it to chloma. The evolution of the brand’s style was a result of deciding to bring our clothing to the city, instead of just focusing on designs and costumes aimed at a limited group of people.

The reason behind this was that although some people may not care much about what kind of clothing they wear, most people in public do. If what they’re wearing is out-of-fashion, it may lower their value in the eyes of others. People are very sensitive to fashion in this age, and we thought it would be more fun to challenge that.

Julie: So each design focuses on people being able to wearing your label around the city. There’s definitely a personal touch there, as your designs that give off a futuristic impression, yet remain understated.

Suzuki: We want people to be able to wear our clothing anywhere. Without sacrificing our vision, we want people to feel safe wearing our clothing around their local neighborhood.

Julie: Around their local neighborhoods! That would certainly be cool. (laugh) I always regarded it as an urban label, and hadn’t thought of it like that.

Suzuki: Even as we create a futuristic, urban image, we don’t want it to stand out in a negative way too much.

Julie: By the way, would you mind going into more detail about your career history? I assume you went to fashion school, right?

Suzuki: After attending a four-year university, I went to a Japanese fashion college for two years in Japan, studied abroad in Paris for a year, and then came back to start Junya Suzuki.

Julie: How long did Junya Suzuki last, or are you still continuing with it?

Suzuki: I’m no longer working on that label, but I think I continued with it for about a year under the Junya Suzuki name.

Julie: Then after that, you started chloma. I’ve seen one of your Junya Suzuki collections before, and I felt like it was really is high-end fashion! It seems to me the support chloma is getting is a result of targeting a different group than you did before. To put it simply, people that like anime and the like. I think the way you approached this group through fashion is really groundbreaking! When you released your Nendoroid Coat, how was the response from those close to Akihabara culture?

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Nendoroid Coat/ネンドロイドコート

Suzuki: Maybe this isn’t a great explanation, but I wanted to paint an SF (science fiction) world were “normal people” are the main characters. I thought with the internet era, it would be possible. The “those into Akihabara culture” label is much too vague now, and the with the previous wall between fashion and otaku like oil and water gone, it felt like people took to it naturally.

Julie: I get that. When you wear chloma brand clothing, it really does feel like you’re the main character of an SF world. I also own the (poncho-type) coat. It’s design has a lot of character, and whenever I wear it people always give me compliments and ask me where I got it.

Suzuki: I think we’ve gotten a lot of support from those into fashion, but also those into fashion and otaku culture. Then when people who were only into otaku culture understood the narrative surrounding our clothing, they also came on board. Using plastic models and figures as a reference, we were able to create a soft look with thick wool, allowing it to sit on the balance between that SF and real world feel.

Julie: Before grown-ups were categorized as “otaku” just for watching anime as adults, but now it seems like this is new viewed as “normal”, and it’s not uncommon to listen to Hatsune Miku or have figures. It’s not strange to find people part of this new generation who appreciate fashion and anime as points on the same axis.

Suzuki: I think that’s exactly it. People represent themselves both through characters and fashion, so it’s natural to like both.

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Photographer: Julie Watai Models: Julie Watai & ASUNA, Taken in 2014. Items Watai borrowed and used from chloma appear in her collaborative work LOVE VALLEY with Android ASUNA. 2014年撮影。アンドロイドASUNAとの作品群「LOVE VALLEY」ではchlomaの作品をお借りし、着用している

Julie: Changing the topic a little, I think the way your website changes with each collection is really interesting. For your 2016 Spring/Summer Collection, you combined two-dimensional characters with real background images, and each time you scrolled down there was a dynamic amount of image movement. My friend in web design said that she thought the chloma site was great. Where do you get inspiration for these kinds of ideas?

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From the 2016 Spring/Summer Collection website. Illustration: TOKIYA SAKBA 2016 S/S コレクション ウェブサイトより。イラスト:TOKIYA SAKBA

Suzuki: I’m glad to receive such a compliment from one of your friends! I think the inspiration behind it came from video games. In games, graphics appear on screen together with a story. Currently these representations on screen have gained a wide social standing.

Julie: Now I’m curious to hear what your favorite game is!

Suzuki: The game that sucked me the most was “Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together” on the Super Nintendo in Japan, and recently I’m really into the game “Portal” available on Steam (Note : an online platform for PC game downloads). Both of the games are really legendary.

Julie: Being part of the Super Nintendo generation, Tactics Ogre really is a nostalgic one…

Suzuki: Portal has a pretty distinct chloma style to it.

Julie: Isn’t Steam a site where you can download indie games? I’ll give “Portal” a try!

Suzuki: Well, not only indie games, but, for example, games that were released on the PlayStation and XBOX. It’s still not very big in Japan yet. It depends on when you buy it, but I think you can get it for about 1,000 – 1,500 yen… I think you would definitely enjoy it! It’s even won an award from the GDC, so you can trust it’s good. (Note: GDC stands for the Game Developers Conference, and is like an academy awards ceremony for games. It won the 2012 Game of the Year award.)

