Shinya Kozuka’s Clothing Is Literally Artisanal


Japanese designer Shinya Kozuka approaches clothing in the same way an artist considers their canvas. But Kozuka, who founded his eponymous label two years after graduating Central Saint Martins in 2013, eclipses the many clichés of fashion designer as artist by taking his inspiration beyond the limits of menswear’s conventionality, with brusque results.

The unapologetically directional designs that strode in Kozuka’s Spring/Summer 2023 runway, “ISSUE #2: FRIDGES IN THE AIR,” wear garments that defy the typical definition of clothing, because Kozuka only barely makes typical clothing.

In fact, Kozuka’s entire practice feels like an experiment in reformatting familiar codes to fit his personal vision of whatever makes a wardrobe. Should no one else abide by it, that suits Kozuka just fine.

Because every great artist is supported by the patronage of believers, it’s thanks to the people who do abide by Kozuka’s imagination that he can put on a runway show of clothing this painstakingly considered.

There’s quite a lot of these people, in fact, and they’re spread out across Japan and beyond. They sell Kozuka’s twist on the “boyfriend” shirt, designed to fit oversized on everyone of any gender, Kozuka’s signature huge pants, and Kozuka’s updated workwear, the latter of which is occasionally produced with heritage labels like Wrangler and Dickies.

Good artists create a world and great artists invite others inside. Kozuka’s exquisitely advanced designs are meant to be imbibed wholesale or not at all and his SS23 collection is a great place to start, though I’d recommend poring over Kozuka’s previous presentations if there’s even a whiff of something appealing here.

There’s a lengthy document explaining Kozuka’s inspirations for this collection. He draws in part from the bitter black and white photography of Margaret Howell’s Winter 2001 campaign and in part from Tokuko Ushioda’s refrigerator pictorials.

He even iterated three separate motifs for the collection: “FINE FEATHERS MAKE FINE BIRDS” (uniforms that both express and erase identity; “ARTIFICIAL FOX” (foxes as a metaphor for imitations, which Kozuka calls “wonderful”); “FABLE DRAWING” (Kozuka’s hand-drawn characters are subtly manipulated to create a balanced all-over print).

Kozuka waxes poetic about the beauty in simplicity, deceiving given the time-consuming craft he applies to garment design.

The see-through knit shirts, raw-seamed shorts, and hand-painted jackets (one of the more literally artistic themes in Kozuka’s work) amplify the handiwork and make it as real as the garme





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