Established in 2010, Christian Dada is a Japanese brand founded by designer Masanori Morikawa and heavily inspired by his grandfather’s work as an embroiderer. Here to open the first flagship store outside Japan, we had the opportunity to sit down with Morikawa and discuss the inspiration behind the brand, why Singapore (of all places), his costumes for Lady Gaga and finally his collaboration with renowned Japanese photographer and artist, Nobuyoshi Araki.
LifestyleAsia (LSA): The embroidery in your collection is beautiful, can you tell us a bit more about why this features so prominently?
Masanori Morikawa (MM): It’s inspired by my grandfather who used to do embroidery on the jackets of biker gang members. But it’s different because he made them specifically for bikers while I’m not restricted and I can experiment with other types of materials like graphic prints on different materials.
LSA: Have you ever met these gang members?
MM: Yes! My house is in a compound shared by a few families. I have the same entrance and the gang members protects the compound.
LSA: Is this your first time here in Singapore? Why did you choose to open your first flagship store outside of Tokyo here in Singapore?
MM: No, I come here very often. I’ve been in and out for the past two years. It’s really cosmopolitan, and very futuristic, much like Japan. I chose Singapore because I feel like it’s very organic. The people here are very open to new things and it also happens to be the hub of Asia, which opens up new business opportunities for us.
LSA: Let’s talk about your new shop, where did the concept behind it come from?
MM: It’s actually inspired by Japanese zen gardens. My hometown is surrounded by lots of small islands, and that contributed to the rock shaped fixtures, which represent those islands. The store by day is filled with natural light, it lets in a lot of good energy and I like that.
LSA: In Singapore, everything is going online, whereas in Japan you still see people shopping at shops, which is great. What are your views on this and do you ever plan to go digital?
MM: I’ve thought about going online and I have to accept that everyone wants the convenience of online shopping. But I feel that I have to have the statement of my brand portrayed in real life, so that people will fall in love and come back again. I am Japanese and we focus a lot on fabric and quality. If you go online, you can’t feel the texture of the fabric, you can’t try on the clothes to see how it fits you. It’s important to have this for educational purposes, for customers to learn what’s a good piece of clothing and what’s a good concept. It’s not only just reading and visuals.
LSA: Lady Gaga donned your pieces for her “The Born This Way Ball” world tour and for her appearance at the MTV Aid Japan Awards. How did that come about?
MM: After the earthquake in Japan, Lady Gaga wanted to give her support to Japanese designers. I took part in a competition with other designers, to see who would be the best fit for her. It was very competitive, but she chose us in the end.
LSA: Let’s talk about Araki. How did this collaboration come about? Have you always been a fan of his work?
MM: I wanted new input for our latest collection, but I didn’t know how to contact him. But I happened to know the owner of a gallery in Paris where he was putting up his work, so I asked to get in touch. He’s very supportive of Japanese artists so agreed to my idea. He’s 76 years old but that doesn’t stop him from being interested in exploring other industries besides photography. He’s worked with Issey Miyake before, but only as a photographer. With us, his work becomes of our jackets and t-shirts. It was a really smooth collaboration.
LSA: “Love On the Left Eye” is some of his most personal work, in my opinion. What drew you to it and how did it inspire your new collection?
MM: I really respect what that work represents. Araki was losing sight in his eye, but instead of acknowledging his helplessness, he made something out of it. He was inspired to create art out of it and that positive attitude is something I really respect, along with his fighting spirit.
LSA: What’s in the future for Christian Dada? What are your plans for Singapore?
MM: No plans for now, I’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to be fixated on one goal, I hope to redefine fashion in my own style. I can only say it’s about contrasts and paradoxes between life and death, light and dark. I plan to do something for Singapore but it’s a secret!