My personal style signifier are utilitarian clothes, usually from my Visvim brand, that I design for a specific purpose. Lately I’ve been testing raw denim wear, including a pair finished with mud dye, which gives an interesting texture on the surface. These days, I only wear engineering boots; these and the denim age so well, taking on a lot of depth and character.
The last thing I bought and liked was a Japanese kimono at the Toji temple flea market, which takes place once a month in Kyoto. It dates from the Edo period and is probably around 200 years old, but what makes it unique is that the fabric is wool, probably imported from England, but is still dyed with natural indigo, which is not It didn’t absorb as well as it would in traditional materials like silk. So over time it faded into this gorgeous light blue.
The place that means a lot to me is the Izu Peninsula, southwest of Tokyo, where my wife Kelsi and I live part of the year. I rode there [from the city] on my 1948 Indian Chief motorcycle – takes a few hours. I like to go to places that are not too developed or commercial, where I can be in untouched nature. Sometimes we just drive along the coast of Japan, visiting small fishing villages. We also have a house in South Los Angeles, and from there we drive up the coast to Big Sur, usually in my 1953 Porsche 356 Pre-A. ai is a 1969 Jeep Wagoneer.
And the best memory I brought home is a pair of brown club chairs, probably from the 1930s, that I picked up from a merchant at the Puces de Clignancourt in Paris. Usually people reupholster club chairs, but these have the original leather, so they are a bit worn, but I like the look of them. Modern leather ages less well than old leather because they produce it differently now.
The book that inspired me the most is not a novel but a collection of old samples and designs of Japanese textiles. Some of them are patterns for dyeing ikat or other traditional materials. I like to imagine how each of the samples was produced.
I have a collection of pearl necklaces, which were used in trade between Europe, America and Africa. Some are Venetian glass. I also collect porcelain from different eras. I’m fascinated by how porcelain made in China and Japan in the 14th century was exported to Europe, where they started making their own versions; I like to see the changes and how the inspirations intersect.
My style icon is my wife. Kelsi designs Visvim women’s clothing with me. His way of thinking is really inspiring – I always discover more about Japanese culture through his eyes. She’s from America and I’m from Japan, but sometimes I find that I’m too close to the culture I grew up with, so I miss things.
The music I listen to is usually jazz, New York or Paris – I tend to like anything from before the 1960s. I only use records and an old JBL Paragon sound system, because I like the makes the music raw but still quite round and soft.
My favorite room in my house is the terrace outside, where I sit in the morning to admire all the old plum and cherry trees, and watch the birds drink from a carved stone water bowl in the garden. I don’t watch movies, but I love watching the drama of this wildlife right outside my door.
In my fridge you will always find fresh fruits and vegetables – clean food is important to me. My wife and I focus on changing what we eat each month – we try to buy local and seasonal produce, so when we’re in Japan and the mushrooms are around, we’ll eat a lot of them, or it could be strawberries for breakfast in the summer.
The things I couldn’t do without are a pencil and Japanese washi paper, which I use every day in the studio. As well kakishibu, – a paper made very rigid by being coated with persimmon juice. I cut it out to use for graphics or as a stencil for textile design.
An indulgence I’ll never give up is a very good latte every morning. I don’t drink or smoke but I’m addicted to coffee. We have a small in-store cafe, Little Cloud Coffee, in the Omotesando district of Tokyo, with our own beans and special order roasters that we work with. I am particularly proud of our Kutani dripper, which we had custom made by a 150 year old pottery company. visvim.tv/littlecloudcoffee
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a washed canvas jacket, lined with sheepskin, that I designed for Visvim. We sourced the sheepskin from producers in Uzbekistan. It’s exceptionally beautiful – quite raw, but warm.
The artist whose work I admire is carpenter, architect, and furniture maker George Nakashima, who crafted beautiful objects that are true to modern American design with Japanese inspiration. His designs are still produced in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he lived and worked. I also have a lot of time for architect Richard Neutra – we just restored a house he designed in 1952 in California. It had been updated and changed many times, and I couldn’t really feel its vision anymore, but we worked to restore it to its original form. nakashimawoodworkers.com
The well-being ritual that I never miss it’s a few minutes every day standing in front of a Kamidana, a small Japanese shrine that my wife made for me. It is a practice that reminds me to be grateful for my life.
My favorite building is the Fujiya Hotel, in Kanagawa, an area that is full of hot springs. The hotel opened in 1878, and it’s unique because they tried to make it like a western hotel, so the inspiration is very mixed, with traditional Japanese architecture and a more contemporary European style. It’s pretty awesome. From £273 a night; fhr.fujiyahotel.jp
In another life I would I have been a car designer or an architect, because I like to work on different objects. But then I always come back to the same old question: so what am I going to wear?