It’s impossible to talk about the N.Hoolywood show on Friday here in New York without mentioning the incredible location: the show took place on a rooftop in the Garment District opposite the iconic New Yorker building and the Empire State building and with the kind of dramatic sky dreamt of by Hollywood art directors. This setting impressed even the resident fashion crowd and created a sense of awe from the outset. Recent N.Hoolywood collections have focused on specific time periods and iconography in American history; the Western, the prohibition era, but this time designer Daisuke Obana took inspiration from his native Japan, and the unique natural environment there, specifically exotic insect life. Loud birdsong piped through the speakers set the tone for this nature-inspired theme, emphasising that we were in fact open to the elements even in the midst of ultra urban Manhattan. You might have thought that camouflage has been seen in every permutation in recent years, but Obana presented his own version in digitised prints, at once evoking the natural forms that man-made camouflage is meant to emulate and the modern processes that create it. Vivid colours appeared on T-shirts and in bright separates such as a rain macs and shorts, the carapaces of exotic insect life evoked through embroidery. Shapes were simple streetwear with emphasis on practicality for urban living; shorts, T-shirts, lightweight rainwear and pullovers. Obana has said that he wanted this collection to be clothes he himself would want to wear and the wearability of the pieces was immediately evident reflecting the pared back dress code of this knowing, savvy New York fashion crowd.
I had a brief audience with Mr Obana after the show and through his translator managed to find out a bit more about how the collection and the extraordinary presentation came about.
SL: How did you find this incredible space?
DO: I first saw this place three years ago but I had no idea you could rent it. In July this year I was walking past and enquired and was told it was available for hire.
SL: Your recent collections have been focused on American history – the Wild West, Prohibition etc, how come you turned to Japan for this collection?
DO: I was inspired by nature and specifically insects during my trips around Japan. Then I went to Seattle to see the work of an artist who is inspired by insects. I don’t remember the name… [note from editor: possibly Walter Scheirer’s “Abstracts in Insects”?]. I specifically didn’t want to do anything that was based around a specific time era like using only fabrics from the 1920s this time.
SL: Do such bright insects really exist in Japan?
DO: Yes! There are such insects which only exist in Japan, and also other insects which only exist in the United States.
SL: How did you go about casting the models for the show today? They all seemed like very ordinary boys and not the usual model types?
DO: By street casting young men here in New York.
SL: All street cast or are some full time models?
DO: No, all street cast.
SL: Why did you decide to use embroidery on some of the pieces?
DO: I wanted to create a texture that is similar to the insects themselves.
SL. What does New York mean to you?
DO: It’s the place to challenge yourself, to try to be a winner.
SL: How does it compare to Tokyo as a place to work?
DO: Here reviewers are very individual, they compare their own thoughts with your ideas, it’s very interesting. In Japan people tend to all ask the same questions, say the same thing [acts out sycophantic applause].