SOME/TALK : KOHEI KAWAMURA - KLASICA
Sound. Take five. Knock quietly.
Trickle trackle. A wooden door.
Kohei Kawamura. An instigator. Surrounded by selected tunes, as he diligently creates. No pretense, just the essence of work. Curated as the austerely hidden universe of KLASICA. Yet, in its solemn and silent existence, one must venture. It is not about what you already know, it is about what others share with you. A garment is meant to be worn, to enthrall its wearer, as they set off together. Seasons are nothing but relative connotations. Past. Present. Nowness. These only matter when framed righteously. Kohei-san speaks here about his musical journey, vintage shenanigans, Shimokitazawa and bemusing his collector self. Do ricochet along.
Heritage. Kohei-san, where you a curious person during your youth?
As a youngster, I grew up in a very small town on the fringes of Japan’s Northern island, Hokkaido. In my boyhood, I always enjoyed living in such natural and peaceful environments. It gave me a sense of liberation and freedom. As I grew older, I felt intrigued by creation and by exploring new forms of expression. In my first junior phase of education, I deeply studied art and wood craft, which was most interesting to me. The years swung by quickly. This led me to questioning my surroundings. I needed to explore and see more culture, by venturing away from my local town. This was something that I took slowly. Overall, I feel that growing up where I did, was rather extraordinary.
Imprint. How did you develop your initial urge to create?
This connected so much to my initial years in junior school. The first work, I remember doing, was to make clothing for my G.I-Joe figurine. This was at a very young age indeed. Naturally, this got me to thinking about proportions and dressing proper human beings. Initially, this transcendence was shaped by me crafting silhouettes that were more larger scale. Next to this, I reworked and adorned hand-me-down garments from my two sisters. My mom was a most diligent teacher during these years. I remember that in the beginning, I would try to sell such ‘re-made‘ items at local flea markets.
Emboss. Fast forward the years and Klasica was born. What does it mean to you?
It is important to mention here, that I choose to keep an open interpretation of my work. I like for it to be worn and interacted with. When I think about the original label and how I found this, I simply had to look inwards. I know myself enough to understand, that I will never loose my love for old objects. History is innate to what we do. So I decided to soak the meaning of classic or classical into my label. Klasica is part of this dialogue I have with objects that have had such an interesting lifetime. Henceforth, I try to re-design all the garments taken from particular owner’s closets after say ten years. In this way the connection between wearer and garment can remain invigorated.
Pinpoint. Your work is also about a calm connection to the fabrics you use. What shapes the surface study of your work?
Klasica has indeed a calm recurrent approach when it comes to developing the materials for the collections. There always is a dialogue between the exterior and interior of our work. This can translate in a shell of softness and smooth textures for a pleasant feel on the skin. Often we contrast this by a harder outer layer, that morphs as a vintage harness. For me this also notes a balance between old and new, mixing the past with contemporary references, in order to create novel expressions. Therefore, the collage of each collection is very different. We like to play with these dimensions. I always search and incorporate original materials which will gain their charm after they are placed onto their owners. A bond forms then, that will only become stronger over time.
Tokyo. It is your home-town, where we first visited your atelier and modest boutique. Could you tell me about your local presence?
We have curated a tiny boutique in the local area of Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. I think it is the smallest boutique in Tokyo, almost like a small garage. It has a heavy wooden door and is tucked away on a quiet side-street. Almost waiting to be discovered. In this neighborhood, there is a richness of small theaters and music clubs. The first chapter of Klasica is from this town. Our initial aspiration was to make jewelry from antique materials and to rework vintage military uniforms. When the boutique first opened, there were many antique shop and vintage dealers to be found, which led us to this particular area. It simply inspired our work so much. Our Klasica Atelier is located on a silent residential street near to Shibuya, Harajuku and the shop, all within walking distance. Here we also have founded our exhibition studio, which we open twice a year. It is a most classic modern designed building, that was constructed back in 1973.
Politesse. How do you see the discussion on the functionality of contemporary wardrobes?
