Courtesy of Takashi Kumagai
If there was ever a modern iteration of the Renaissance man, Takashi Kumagai would be it. He counts being a photographer, stylist, creative director, interior and fashion designer among the many proverbial hats he wears (he is also a prolific literal wearer of them!), his eclectic sensibility an influence on the Japanese style scene for more than two decades.
To be immersed in Kumagai-San’s space is to understand his aesthetic: A visual language made up of souvenirs from his travels, plush textures borrowed from indigenous cultures, a nod to American utilitarian garb circa early-1990s, and greens – lots and lots of greens. This mix of natural and diversified influences lends a bohemian flavor to everything he touches, especially apparent in his own line, Naissance, and in his seaside Hayama home an hour outside of Tokyo.
In Tokyo, we have a conversation with the Japanese stylist and surfer. It’s perhaps the latter occupation that gives him his easygoing air – Kumagai-San is down-to-earth and articulate, switching languages easily from French to English to Japanese. Here, he shares his top travel destinations and favorite natural scents.
How did you start in fashion?
I moved to Paris to attend ESMOD for 1 year. When I graduated from ESMOD, I looked for a designer job because I had studied design. Then I met one guy who was a stylist and I became an assistant for him but I quit after 3 months! [laughs] After I quit as a styling assistant, I started my fashion shop in Japan The shop was very street-casual, like Ralph Lauren and Nike. The buyers go to America directly to buy cheap brands and sell it three times more here. It was a very famous shop. I had it for two years. Then I started styling myself at 24.
“I don’t know where my former life was so whenever I visit a new place, I think, ‘Maybe I’m from here…’ Maybe [my former life was in] Mongol or something. Maybe Mongol! I want to go.”
Where did your interest in fashion come from?
My family comes from 16 generations of iron artisans, starting from the period before Edo. Maybe my brain wasn’t very traditional since I was a baby. I always knew I was different. I painted my walls green. I started [having an interest in] fashion when I was in primary school.
What we love about your aesthetic is that it culls inspiration from different visual languages – from Navajo to Morocco, Japan to surf culture.
I was doing backpacking. I don’t know where my former life was so whenever I visit a new place, I think, ‘Maybe I’m from here…’ Maybe I was from Indian Navajo. But no, I went there and I understood it wasn’t. It’s not my sensibility. I went to Alaska – not really. No feeling for me. Maybe [my former life was in] Mongol or something. Maybe Mongol! I want to go.
When I was living in Paris, every French person, every European person thought I was from Eurasia. ‘You’re from Eurasia! Your face is very Eurasian!’ But I’ve never been to Eurasia – Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan. So before I die, I have to go! Check!
We’re big fans of the pottery at your shop, CPCM. How do you discover the artists and artisans you carry?
I pick one artist when I go to LA, New York, or other places I go. I only have one appointment to start with. And then it’s connection, connection, connection. Instagram also teaches me [new discoveries] so I have to check it. But sometimes they’re lying, those Instagram brands! [laughs]
“I don’t like famous brands. I don’t use them. I always go to an organic carrier in California where they make [the products] themselves… I love lavender and cedar.”
Name your top 3 travel destinations.
I surf so I love Hawaii and Australia. But it’s not the top. Mexico, I love! Costa Rica, I’ve never been but I would like to go. Bali, I went too much. I went to India – I love India! Bangalore, Kerala. I did one month of Ayurveda in India – all detox. I was 38 years old.
In Japan, I live in the countryside so I don’t need [to travel]. I don’t need to go to Izu. I live in Hayama, so I live with nature everyday.
Why did you move from Tokyo to Hayama?
I was craving the [nightlife] too much! Until age 35, 36, crazy! Maybe I don’t want to be that anymore. I started surfing 3 years ago so I have to totally change. I don’t want to drink too much so I can’t stay in Tokyo!
Having a big influence in Japan’s creative industry as you do, in your view, where do you see its future?
There used to be a huge difference [in creativity] between Japan and the rest of Asia but now the gap is shrinking. The rest of Asia is getting bigger and China is catching up faster. People buy [more] fashion in the rest of Asia. It’s also because of SNS. I consider Japan an advanced country in terms of trends in fashion but Japan has to be more humble and maybe go back to craftsmanship. It’s probably what people of 25 years old in Japan now are in to, the new generation. The new generation will be interesting. People over 40 and people below 25 are more interesting. I don’t know why, but the [Japanese] people in their 30s today have no power, no passion. They don’t want a car. They don’t want to drive. They don’t want a house. They don’t want to have sex. It’s true!
Do you have a daily ritual that helps you unwind?
Yes. Yoga, which I do for five, ten minutes. And walking, which I do three times a week for 1 hour from my house in Hayama.
What kind of self-care products do you currently use?
I don’t like famous brands. I don’t use them. I always go to an organic carrier in California where they make [the products] themselves and they give me some. I only use tonic water and a cream – that’s it. As for scents, I love lavender and cedar.