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Inside the Subversive Mind of Hiroshi Fujiwara

By Bianca Husodo

Hiroshi Fujiwara, the widely acknowledged godfather of streetwear.
 
Hiroshi Fujiwara, the widely acknowledged godfather of streetwear.

On stage sat three men, each a luminary in his own creative field. On the left was Hans Ulrich Obrist, feted super-curator and artistic director of London’s Serpentine Galleries; on the right, Kevin Ma, founder and CEO of Hypebeast, the mammoth digital vortex for streetwear’s latest. And right in the very middle, flanked by Obrist and Ma, sat the anchoring draw to the evening’s assembly: the enigmatic “godfather of streetwear”, Hiroshi Fujiwara.

When one talks of the 55-year-old polymath — he’s a cultural consultant, designer, musician, arbiter of cool — there’s no exaggeration in giving him credit for the current state of streetwear.  In the ’80s, the Japanese voyaged to London and New York. He surfed subcultures — from punk to hip-hop — absorbing them to then introduce and popularise them in Tokyo. He reformed ’90s Harajuku with newfangled high-low sensibilities, positioning t-shirts as luxury goods and inventing the notion of drip feeding product in limited quantities long before “drops” were adopted by the likes of Supreme and Nike.

Held at a loft art gallery right at the heart of Hong Kong’s central art hub, a panel talk — titled ‘Imagination in the Digital Age’ — was organised by Moncler a day prior to the big Art Basel weekend. Fujiwara, with his signature centre-part salt and pepper bob and black jumper, had all eyes trained on him and ears clinging on to his every word.

Moderated by Obrist, the wide-ranging conversation between the three traced a flow which started from Ma’s anecdotal recollection of his first email from Fujiwara (which involved complaints on Hypebeast’s intrusive leaks on Fujiwara’s label, Fragment) to Fujiwara’s acute observation on the global rise of irreverent young chefs in food culture which somewhat mirrored that of streetwear’s universal birth in the ’90s (of which he had seminal influence on).

MonclerIn Hong Kong, ahead of the Art Basel weekend, Moncler celebrated the launch of 7 Moncler Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara collection by hosting a panel talk with (from left) Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of Serpentine Galleries; Fujiwara himself; and Kevin Ma, founder and CEO of Hypebeast.
In Hong Kong, ahead of the Art Basel weekend, Moncler celebrated the launch of 7 Moncler Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara collection by hosting a panel talk with (from left) Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of Serpentine Galleries; Fujiwara himself; and Kevin Ma, founder and CEO of Hypebeast.

In one of the talk’s most riveting exchanges, Obrist prompted, “Hiroshi, you say you like to surprise people.”

“[The element of] surprise is the most important thing, yes,” Fujiwara replied. “But collaboration is not a surprise anymore.” He then noted that the worldwide influx of collaborations in recent years, not only in fashion, became the root of its uninspired lacklustreness.

A bold remark, considering the fact that the catalyst of the evening’s 100-something gathering was the launch of Fujiwara’s sophomore collaboration with Moncler Genius, the French label’s mammoth initiative involving a series of high-profile designer link-ups. Titled ‘The Next Chapter’, the 7 Moncler Genius Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara Spring/Summer ’19 capsule was first unveiled in Milan in September last year as an animation video that was splayed across industrial rooms — none of the actual clothing modelled nor displayed. And akin to its inaugural debut, the garments were, again, not physically present in the room.

If Fujiwara’s intention was perhaps left unvocalised as an interpretative carte blanche for spectators in its first round, the second reiterated absence spoke loud and clear: the clothes are meant to be cerebrally sensed.

Moncler
 
MonclerTitled ‘The Next Chapter’, Fujiwara’s second Moncler Genius offering is a functional fusion of multicultural elements.
Titled ‘The Next Chapter’, Fujiwara’s second Moncler Genius offering is a functional fusion of multicultural elements.

Seen through a digital lookbook, the collection is a functional fusion of Americana undercurrents: a jacket that’s half varsity half sukajan, a casual down vest, plaid blazers, track jackets — mostly stamped with graphics of Fragment’s double lightning bolt icon or a medieval-like typeface spelling “MF”. In the collection’s statement, Fujiwara said, “Moncler Genius is the opportunity to mix different identities into a new one. The result is an unreleased Hiroshi, but it is also an unreleased Moncler.”

A recurring leitmotif is its thematic slogan, “World Tour 2019”. Printed on the back of shirts and jackets, it serves as a graphic indication of the hybridised multicultural tropes Fujiwara are feted for. On the whole, the lineup prods yet liberates its would-be wearers to investigate beyond the materiality, and into the labyrinthine nexus Fujiwara built around it. They are, to begin with, a collaged product of his thought process. 7 Moncler Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara is a manifestation of Fujiwara’s singular perspective. The notion of collaboration may no longer hold the currency of shock and newness, but one that’s done with depth and approach beyond the wearable can still surprise even the most jaded.

In that sense, the panel steered clear from discussing the collection, and instead, went right to its prolific source — examining the intricate maze that fuelled it: Fujiwara’s forward-trained vision. His personal outlook on the still-nascent melding of fashion and technology (“I think fashion and technology don’t match so much [yet]. The way you promote and market products, yes, but to merge with fashion? I’m not sure.”); the resurgence of handmade art (“Art is more about painting, printing — something to do with the hands.”); the need to dismantle fashion’s archaic hierarchical system (“I see everyone as equal: the young designers and the older designers.”). Fujiwara thrives in innovation. His time-transcending relevancy stems from a continual fascination with the future — and his clothes are a palpable byproduct of just that.

“I need to enjoy myself first,” he shrugged. “If you can enjoy what I do, then that’s good.”

7 Moncler Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara ‘Next Chapter’ is now available in Moncler boutiques and online.