Every garment of Klasica is more characteristic on the human body than just hanging on the rack. At first sight, our work appears as rather quiet. During the creative process, I denote many trials on pattering, but try to maintain our classic silhouette and details. These are marked as standard values, in order to work in a more deep manner with the fabrics and cut. For our garments, I do not add any more details then necessary. With an a la mode or basic approach towards our work, each individual shall have a different observation towards our work. All I wish for Klasica, is to bridge any pre-fabricated genre typecasting. The most important thing is whether I find my spirit in it or not.
Aspire. What is most important to you, in the development of your work?
In the Japanese market, categorization is a strong factor for many shops. Concerning my label Klasica, it always balances a little on the border lines. Therefore it can be difficult for the right representatives to understand and grasp my work. The process is lengthy, but we are certain that with an open mind we can express what we feel clearly. I remember, a deep conversation with an art dealer, who also shared his concerns here. When it comes to the international market, I like to connect with people profoundly. Our work is not there to shout or force itself onto others. We like a polite and calm approach. It is very inspiring to meet new representatives, always coming from a fresh and open mind.
Music. Back in Tokyo, you told me that you are quite keen on scoring interesting vinyls and LP’s. What music do you surround yourself with?
This question took me some time, but the best way for me to tell you about this, is to list some of the albums that are very influential for my life. Here, I am thinking about those that are mainly from the 1970's & 1990's. Sometimes, I really love just one single track from an entire album. So in this list such an album is definitely not included.
(ed. Kohei kindly curated these titles for us, taking his time over a long weekend).
jamiroquai "emergency on planet earth"
mother earth " people tree"
augustus pabro " the melodica king"
fishmans "98.12.28" (japanese)
oasis "what's the story..."
deee-lite "world clique"
james blake " james blake"
boards of canada " geogaddi"
blind melon "blind melon"
marvin gaye "what's going on"
paul weller "wild wood"
the clash "london calling"
radio head"the bends"
curtis mayfield"back to the world"
nick drake"five leaves left"
sugar babe "songs" (japanese)
the velvet underground "the velvet underground & nico"
beach boys "pet sounds"
gil scot heron " winter in america"
Underplay. In its solemn purity, what can inspire you to draw a new pattern?
The slightest of movements can inspire such a depiction. For me the hints and keys to any new idea, are always spelled out by daily life. You simply need to know where to look. The importance here is to perceive the moment, in order to define an image, from just a simple idea. This translation is pivotal and key to any form of creation. Such subtle references can become so much and by keeping my inspiration rather strict, I can focus fully on my work with the garments. At times, the elaborate conversations with my wife also may lead to unique feelings, that I then, in turn, try to translate in my designs.
Nippon. When we look at Japan, and in particular its wabi-sabi philosophy, do you also see a connection to Klasica here?
For the design process, we have always avoided to intentionally mix any orthodox Japanese elements into our work. However, the idea of reworking silhouettes and appraising historic references is important to me. As our initial uniform-study was a profound part of where we are today. My thought process is not that focussed on incorporating a very Japanese focussed feeling. If observed through other eyes, one can of course mention our cuts, subtractive design and the understated colour palette. These might be elements that imply a sense of locality, however our research spans across a wider range of historic tailoring references.
Emergo. Any new chapter needs new input, what would yours be?
Klasica has given us a lot of interaction. Also noting our bi-annual pilgrimage to Paris, where we present our work. This has led to many new encounters, and to my sincere appreciation for this city. For the seasons ahead, I am keen on exploring more of Europe and its diverse capitals. This serves as such a canvas of inspiration of us. Next to this, we have engaged in a series of craftwork collaborations, looking to expand the reach of our vision. These have been so rewarding, from a humble aesthetic perspective.
Ambition. Next to design, do you find time for other interests and developments?
As a creative these days, it is important to note, that most days are filled with work. Each day is spent working on my designs, communicating with our factories and fabric supply partners. There often is little time to explore and engage. However, ever since we began to share Klasica outside of Japan, I met and found many good products and designers in Tokyo and Paris and in our extensive conversations sometime an idea floats. Then I ask myself questions like: How about moving/enlarging my extra small boutique? or Perhaps this would allow me to buy some labels, antiques and craft? The shop would have 90% distorted selections, I have no doubt of this, however it is something meaningful to me. With such an eclectic array on offer, I do not know how any customer will feel the pleasure to explore the shop, perhaps I end up being the best client myself...