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POSTED ON February 18, 2013__ BY

The latest creation from Tokyo-based BANZAI: the Haka T-shirt and sweater are now available at Primitive London [and in Japan]. The design features a wire-frame head adorned with a triangular headpiece: traditionally worn in Japan when mourning the deceased, along with the five elements according to Buddhist philosophy: earth, water, fire, wind, and void, written in Sanskrit. Accompanied by the BANZAI sign, the motifs represent the connection between present and future, origin and genesis.

• What prompted you to set up your label?

“Just thinking without doing makes the brain rot and leaves you with nothing” so my friend said, that was what prompted me. “Work and food are the same thing, you make it and unless someone consumes it, it’s left to rot.” Being told that switched me on.

• Prior to setting up your label, what did you do?

After graduating from university I moved to Tokyo and worked at a photography studio for three years. At night, I organized a party called MEAT with my friends, where I would DJ. As a result of this event I met a lot of great people with whom I am still connected to today. It’s a lovely thing. I still DJ too. Then I went through a period of travelling: to places including America, London, Paris and Berlin; and during my returns to Japan I would work at my friend’s clothes store.

• What is the concept behind Haka (grave)?

I was just making these T-shirts and sweaters and didn’t plan on doing an official release for them but a gallery called ROCKET (Tokyo) asked me to do something interesting in their space. At that time the Mayan apocalypse was rumoured to happen, and also my birthday was around this time too. But most importantly, I needed to regenerate my mind for the next project. So I invited my old friends and opened a ‘Haka bar’ in the gallery for a day, and alongside this I sold the Haka T-shirts and sweaters especially for the event. The concept behind the design was “the future return to the origin”, and Buddhist artefacts such as: tenkan – the white triangle worn by those who have passed away, and sotoba – a flat strip of wood used to mark graves. I can empathise with the Buddhist teaching: “when people die they do not disappear from the earth but decompose to their original state”. The Haka design features a circle made up of the word BANZAI, to remind me of the origin of BANZAI and the return to its origin in the future.

• What do you think about working in Tokyo? How does it influence you?

Because I’ve been living in Tokyo for a long time I’m not conscious of it affecting me. Rather, I think that it’s important for me to always be on the lookout for inspiration when and wherever I am.

• What do you think is the difference between fashion and art, or is there no difference?

“A bazooka or a machine-gun” (lol), art is like a bazooka and fashion a machine-gun, maybe. Either you shoot big once, or shoot in rapid succession. Fashion gets talked about in art magazines and vice versa; even art galleries hold exhibitions on dress history and current fashions, so it’s hard to tell where the boundary lies. If it’s cool it’s fine isn’t it, there’s no need to separate fashion and art.

• Could you tell us more about the ‘remake’ collection Banzai Operation?

Each piece is different so it’s hard to explain, but I initially thought it would be interesting to see what happens if I dismantle my previous work and combine this with vintage clothing. After I launched the collection, a journalist described it as a mix of the East and the West, and i thought that’s kinda true. It’s something really intuitive and I wasn’t thinking about it whilst I was making it, although it looks like I did. I look at the results and even surprise myself with what’s really going on in my head.

• What is the inspiration and concept behind BANZAI?

It depends on the work that I show. With small production run, one-off pieces, there’s a direct connection to myself. It really shows who I am. It’s a bit self-gratifying but I enjoy it. I had some issues with mass production, but if the wearer says that that doesn’t matter, then I’m very happy. Today was the launch of Haka and when I went to drop off the pieces at a store in Tokyo and a customer came in immediately and purchased a Haka sweater as a present for her boyfriend, which really touched me. It’s a strange and indescribable feeling how something I made becomes part of the life of someone I don’t know. Like I mentioned earlier, because I think it’s important for me to always be on the lookout for inspiration wherever I am, there is no specific inspiration or concept behind BANZAI.

• Can you tell us about your next project?

I’m working on the next project right now! With the last project, and the one before that I launched two collections, but this time there will be three. As with the Haka project, before I embark on this three-part project, I need to decompose and revive myself. It’s not going to be like something I’ve done before so please look forward to it!

Interviewed by Mairi Hare and Lui Nemeth.

Photographed by Andrew Grune.

Photo edited by Lui Nemeth.





•haka のコンセプトは?
亡くなった人が着用する△の天冠やお墓に立てる板、stupa 卒婆塔。BANZAIの文字で形成されたサークルをデザインに落とし込みました。




『バズーカ砲かマシンガン』 笑バスーカ砲がアートでマシンガンがファッションかな。一発、ぶっ放すか、連射か。





量産するものに関しては、なんか嫌なことあったけどBANZAI身につけたら、そんなことどーでもよくなったわ。って思ってくれたら凄く嬉しい。今日はHAKAのリリース日だったんだけど、東京の取り扱い店に搬入にいったら開店すぐに彼氏にプレゼントするってHAKA スウェットを購入してくれた方がいて、すごく感動した。作った物が知らない人の生活の一部に組み込まれるって何か不思議でなんとも言えない感覚。




Photographed by Ben Davis.

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