I want to ask you about food but Mr. Suzuki, you have written a column titled “Ramen” before haven’t you? And you mentioned something about IPPUDO then.
I have forgotten about it until now but I may have written something a bit negative (wry smile).
Yep (with a laugh). You wrote about how long you had to wait in line at the New York shop.
I can wait in line if it’s about 30 minutes but 2 hours? That’s going a bit too far. I do love the taste of IPPUDO Ramen. But, the New York shop is so popular it’s difficult to get a seat (wry smile). When Yusuke used to come into our office I would always tell him jokingly, “You just can’t get a seat at IPPUDO” (laugh).
Where do you normally go for lunch?
Just nearby is a Ramen shop called “Tabata” and I would order a set menu of ramen and fried rice and finish lunch in 15 minutes. Most of the time, I would either go with Kenta (Miyamoto) or by myself.
Do you ever get inspiration for making clothes from food?
I happen to be friends with a Japanese restaurant chef in New York and when I eat at the counter I would hear a lot of things. Normally when Japanese open a high class Japanese restaurant overseas they would airfreight food from Japan and create authentic Japanese dishes the same as in Japan, if not better. The chef works at a restaurant offering Shojin dshes but Kyoto vegetables is a must in order to make Shojin dishes. But, he insisted on local food. He went to farmers’ market in New York and visited farms to find foodstuff.
American and Japanese vegetables differ in form and taste, don’t they?
Exactly. Using his own unique idea and ways he cooks it to look Japanese and creates new flavor. When I heard about it I thought how fantastic that was and thought the process to be very similar to our clothes making. In that sense I have been inspired by food.
I believe the importance of an idea and coming up with a way which you mentioned is similar in any field.
I truly respect those who stick to their orthodox way but creating something with an unconventional idea is very exciting. Normally what makes good clothes is a good material, a good factory and a good craftsman with high quality. Creating something in New York obviously means basically using a good factory but we have to compete against those well-known brands in a completely different way. Those from the orthodox school compete as exactly that but we cannot do that so we have to do something they cannot do. I believe it is very similar to that way of thinking.
Mr. Suzuki, if you have an idea or a way of doing things that you put into practice in your clothes making, what are they?
In the old days it was against an unspoken rule to intentionally wash a product made from wool. You just couldn’t do that. It is no longer a rarity but we have been doing those things as a common practice. Basically something clean with no wrinkles and no twists is a prerequisite for good clothes. But we’ve taken the opposite stance. Shrinking and twists make clothes more interesting.
I see. You did not deliberately act oddly but it was the result of pursuing something purely cool and interesting. Speaking of food, in recent years, there are many instances of collaborations between fashion and restaurants but Mr. Suzuki, are you interested in going that direction?
Because I do not cook myself I do not know how difficult it is but Mr. Shimizu, our president (Kenzo Shimizu, Nepenthes representative) and I both love Tonkatsu (pork cutlet). We have been talking about opening a Tonkatsu shop in New York. We already have a name for it, “NEPENTE” (with a laugh).
Surprisingly simple name (laugh).
We have such ideas but because we are a clothes maker we’ve decided to stick to making clothes rather than to step into the unknown and pay the price. Sure there are fashion houses managing restaurants successfully but we are unsophisticated when it comes to stuff other than making clothes. We just love clothes. Unfortunately we still can’t find any good Tonkatsu shops in New York (with a laugh).
I think you are spot on saying “we are unsophisticated/clumsy and just love clothes” about ENGINEERED GARMENTS and Nepenthes. I believe you have established your rightful position because of your unique way of thinking and ways.
I was working in a store for a long time, folding shirts, making displays and cleaning. While doing those daily chores I began to think for myself about ways to do things better and that is when I began to understand clothes much better.
I think Daiki is creating an atmosphere of finding out for yourself rather than being taught from someone. All the staff in the office are looking after their individuality, including myself therefore digging deeper into the thigs we love and integrating that into the organization, that is Nepenthes.
Because we are working for a company called Nepenthes we are doing our best to do things within this framework, similar to the situation mentioned before about Shojin dishes. For me personally, I get a kick out of being told to do interesting things with certain conditions and constraints imposed upon me rather than in a free environment. So, I enjoyed creating the uniform for IPPUDO and I will continue to do similar work making clothes.
Daiki Suzuki Representative of NEPENTHES AMERICA INC., designer of ENGINEERED GARMENTS
Born in 1962.
Moved to the USA in 1989. Worked in several cities including Boston, New York and San Francisco before opening his own office in New York in 1997.
Awarded the CFDA Best New Menswear Designer award in 2009. Registered as the first Japanese official member of the CFDA.
Column of Daiki Suzuki
Established in 1999, Engineered Garments produces completely original garments made in America, revisiting and reconstructing good old American designs.
Engineered Garments offers everyday wear for contrarian and rebellious adults who love those good old American days, with a style emphasizing individuality and change with time.
ENGINEERD GARMENTS Official Website
Minami-Aoyama 5-11-15, Minato-ku Tokyo 107-0062
NEPENTHES NEW YORK
307 West 38th Street,
New York , NY 10018
321 West 51st Street, (Between 8th and 9th Avenue)
New York, NY 10019
The most important thing ENGINEERED GARMENTS had in mind in making the uniform for Ippudo was that it was to be durable, washable and that it got better as years went by, like leather. Basically, it was designed as American work wear, but the color used was of dull navy tone rather than denim, brown duck or natural drill that we were used to seeing. In addition, since Ippudo wanted something that could be worn throughout the year, a 6.5-ounce twill cotton fabric was used, and the completed uniform ended up being a very cool uniform, too cool to be worn as a store uniform.
MATERIAL: 100% Cotton Navy 6.5oz Flat Twill
Usually the stitch is of contrasting color to that of the fabric such as a white stitch on a navy uniform but for the Jacket of Ippudo a black stitching was done on navy, which is the color Mr. Suzuki was very fond of at the time. Also, as can be seen from the triple stitching; a classic detail of a work wear, used all around the uniform, you can see glimpses of the intent to make a new cool uniform while retaining the original image of a work wear.
The prototype of the Jacket had the pen holder at the center of the pocket. However, that was altered since there was a request by Ippudo to have it moved to the side. ENGINEERED GARMENTS originally made it traditional American overall style with the pen holder at the center but listening to the staffs who were actually wearing and working in the uniform they noticed that it was better to have it to the side. Other things done was to make an elaborate ventilation beneath the armpit, designed to let the heat escape so that even in the summer kitchen heat staffs will be able to work in comfort. Both on the jacket and the apron there is a graphic print of a ramen as motif.
MATERIAL: 100% Cotton Navy 6.5oz Flat Twill
Improvement in the details taking into account practicality is also reflected in the apron. In the normal collection of ENGINEERED GARMENTS, apron is introduced as a typical work wear but using the length of that apron for Ippudo was found, at the production stage, to be too long and not practical. The length of the apron ENGINEERED GARMENTS previously created for a certain New York restaurant was also a long one. However, when staffs take orders from customers they sometimes bend their knees, hence it was necessary to alter the length of the apron to make it easier for them to do that. These kinds of understanding relating to practicality increased as more discussions were had.