As one of the leading fashion designers from Japan, Yasuhiro Mihara has been presenting his distinct creations internationally in cities such as Tokyo, Paris, Milan, and London. His creations, Maison Mihara Yasuhiro collections as well as his shows, always come with his distinct humor and uniqueness. What will he show us next? His fans as well as fashion industry people across the globe excitedly await for Mihara’s show every season. Twenty-five years after the inception of the brand, we asked Mihara how and in what environment he continues to create outside the box.
The atelier of Maison Mihara Yasuhiro is located somewhere in Daikyo-cho, Shinjuku in Tokyo. The relocation of his base to this spot, not exactly a fashion area per se, happened as recently as end of July 2019. Until then, they were in Jingumae. What prompted him to move out of the Jingumae district, an area full of boutiques and ateliers? “I wanted a bigger space. But really, I wanted to distance myself from the hyper fashion area,” explains Mihara. “When you go out on the streets of the Harajuku or the Jingumae neighborhoods, they’re full of kids taking pictures for Instagram and shops targeting those kids. I felt like this area existed in the information world; I wanted to prevent my senses from being drowned in trends. So, I’ve been wanting to remove my creative base out of Jingumae for some time. I’m highly susceptible to my surroundings. I know that about myself. It’s important for me to have a work environment that allows me to be stoic and focused.
In addition to the information overload of today’s digital environment, the Harajuku area in Tokyo is the trend capital in real life. It’s an ideal place to discover trends instantly, however it is understandable that it brings too much unwanted information to a creative mind. “Often designers go travelling in order to get inspirations for their next collection, right?” asks Mihara. “Because of my susceptible nature, it wouldn’t work for me. For example, if I travelled to India, I’m pretty sure the theme of my next collection would be India (laughs). Just the other day I went to Ginza to see Daniel Johnston’s exhibition, but I got scared at the entrance. I turned back without going inside. I’m afraid of being inspired, because I love his work. It’s obvious that I will end up creating things that are influenced by him, and I don’t want to release shallow things into the world. On the other hand, keeping the inspiration inside can lead to indigestion. Right now, I cherish creating things based on my very own philosophy, without being influenced by anything.”
It’s been a little over a year since relocating the atelier to its current location. What kind of changes has Mihara experienced? Mihara answers, “I’m more of a company manager than a designer, and I’m able to focus here better as a manager. In my previous office in the Jingumae area, the fashion vortex, I don’t think my business mind would have been able to function. It was very shocking to see empty Harajuku during the corona pandemic. In comparison, the flow of people has not changed much in this area regardless of the pandemic, and I think this helped me to keep calm. Being in an environment where you can keep your head cool gave my staff a sense of security too, I think.”
The atelier of Maison Mihara Yasuhiro is spacious, allowing different teams such as designers and pattern makers to complete the creative process together. Mihara’s office is placed in the center of this big space, like a private room. As you enter the room, you will notice his extensive selection of books, a collection of clothes that is recognizably military, as well as artwork. “I refer to this room as my brain,” says Mihara. “Your brain can sometimes forget or lose things. In order to avoid that, I want to keep artbooks and vintage clothes that I found by my side at all times. What you see here is just the tip of the iceberg; I have a lot more at home and in storage. I discover something new each time I see them. I also share or lend out these artbooks and military wear with everyone at the atelier. The reason why I like military apparel is because of the way their designs reflect functionality and culture. In America, for example, the rational sewing and functional aspects are evident in their design. In the UK, on the contrary, they’re made to be irrational and closer to tailoring because of their small state budget.
Rather than wanting to wear military clothes, I enjoy learning about the thoughts behind their creative process by observing them. It excites me to spot details on vintage clothes that I’d never seen before that makes me wonder things like, ‘why did they place a tag here?’. For someone like myself who never attended fashion school, my teacher is not a person but the products themselves. The pieces that are displayed here are pieces that continuously teach me something.”
Mihara, who says he is easily influenced, has allowed himself to be inspired by these objects that play an important role during the creative process. His world view with a sense of humor can be seen in his choice placement of stuffed animals and Banksy action figure within the vast selection of fashion-related books. “This space might feel sloppy to others. But for me, this space is a culmination of my calculated plans. Many workspaces today are lacking personal desks, allowing people with laptops to work where they please. I adore that concept, but it’s not for me. Maybe I’m old school, but I like to develop my thoughts in the same space. I also like having books around, to remind me of things I cannot remember. These days you can search anything online, but doing so makes me feel like a loser,” he laughs. “I actually enjoy rummaging through the bookshelves looking for something. During that process, lots of memories are brought back. Finding things via Google is easy, but it doesn’t remind me of the time when I first started making clothes or the joy I felt when I bought them. That’s what these clothes and books are about. So, I purposely keep this space rather chaotic—just like my brain.”