ANREALAGE: A conversation with Kunihiko Morinaga.
Interview: Rebecca U
After launching his label ANREALAGE 15 years ago and over four years of presenting his collections in Paris, Kunihiko Morinaga brings out a mix of archival and new in his Tokyo homecoming show during Tokyo Fashion Week S/S19 through Amazon’s ‘At Tokyo’ programme.
Amazon, the head sponsor of Tokyo Fashion Week invited the artist to the programme to present his work in Amazon’s fashion-imaging studio, the largest in the world where Morinaga used this space to give back to his family and friends. The epic time warp show which touched the hearts of family and friends opened up with the Japanese arts and technology group Rhizomatiks Research exhibiting their green neon letters being ‘lasered’, spelling out ANREALAGE. Morinaga’s S/S19 ‘Clear’, which made its debut in Paris follows after the mega light-show with models wearing Katsuya Kamo's elegant, neo-tribal headwear made of seemingly clear spikes and crystal shaped panels walking to the pounding of drums by Ichiro Yamaguchi (Sakanaction/NF) / Shotaro Aoyama (NF). Clear Black Photochromic, a material further developed by Anrealage with Mitsui Chemicals is used in his pieces and headdresses; the material turns black in the sun and fades to clear under fluorescent light.
The presentation surprises by going back in time to S/S15’s ‘Shadow’ collection. Some yelling could be heard during the show, which confuse and amuses some, for a moment, I thought the primal yelling was related to the tribal drumming heard earlier in the show. Black rounded figures appear from F/W15’s ‘Light’ collection, the only difference noticed is the use of black facemasks, not painted black faces for the ease of changing into a different collection. The models pause from time to time to demonstrate the UV reactive textiles which is revealed when the spotlight moves across the models; the visuals by Rhizomatiks Research further highlights the details of the bright, floral patterns and patchwork of the seemingly all black collection.
We time travel forward to view the presentation of S/S16 where onlookers were asked to take flash photography to reveal the neon, kaleidoscopic patterns on Morinaga’s innovative fabrics; as soon as this ends, the show takes us to the present with the appearance of AW18/19’s ‘Prism’, followed by more archival collections demonstrating Morinaga’s intelligent light reactive materials. A week after the show, I meet with the seemingly introverted and softly spoken Morinaga at his S/S19 exhibition, Morinaga was kind enough to give us some of his time to answer a few questions and to share his views on fashion with MOTHER magazine.
Words and Interview: Fashion Editor, REBECCA U @bec_u
Interview Photos: TAIKI SHIGAI @nightkingqueen
Paris Collection Photos: ALICE BERG @Alice_berg www.thealiceberg.com
Tokyo Presentation Photos: TERUO HORIKOSHI @teruohorikoshi http://photographerteru.com/
Translator: ANYA YAKUSHEVA @anya_yakushima
Rebecca U: After your presentation in Tokyo, I spoke to a friend of mine who had worked with you in the earlier years of Anrealage, he was so emotional and touched by your presentation he needed time on his own to process his feelings after your show. He said the order of the collections that were shown was planned in a very clever manner.
Kunihiko Morinaga: Yes! New, old, old, new and back to old.
Rebecca U: It was interesting to see the new collection come out followed by the archival collections and then suddenly to see the new come back followed by the archival works. I imagine many of your family and friends who are not able to see your presentations in Paris were very touched. How did this way of presenting your Tokyo show come about?
Kunihiko Morinaga: The brand name Anrealage is a combination of the words “real, unreal, and age; real or unreal, it’s about transcending reality and age, going back and forth between the ages. I had this idea from a while back, the meaning was always present in the brand name so it was something that was natural for the brand.
Rebecca U: What comments have you received from your family and friends regarding your Tokyo presentation?
Kunihiko Morinaga: Everyone was extremely surprised because seeing the span of 15 years worth of work in one show was very overwhelming.
Rebecca U: I connected with your show in a emotional sense because I could feel it was for your friends and family. What comments have you received from the press and buyers to compare to the comments from your family and friends?
Kunihiko Morinaga: The feedback has been very good, people have said the show was a little nostalgic, the change of light was very impressive, and even though the show was long, it was very smooth.
Rebecca U: 15 years, does it feel like it has gone by quickly?
Kunihiko Morinaga: It feels very long, super long. Translator: Otsukaresama desu! お疲れ様です! (An expression to show appreciation of someone's hard work.)
Rebecca U: Your collection in Paris was well received, how does the general reaction from the international audience differ from your domestic audience?
Kunihiko Morinaga: The main difference is that the West pays attention to production technology and in Japan, the focus is on art and history.
Rebecca U: When did you start noticing this?
Kunihiko Morinaga: After my trips from overseas back to Tokyo, I started to notice the contrasts in comments.
Rebecca U: How has showing in Paris changed Anrealage?
Kunihiko Morinaga: The brand is now more orientated towards the West and we have more international business in regards to stores.
Rebecca U: Some people have there opinions and reasons for why many Japanese
labels prefer to stay domestic, what are your thoughts on this?
Kunihiko Morinaga: I feel it's better to go abroad, showing your work just in Tokyo can feel very flat, it's best to consider fashion as a global entity and to not restrict it to one city or continent. I believe it's a necessity for labels to show overseas.
Rebecca U: Your work merges avant-grade thinking, technology, science and design. How big is the consumer market for this? From my end, I feel the only technologically forward apparel and footwear that is being consumed at a fast pace is sportswear.
Kunihiko Morinaga: The market is small, I agree with you about sportswear, at the moment I'm collaborating with ASICS, you can see our collaboration shoes in our new collection presentation, our other collaboration shoes with ASICS is on sale now.
Rebecca U: Are you able to reveal the secret to the technology being used?
Kunihiko Morinaga: [Laughs] No.
Rebecca U: I've met some male designers who find it challenging to design womenswear, as a male, how did you find your way to design for women?
Kunihiko Morinaga: There is more fantasy involved, so I have more freedom in womenswear.
Rebecca U: Designers who are suffering because of e-commerce and trend based fashion, what can you suggest they do to stay afloat?
Kunihiko Morinaga: Creating value, something that no one else has.
Rebecca U: Are more stores focusing on what will sell well over what they would truly like to have in their stores?
Kunihiko Morinaga: In Japan, that's the case, select shops in Japan will import things that are sellable, in the West, select shops like to order unique pieces.
Rebecca U: How does it feel to bring your work back to Tokyo?
Kunihiko Morinaga: I was a bit worried, but this is the place where I grew up so it's the right place to show my work.