Ichiro Suzuki hails from Osaka, Japan, but it was at the London College of Fashion that he developed his flair for outlandish geometric variations on traditional styles. While working as a tailor for Savile Row clothier Henry Poole and Co., Suzuki developed his own line of menswear that augments traditional cuts with patterns of geometric shapes, yielding a look that appears to be from the near future (granted the suit-wearing world starts being a lot more fashion forward).
While the idea of fashion based on geometry and futurism may invoke images of unwearable runway concepts, Suzuki’s designs are a bit more grounded in reality while remaining refreshingly experimental. His creations are innovative but don't lose their wearability or commercial strength, creating new possibilities for menswear that has gone largely unchanged for decades. Employing his mantra of "visualizing to materialize," he created a collection that came in first place at International Talent Support 2012, an an organization seeking to promote young and undiscovered talent. And they did good to honor him, as it’s rare for a designer to strike that perfect balance between old and new.
We caught up with Suzuki to learn more about his creations in fashion.
The Creators Project: What was your main inspiration for the collection presented at ITS 2012?
Ichiro Suzuki: The initial inspiration came from some 1895 patchworks made by an assistant of Henry Poole, which I found at tailoring houses I worked for. Then I also researched optical art works by people like Vasarely, Bridget Riley, and Escher, and also polygons and 3D-rendered shapes.
How long did you take to finish this collection and what was your creation process like? Did you use some digital support to develop your pieces?
It took me six months to finish the collection. Essentially, for this collection, I used some structural engineering and geometric design elements and molded them around lively shapes, using traditional handmade tailoring techniques. It's a marriage between what seem like incompatible things, which I named “bio-geometric tailoring.” This has evolved into a mix of an obsession with tailoring and innovative design.
Complex, intricate patchwork is the key in my collection and I've worked according to my view on modern tailoring. I changed British tailoring norms completely and used patchwork in unusual ways—I myself created the patterns and had them made at a silk screen company called Huntley, and at another digital clothing printing company called A.J. Gilmartin. They're both based in London. I learned a lot with them. The printing part was a real challenge for me because I had never done that before.
Tailoring also has a very important role in your creations. How does it come into play?
Tailoring has always been my main influence ever since I started working in fashion, and it always will be. I came to London at first to study tailoring and wanted to get a job at Savile Row. After graduating from London College of Fashion, I was invited to work at Henry Poole and Co. (historically known as the founders of Savile Row) in 2007, and that's where I've been ever since.
Although your clothes may be considered modern, and even futuristic, they're also very wearable. How do you strike a balance between the conceptual and the commercial in menswear?
My creations are always based on Western gentlemen's apparel, like jackets, vests, trousers, etc. I try to work with this menswear basis and create from those prototypes. This technique makes it possible to keep their wearability. Though my clothes are built from concepts, I don't believe in concept. I believe in how it looks when the concept is not to have concepts. I'm guided both by concept and idea, and the fact that you have to generate an interesting image. I've seen many young designers with very conceptual collections, with very strong ideas, but in the end their pieces would not converse with each other. I believe that clothes have to be wearable, functional, and also be pretty.
What's your opinion on today's men's fashion? Is it becoming more tolerant, more receptive to innovation, especially in terms of shapes, or does the traditional, more conservative model still rule?
With more advanced technology, there's a new range of fabrics, from synthetic to natural, and patterns are becoming more and more popular. When it comes to shapes in traditional men's fashion, I see a lot of femininity permeating menswear, and men's apparel is finally becoming less limited. There are a lot of designers who are trying to take a chance with shapes and the silhouette, changing it drastically. However, those attempts are ephemeral and they vanish from people's memories over time. People are still very conservative and they accept innovations only for a very short period of time, and then wind up going back to what we call "basic." Ever since the two-piece suit was invented (simpler than the three-piece suit that includes a vest), menswear has been kind of keeping the same overall shape for 150 years. We're still dressing in clothes with shapes that appeared in the 1700s. If you change that model too much, it loses something and gets detached from the rules of menswear. They need to evolve.