JUNICHI ABE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS. Junichi Abe, the founder of Kolor, takes sport to new heights with his innovative approach to designing as seen from his collaboration with Adidas. DA MAN picks the brain of this artist extraordinaire
Parachute materials protrude under tops made from high-end fabrics; perforated mesh fabric layers an aptly cut coat; sneakers and sandals are paired with every single outfit. Kolor’s spring/summer ’15 collection is an absolute delight, a menswear smorgasbord showcasing every trend-forward piece imaginable. There is a palpable sports theme going on, but there is, too, something superior that goes beyond mere sporty pieces.
Junichi Abe, the founder and designer of the brand, is responsible for the magic. Known for his expertise in working with details and construction, Abe has carved a perfect niche for himself in an industry where new brands are born every single week. Abe’s genius is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the fashion industry; not many people are familiar with his designs, but those who do become acquainted with his works generally feel that others are either too simple or too repetitive.
Abe’s name was, until lately, still rarely heard in the fashion capitals of the world, although his brand, Kolor, was founded way back in 2004. With his innovative approach, however, he easily gets the attention he deserves and garners one positive review after another. “Just how innovative is he?” you may ask. This is where the story of Kolor becomes particularly interesting for lack of a better word because Abe is not one to wax poetic about his collections. He simply creates and utilizes the resulting outfits as part of his vernacular. The end result is a series of well-executed detailing that elevates essential pieces. Just recently, his collaboration with German sports brand Adidas was announced, establishing his stature as the industry’s most promising rising stars.
DA MAN: Hi Junichi, congratulations on your collaboration with Adidas! When did the idea initially come about?
Junichi Abe: Thank you! I initially received the offer from Adidas at the beginning of last year.
DA: How does it feel to work with one of the biggest sports brands in the world?
JA: I feel much honored; I have much respect towards the history of this brand for being at the forefront for many years. It is very much a pleasure for me to be able to work together with them.
A blazer constructed of different cuts and materials
DA: What is it about your capsule collection for Adidas that makes it so special?
JA: Adidas by Kolor is categorized as part of their performance line. This line is different from other lines in Adidas: The performance line aims to create products for athletes. Therefore, the products cannot stand only for fashion; they have to be wearable while performing various sports.
DA: How did you incorporate Adidas’ technology in your already innovative designs? Did you encounter any particular challenges while combining your aesthetics and Adidas’ technicality?
JA: In order to find the balance in which the product can perform as a piece of sportswear while still having a new expression, I had many discussions with the team from Adidas, especially for decisions on materials and shapes. Combining my aesthetics and Adidas’ technicality is not necessarily a challenge—the real difficulty was actually finding the limit of what we can do to make the items still wearable for sports activities. Overall, it’s exciting to be able to use Adidas’ myriad forms of technology in my design.
Looser silhouettes dominated the collection
DA: Your spring/summer ’15 collection sees a lot of contrasting colors and mixes of textures. What are other particular details we need to pay attention to in this collection?
JA: Actually, when we were creating the spring/summer ’15 collection we were already working on this Adidas by Kolor project for fall/winter ‘15/’16. I think that as a result of these projects occurring simultaneously, Kolor’s collection for this season has also become much sportier. But you have to know that I have never created a collection that is so apparently sporty before. For as long as I can remember, I have avoided making collections that let people sense obvious influences throughout, such as sporty- and military-inspired collections. This is mainly because I feel that using those themes would be too easy. However, for spring/summer ‘15 I have decided that I would like to go against that thought and try to use sport as the theme instead.
Sporty fabric mixes with high-end materials
DA: Your clothes are praised for the strong emphasis on fabrics, details and construction. Can you tell us more about how you experimented with those three aspects this season?
JA: Since using sport as the main source of inspiration is something that other designers have already done many times, I think it will be more interesting if I can create a collection that presents a fresher expression of sportiness. Not just for the spring/summer ’15, though, as that freshness has always been what’s important to me: to produce something not from of a definite source, but rather out of a mood or nuance that we cannot express by words. After finding it, I will think about materials, shapes or details that can express that particular mood or nuance. But the order of the process is not always the same. Sometimes I have an idea of the material first before creating the shapes that are suitable for it. Other times I begin with an idea of the details in my mind, and then I proceed to create materials that can accommodate those details. It all depends on time.
Mesh fabric layers a coat
DA: A lot of designers say that when they are designing for men, they tend to limit the range of colors or prints they use. What about you?
JA: I do not think that way because people’s perceptions of those factors change over time.
DA: Speaking of changes over time, you worked under Rei Kawakubo’s direction in the past. What are the lessons that you’ve learned from your previous stint there?
JA: I think what I learned from Comme des Garçons [Rei Kawakubo’s brand] is the idea of what design is and how the work ethic in a fashion house is supposed to be. The techniques and knowledge that I got from them also became useful [in building my own brand], but there are other much more important things that I acquired during my stint there.
DA: What triggered or motivated you to start your very own brand?
JA: Before going solo, I used to work together with three other designers for one brand we created. It was an interesting experience. But later, I realized that I would like to express my own vision under my own responsibility. That is why I started my own brand.
DA: Have you always envisioned yourself as a fashion designer?
JA: The first time my eyes were opened to the possibility of actually becoming a designer was thanks to the influence of both Comme des Garçons and Y’s [Yohji Yamamoto’s] when I was only in my first year of high school.
DA: In your opinion, what are the qualities of successful designer?
JA: To me, it is a person who can express what that person believes in and who can manage to build a business based on that belief because other people have accepted his/her expression.
Unusual layering and color mixing are Kolor’s signatures
DA: What keeps you inspired day in and day out? Does living in Japan supply you with a lot of inspirations as opposed to living anywhere else?
JA: Since I was born in Japan, I’ve always felt that this place is much more special than other places. I think that inspiration might be hidden somewhere in the accumulated experiences of normal daily life … and if we keep on thinking, they will come out little by little.
DA: As it now enters its second decade, what’s on the horizon for Kolor?
JA: I am thinking that to work on what’s in front of me as perfectly as possible will eventually connect me to the next step.