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TOKYO CUTTING EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai #6 featuring HATRA Keisuke Nagami
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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. We have interviewed Ai☆Madonna, Junya Suzuki from chloma, Etsuko IchiharaTORIENA, and Tadashi Shimaya(the developer of female android ASUNA).

For the 7th installment, we’ll be interviewing Keisuke Nagami, who has been working for fashion label “HATRA”.


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Photographer/Model : Julie Watai Shoot: Fabcafe Tokyo/3D Photo Booth (Autodesk 2013)

 

Julie: Nagami-san! It’s been awhile! Always at the beginning of this series I ask about what people are involved in, but once in a HATRA introductory write-up I glossed over on the net back in 2011, it said the brand’s concept “takes on the theme of allowing people who feel most comfortable at home, and even shut-ins, to feel comfortable and relaxed and to bring out this sense of comfort anywhere, in addition to proposing designs that break down 2D visions as-is into 3D ones”, and I was impressed that you were able to realize the desires of those (perhaps web designers or programmers?) who would like to wear stylish clothing- a truly original concept. Are you still currently producing clothing under this same brand concept?

Keisuke: I think that way of thinking has become the foundation for our current work. With the scale of the brand expanding as it has, it’s become simpler than that. For example, frankly speaking, recently there many instances where people use words like “comfortable clothing” or “room” to describe it.

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Keisuke Nagami

Julie: Although the 3D designs on HATRA’s clothing are at first eye-catching, is much attention given to the texture of it when worn, or comfort?

Keisuke: Of course. The 3D elements are more like a by-product. Even if we say it’s comfortable, that all depends on what the wearer is wearing it for. For instance, it won’t be long before sleepwear and mountain climbing wear designs begin sharing similarities.

Julie: I see, so that’s where the “room” part comes from. I saw a headline of a post online call it “a friendly brand for shut-ins”, and it was quite impressive seeing people talking about it, who, perhaps until now, had no interest in fashion.

Julie: Could you please tell me about yourself before you started HATRA?

Keisuke: I was born in Hiroshima in 1987. From 2006 to 2009 I studied couture art at ESMOD Paris. Is that what you meant? (laugh)

HATRA (ha-to-ra)
Keisuke Nagami’s Profile
Established HATRA in 2010. HATRA is a “room” and “comfortable clothing” unisex wear label that designs clothing to be portable private rooms.
He has a strong affinity for game and anime culture, including a number of collaboration projects with (Neon Genesis) Evangelion, which explore the possibilities of Japanese fashion.

Julie: I see, thanks. So did you launch HATRA immediately after you graduated?

Keisuke: After I graduated I stayed for about another year in France, producing things and working as a trainee at Maison. I started HATRA about two months after I came back to Japan in March of 2010.

Julie: Oh, that makes sense. When I was in Paris, I found they had Muji and UNIQLO there, and it made me wonder what French people thought about Japanese fashion. Naturally, they were simple styles with an emphasis on functionality, right?

Keisuke: At the time MUJI had already settled down there to some extent, but when UNIQLO built their flagship store in the Opera district in (maybe) 2009, it may have been during a period where they were undergoing some big image changes. Actually, I think Japanese fashion must have been accepted in a way that wouldn’t tie all of its variety into one thing. Lolita fashion from Harajuku had already established itself there, and everyone knew Issei Miyake and KENZO, so there was a long line on UNIQLO’s opening day. It was probably viewed as a kind of 4D pocket (a favorite gadget of the character Doraemon), you know?

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HATRA 2017 Spring/Summer Collection

Julie: I hear there are a lot of people in Paris who are interested in Japanese culture, so it makes sense that there are many who would embrace such a variation of styles. And wow! You were there such a long time (4 years)! I imagine during your time there you were able to pick up so much, but in what way in your work have you used this experience most?

Keisuke: Well, I only studied haute couture art for a little bit, but I think being exposed to that has become an important resource. I trained under someone who had been active in the couture world since the 1970s, and the experience I got from working under him is priceless. This person, by the way, is Japanese… (laugh) It would be a little difficult for my to explain it exactly… But without focusing on the details, it would be having the mindset to respect clothing and the body.

Julie: Although I have no background in fashion, I was just Googling haute couture. (laugh) It began in France, right? I imagine that its history, traditional techniques, and culture would have left an invaluable impact on you. Sorry to change the subject, but I’ve gotten the impression that HATRA’s support comes from younger people who work online.

Online labels (music labels who mainly distribute online), media artists, and people like that, for example. Have you had an impact on any of these types of communities?

Although it’d be impossible to reduce it to any certain genre, I often see people who are active in different online fields posting photos of themselves wearing HATRA clothing on SNS.

Keisuke: I’m glad to hear that.