Julie: Is that so! They have a lot of games and I’ve glanced over the site before, but it feels a little like digging a moat. By hitting on the topic of games, I seem to have gotten a closer glimpse at one angle of your personality. (laugh) Come to think of it, the NHK program Sakidori introduced a VR (virtual reality) and chloma collaboration on the show that aired April 3rd. It was a demonstration with VR glasses that showed people having fun shopping for real clothes in a virtual world.

chloma x Psychic VR Lab VR Store Demonstration

chloma x Psychic VR Lab VR Store Demonstration

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Julie: I was able to see the process of 3D scanning clothes on chloma’s instagram, yet it was sill so surprising to see them appear in VR. It really fits in nicely with the brand’s image, though, doesn’t it?

Suzuki: Presently it still costs quite a bit to get clothes 3D scanned, but Psychic VR Lab said they wanted to use our clothes for this show’s demo, so they were able to scan many items for us.

Julie: Even the people from the Psychic VR Lab that put on the show were wearing chloma clothing. During the program we were able to view the clothing items from all angles, and they performed a demonstration of buying them through VR. Do you have plans to turn this into something practical?

Suzuki: Of course I would love to be able to make chloma clothes available for purchase that way, however it might be tough to only display them in 3D in VR space, given the limitations that most PCs still have. We want to make 3D model shopping a thing sooner than later, though.

Julie: I see. It’s likely that the image resolution and processing speed is likely to increase from here on out, so it’s something to look forward to realizing in the not too distant future. I certainly hope chloma is the first one to do it.

Last, I’d like to ask you about your future ambitions, and could you tell us what you’re working on next?

Suzuki: As far as work goes, I want to be able to make a low-key announcement about my collection in six months. Looking at my current plans, I think they’ll be full of bright visuals. I have an exhibition scheduled in May. Concerning my future ambitions, I want to bring my perception of fashion to the next stage. Beyond that, a cyber nursing home! (laugh) It would take too long to explain either, so I’ll just leave it at that. (laugh)

Julie: Oh, it’ll be bright and lively?! I’m looking forward to seeing it!

Suzuki: Thank you!

Julie: Um, I can’t help but ask… But a cyber nursing home?! (laugh) Could you go into just a little more detail?

Suzuki: We want people who like chloma to stay with us until they’re older. This is kind topic kind of goes beyond fashion, but we’ve been thinking about how to enrich older people when they reach a point where they feel they have nothing left to offer society.

Julie: I had no idea you were thinking so far ahead already. But I can sympathize. When I think about old age, I think about how there aren’t any cool electric wheelchairs. A part of me has a secret desire to design a really cool one.

Suzuki: I think that the “kawaii/moe” sensation can also apply to the older people, and although comparatively we currently use that emotion and energy to appeal to young people, in the future I’d like to use them for the elderly. Wheelchairs are bulky, and the competition to make a cooler wheelchair is fierce, so I’d like to come up with a cool, wheelchair design for animals. I like things that have a certain weakness to them… Accepting the part that’s lacking, and taking a story and transforming it to satisfy those feelings is what I believe “moe” is.

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From the 2014-2015 Autumn/Winter Collection website. When you scroll down you can see different items mixed and matched. 2014-15 A/W コレクション ウェブサイトより。スクロールで着せ替えするように閲覧できる

Julie: I think chloma is able to convey “moe” through its designs. With its transience and inorganicness, it’s quite convincing. As for a pet wheelchair, I also have a dog, and although it’s just a puppy, I’ve been doing a lot of research now about when she becomes a senior dog, and there aren’t many options. I’d really love to see your design for an animal wheelchair!

Suzuki: I think considering how “moe” feelings apply not only to girls, but to the elderly would substantially make for a brighter future in Japan.

Julie: The world would be less dim if there were a variety of options for older people (laugh), and it would be great to imagine a brighter future for Japan. Right now it’s easy to notice all of the negative news in the world. Thank you very much for speaking with me today! Seeing all your different sides has made me like chloma even more.

Suzuki: The pleasure was mine!!


 

After the interview
chloma has gone beyond fashion, and is continuing its four-dimensional spread. Under his quiet demeanor, Mr. Suzuki has a passionate, inquiring mind and curiosity that is seeking out a new world.

His spirit of breaking away from the “hard” impression fashion carries reminds me of the Urahara culture of the previous decade.

People seeking to build their personal image by dressing in high-end fashion brands, aiming to elevate their individual image. However you might say this behavior is already part of the previous decade. That’s because young adults living in the age of expressing their individuality, with respect to the intent of others, have no interest in conforming to the mainstream image.

chloma easily fits into this age of such individualism. Its emphasis on the inorganic is supported by young adults who every day confidently traverse the rapid pace of online streets, and has become an icon. Wanting to experience these online streets, someone like myself from the previous generation can’t help but keep their eye on what developments from chloma lie ahead.

Related links
chloma website : http://www.chloma.com/
chloma INSTAGRAM : https://www.instagram.com/chlomagears/

Julie Watai website : http://juliewatai.jp/

Translated by Jamie Koide

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Author
Julie Watai
Julie Watai

After working at an idol in Japan, Julie Watai moved by herself to Italy, publishing SAMURAI GIRL in 2006 while working as a photographer for Italian publishing company DRAGO&ARTS. She quickly became an international Japanese pop culture figure, gaining a large following. After returning to Japan, she continued her work as a photographer, along with developing electronics as a hobby and iPhone apps, and has been remarkably successful as part of the Akiba-style geek culture, too.

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