Heather Grey Wall at The Goodhood Store – Interview with Kazuki Kuraishi

IMG_2744Since expanding into their Curtain Road location, the folks over at Goodhood haven’t wasted any time in cementing their status as one of East London’s new cultural hubs. From humble beginnings as a clothing store on Coronet Street for those that know, the new two-storey shop has given The Goodhood Store a chance to fully realise the true expanse of its vision of uniting clothing, culture, lifestyle and good coffee (hold tight Commune) under one roof.

One of the biggest developments has been a larger space for in-store events and pop-ups. Rejoining the store’s roster after a brief appearance last season is A.Four Labs, a post-modernist menswear label from London artist Lucas Price and Japanese design aficionado Kazuki Kuraishi, a figure who over the years has worked with adidas, Mark McNairy, A Bathing Ape, Neighborhood, Fragment Design and countless others. Beyond this, Kuraishi runs Heather Grey Wall, a retail project curating his favourite labels as well as his own endeavours, and he just recently launched his first solo label, The Fourness, taking its name from Carl Jung’s theory of four psychological types that constitute an individual’s personality.

In a heavyweight cross-collaboration, The Goodhood Store has just opened a Heather Grey Wall in-store pop-up space to present the latest collection from A.Four. Decorated with foil helium balloons and interiors, the space takes inspiration from Andy Warhol’s NYC Factory Studio and is accompanied by an exclusive Goodhood x Heather Grey Wall T-shirt that makes use of the store’s infamous lightbox – something that itself was brought to the store by Lucas Price a few years back. Alongside this, the pop-up also presents the latest collaboration between A.Four Labs and British artist Ryan Gander, a capsule of jackets and pants inspired by the uniform that Mahatma Gandhi wore when he was in prison.

The Heather Grey Wall pop-up officially opened yesterday evening and I was fortunate enough to sit down with Kazuki Kuraishi himself for a conversation, accompanied by Kyle from Desktop-Desktop bringing his own expansive knowledge of design and aesthetic into the mix and kindly taking some photos as well. A massive thank you goes out to everyone at Goodhood for an awesome opportunity, to Kyle for his help and insight, to Miko from HGW for helping to translate and of course to Kazuki for taking the time to talk to us. The Heather Grey Wall pop-up will be open for the next two weeks, so get down and check it out while you’ve got the chance.

IMG_2738Throughout your career you’ve worked with many different companies as well as running your own businesses and labels. Do you have a method or philosophy that unites these different roles?

In terms of design and apparel, each role has involved different elements and therefore required a different method. When I work with adidas I’m not only designing for a corporate, I’m also creating sportswear; my work with Mark McNairy has been more of a traditional partnership, joining our two different methods together; The Fourness is actually my first exclusively solo venture. As a result, when it comes to design and the process, each project has required its own different method with obviously different outcomes.

You’ve also been responsible for different tasks over the years as well; redeveloping CASH-CA for the Japanese market; overseeing collaborations such as those with adidas and ObyO; operating the Heather Grey Wall retail business; creating A.Four with Lucas. Do you think these different challenges have affected your approach to your work?

Whilst each project has involved different disciplines whether retail, fashion, marketing and so on, for me each methodology has been united by a core element of design. I know what I am looking for in the detail and aesthetic, and as a result the other work has never felt labored; I have my own taste in design, image and aesthetic and there’s always been a natural flow to each process.

You’ve described your cousin Shinsuke Takizawa of NBHD as one of, if not your greatest influence. What have you taken away from working with and learning from him over the years?

Shinsuke is a very close cousin of mine. We’ve been close going all the way back to when I was in grade school. He used to take me to the Harajuku District and we’d visit a lot of vintage stores, toy stores, textile sellers and so on, and in that sense he’s always had an influence upon me. Shinsuke’s also really interested in animals – insects, birds, aquarium fish from the eccentric ones to the cute – and I think a lot of these elements have played some role in shaping my perspective from a young age.

There’s also something that comes from the familial relationship. Shin had a way of guiding me, helping me to make life choices and decisions – he was actually the one who pushed me to work with Bape to begin with and to find my own life and work experience. I was living in the US riding BMX professionally when I was a teenager and when I arrived back I had to start thinking about a career. I could have just gone to work at Neighborhood, but Shin thought that would be too easy. He taught me the importance of building my own career.