Julie: You’ve been doing interesting collaboration projects one after another, too. Back in 2010 you did an exhibition with contemporary artist group Chaos*Lounge, but what led up to this collaborative project?

Keisuke: While I was in France I didn’t have any Japanese information input except on Tumblr, so after returning to Japan, I started talking with some people who had been following me there, and that led to a number of jobs. As for the collaborative project I did with Chaos*Lounge, we were at a JUNYA SUZUKI exhibition talk event together, and then they invited to their exhibition the following month. I agreed, although I had been a fan of Junya, now with chloma, and his Umelabo work since my time abroad.

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Photographer/Model: Julie Watai Background Artwork: Umelabo (Khaos*Lounge/Chaos*Sunline)

 

Julie: I also loved Umelabo’s work, and was shocked the first time I saw it. I was also surprised by his collaborative work with cosplayer Iiniku Ushijima! I’m well acquainted with her through shooting with them at previous events, but I hadn’t made the connection with HATRA’s look and image. Did you first talk to Ms. Ushijima?

Keisuke: Going back to what we were previously talking about a little, most of the work I’d gotten until then had been from people who I had been a fan of. It had an unfathomable impact. You did a shoot with Ms. Ushijima? I’m surprised to hear that! For what kind of project?

Julie: It was for an anime song club mix compilation album. This was in 2011. (http://www.crownrecord.co.jp/artist/ilovetokyo/whats.html) I decided I didn’t have anything to lose and reached out to her. Basically I thought it was going to be someone who hadn’t released anything that wasn’t self-produced. I was really glad.

Keisuke: I didn’t know that. But at about the same time, it’s not well-known, though HATRA also asked Ms. Ushijima to model for us when we were shooting our early pieces.

Julie: Woah!! I had no idea!!

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Julie: Wow. This is a really cool photo. I had no idea, but all of that led to a collaborative piece with Ms. Ushijima.

Keisuke: But the real opportunity for that was that Chaos*Lounge event from before (laugh) Also I’ve been indebted to him since way back when, before HATRA had really taken shape; he’s been more like a lifesaver than a collaborator.

Julie: I see. During those days, it felt like people who were doing interesting things would gather at Chaos*Lounge events, and you were there. Because everyone was much older than me, I was totally fascinated by it as an outsider. (laugh)

Up until now I’d known of your brand because people around me would wear HATRA hoodies, and the designs on the 2015AR “sweater point” and “scarf point” knit series you produced with illustrator Sentakki were right up my alley, so from there I started following you on Twitter.

At first glance the design is reminiscent of an anime character, but oddly enough when people wear it, it gives off a sophisticated feel. (Let me just say that the model is quite amazing, too. *laugh*)

I also felt the same way about the EVANGELION-HATRA designs, and that to combine those kinds of illustrations with fashion design really takes the kind of original knack you seem to have. Please tell me about the design’s points, if there are any.

Keisuke: I’m honored to hear that. Because it’s something you always have to be conscious about, fashion design can sometimes feel like honing in skills much like those of a translator. When you take a cool concept from one area and try to convey it in another, if the information you select is wrong, it’s conveyed in a completely misguided way, and instead of summarizing the good sense of both, they’ll run parallel to one another. So in that sense, I think it’s important to always keep a dual personality going.

I think in Sentakki’s work, the beauty of lines and dots as fluctuations of symbols, and the pure fun of those simple components was directly conveyed as an expression of fashion.

Julie: Yeah, it seems when you’re trying to express different areas, if you don’t already have a deep knowledge about each one, the completed product won’t be a cool one.

Despite feeling resentful towards character items like, “Whoever made this has no clue! Who would buy this?” I have many t-shirts that after purchasing them on a whim, have remained unworn.

Julie: Just recently in October you put on the HATRA SS17 TOKYO SHOWROOM. I’m sure it received a lot of attention, being the first collection from your new label “Okay” by the HATRA atelier team established with nukeme (who granted me an interview last time), but how did people react?

Keisuke: Well, I didn’t think the reaction was going to be that great. (laugh) It was a real accomplishment for us, but the response from our maker friends was particularly good, and I felt relieved and surprised.

Julie: I feel like nukeme has often used online culture themes to express himself, but this time the beautiful dress using stocking fabric as a drape, the loose socks dyed in dark blue and mustard colors, and the strange decorative Tanabata net design tops were all completely brand new in both idea and design!

Keisuke: The thing nukeme and I have most in common is (our hobby) Tumblr, and this time we were both able to capture that feeling of drifting off into the internet, and it felt natural that we landed here with it.

Julie: Somehow it’s one the public is consciously aware of, even if the motifs aren’t connected with this particular area (of fashion), but that it blended seamlessly and magnificently into sophisticated fashion was wonderfully surreal. I’m also quite curious about nukeme’s and your Tumblr timelines. I think I’ll go take a look later.

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“weartronica” Image Visual Photographer/Model: Julie Watai

Julie: This past autumn you participated as a member of weartoronica, or wearable computer units, where we created a neck warmer. It was a design previously released by HATRA that we improved on by attaching mechanical parts inside.

This unit was something I’d proposed, with the internal mechanism designed by Morimasa Aketa and Hitsuji, and when I showed everyone HATRA’s design at the first meeting for this idea, everyone unanimously made a request to be involved in making it happen.

It’s pretty common for people to get together and take part in experimental creations in the maker and tech world, but whether I’d find that same kind of enthusiasm in the fashion industry or not… It was something I was really unsure about, however as soon as I contacted you on Twitter you came to the next meeting, and it totally caught me off guard and had me thinking, “Really! Are you sure about this?!” We were really glad that you participated, but honestly, weren’t you a little worried? (laugh)

Keisuke: Not at all; it was the best thing that could have happened. Although the deadline came at the same time as an exhibition, so that was a little severe. (laugh) Because my main work involves completing projects as part of a timeline for each season, I hardly ever make opportunities for making things outside our proposed budget. It would be fun to do more projects like that one and combine them with our main line.

Julie: I’m glad to hear that. I think in the near future I’ll become a field that’s more common, and I think it’d be really interesting to link what we’ve done together with it later.

Keisuke: I think that tuning unknown tech for the streets is important work, but I think the role I should be focusing on now is whatever current technology is coming out at the same time into fashion. Like turning the Google Glass into something that doesn’t feel unnatural for everyday use.

Julie: Oh! Thinking about it in reverse is kind of like time coming to a standstill…! There will probably come a time where fashion will start bringing technology closer. Although not a machine, I wonder if ornaments prioritized by their functionality, like glasses, were treated like that at first.

Keisuke: Exactly ! Like for example, if slippers were designed with roombas in mind.

Julie: Ah, I get what you’re saying! Like the environment changing to fit the standard.

HATRA 2017 Spring/Summer Collection

HATRA 2017 Spring/Summer Collection

Julie: For my last question, I’d like you ask you if there are any projects you’d like to take on, or about any future hopes you have.

 

Keisuke: Oh wait, I thought of something I’m hopeful about! There’s a cad software made especially for apparel, called Clo3d. It can reproduce a finished, sewn product with great accuracy, based off a wallpaper’s (pattern’s) 2D data and material property information. This is an older version of it, but.

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Julie: I just gave it a quick click, but I had no idea there was a specific 3D software for this kind of clothing.

Keisuke: By combining it with grading (sizing) software, I’ve been thinking it would be possible to develop characters with four different proportions with the clothes people actually wear, or just different sizes, and go from there.As a continuation of a line of S, M, L sizes, I wonder if I could developing something with the same feel as MMD motion data into whatever style Miku size, for example.

At that time, I think the reality of sewn clothing will blur, and a new set of values for clothing will emerge.

Julie: If you can make that happen, it would stir up quite the revolution in the fashion industry. Is it really okay to put that kind of important idea out there on the internet? I’m a little worried for you.

Keisuke: Ah, well I’ve talked about it before on Twitter so it’s not really an issue. (laugh) This software costs 2,000,000 yen so I don’t have my hands on it yet… But maybe by mentioning this someone will come along and help me out. (laugh) This kind of talk is something VR/AR tends to lean toward. It’s a topic that those familiar with makers have been adding their input to.

Julie: It makes me excited thinking about characters attending to me wearing clothes like that in VR/AR space.

 

HATRA 2017 Spring/Summer Collection

HATRA 2017 Spring/Summer Collection

After the interview/長見さんとの対談を終えて
Until now it’d been my sole impression that people working in the clothing and beauty industries were types incompatible with subculture. This is because I thought that university students who went on to industries like clearly held different perspectives from what I’d seen, and perhaps that was just the way things were back then.

And in fact, in order to polish their professional skills, they have to spend their days far away from the subculture scene, going through a grueling and hectic training period.

As a fashion brand, HATRA is held in high regards as a “respectable” maker not only a general level, but on a fan level recognized by mostly younger people. In order to push clothing expressing such a high level of creativity into the market, I figure that know-how and a strong background are important, and that Mr. Nagami must have learned that during his training period in Paris.

And currently, being raised with the insight from a mixed culture, influenced by anime, games, and the internet, this might be why its been so smoothly accepted by this era’s younger generation.

Mr. Nagami’s aspirations go beyond the realm of clothing. I could feel that his unbridled creativity in this genre is what defines HATRA’s visuality.

Related links
HATRA website : http://hatroid.com/
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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