IMG_2719As I’ve followed A.Four, I’ve noticed the brand’s use of simple motifs and text graphics and references to potent moments in youth culture – Vivienne Westwood’s anarchy shirt, the Stone Roses collaboration and so on. Is there any significance to this exploration of starting points of culture?

In A.Four, my role in partnership with Lucas is more distinct. Lucas controls a lot of the graphic elements and I tend to respect the elements that he puts forward. My role then takes the form of directing, incorporating Lucas’ visuals into the clothing and bringing the design into play. I think my relationship with youth culture pertains to concepts of anarchism and rebellion, whereas Lucas is more of a situationist. The initial influences can be identified, but the end product creates something where these interests meet and become mutual.

When I think about Lucas’ own career as an artist, his entry into art itself was quite anarchic – it seems like he started on the outside and art discovered him at the same time that he discovered art. In your own career you’ve had guidance and there seems to be a higher degree of discipline in a traditional sense. I’m interested in how this manifests in your partnership? 

It certainly creates a different way of working, but my approach to partnerships has always come from an initial desire to work with these individuals. I was already a fan of Mark McNairy’s design and I appreciated Lucas’ art, so there was never necessarily an idea of balance to me. Whatever Lucas or Mark come up with, no matter how surprising, I’m ready to accept and move forward because I’ve already asked to work with them. My role often feels like the initial action – ‘Let’s work on this, let’s take this approach’ – and once the graphic element or design comes, I then incorporate it into clothing. My role then becomes very straightforward – harnessing my partner’s creativity.

I actually interviewed another partner of yours, Gary Aspden, the other week and he spoke very highly of you, so I had to ask about your relationship with him and the significance he’s held during your work. 

I actually just got back from seeing Gary half an hour ago! Of course we could talk about my work with him, but talking about him on a personal, human level, Gary’s a bit older than me and I really appreciate listening to him talk about music – 90s rave culture, The Haçienda, all these movements that he went through. I’m a huge fan of UK music culture and subcultures and Gary always brings a lot of inspirational stories about that era. Music has always been a fundamental point of connection for us, but now having known him and worked with him for more than ten years and Gary now designing products himself, obviously the core working relationship has allowed us to discuss and share ideas and influence each other. I’ve learnt a lot from Gary because he seems to see business from a much larger perspective. He’s very conscious of public perception and how product should be presented to the end customer. It’s an element of the creative process that I’m constantly learning from him.

IMG_2731It’s interesting because you touched on the idea of design as a central element, with the driving force being something more instinctive. Gary also described his knowledge of adidas and design as pure instinct and lived experience.

For me I don’t think it is that instinctive, though I can understand if somebody might see it differently. With The Fourness, for example, I never went to fashion school, I never received an education about these processes, sewing, pattern cutting, and so on. Because of that, however, I’ve studied a lot from books and by learning through experience. I’ve always tried to look very closely and carefully, so in a way I have been studying a lot in a less traditional way, because of that lack of academic training. The more you miss out on that education, the harder it becomes to achieve the level of perfection that you desire. Now, when it comes to clothing, I try to consider everything from the thickness of the yarn to the machine being used to construct the fabric. Fashion can be inspirational or instinctive, but for me it has become increasingly about the practice and the process. It could be natural or it could be a well-thought process.

[Kyle] Regarding The Fourness, do you feel that everything in your career has been a precursor to launching your own brand; a pure representation of your work as Kazuki Kuraishi without external influence? 

The Fourness is certainly a place where I can concentrate on what I want to do. Like you said, there’s a distinct ‘Kazuki’ element within it, and it comes from street fashion and a desire to bring a tailored element into that perspective. I went through street fashion and I’m hoping that the tailored jacket can become an element of street fashion.

There has always been a set mentality about what streetwear is and The Fourness focuses on expanding this mindset. Of course, we used to wear A Bathing Ape and street brands, but now we’re maturing and I’ve grown up with other people who wore that as well. I’m hoping that the older consumer who still likes the graphic element of street fashion will see something familiar in A.Four as a matured approach to that graphic element, whilst The Fourness can bring a more developed, tailored approach to street fashion in a similar context.

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