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In Tokyo, Japan, we caught up with Masaya Kuroki of Maison Kitsune to learn about his new Reebok collaboration, his love for unisex sports and his dream of opening a Kitsune Gym.

Earlier this year Maison Kitsune partnered with Reebok to on a Japanese exclusive run of red, white and blue Parisian inspired Reebok Classics. After the limited 500 pair run of collaborative sneakers sold out within seconds, Kitsune and Reebok Classics knew they had to do a global project together. That project is now set to release on September 12, 2015 and consists of both a CL Nylon sneaker and a baseball inspired apparel collection.

Last week, we travelled to Tokyo to get an early look at the collection and meet with Kitsune designer and co-founder Mayasa Kuroki.

On working with Reebok:

I think Maison Kitsune have done a lot of collaborations with great brands, but with a sports brand – a real authentic, heritage sports brand – we’ve never done as big a scale project as this. The whole idea had to be fun. As kids we used to play baseball but I was not that good, so I was always on the bench watching the other kids play. But this time I wanted to play and I thought why not all play together… and that way I won’t sit on the bench.*laughs*

Me and my partner Gildas have been doing this brand, Maison Kitsune, together for over 10 years and I think we’ve achieved a certain level of credibility in streetwear and ready-to-wear and a little bit of high fashion, and in music as well. We sign, produce and release artists through our music label and are organizing events all over the world every month. Music and fashion is what you’d call our “lifestyle” and Reebok also has this mindset. One of their first collaborations was with Jay Z… this brand has been doing music collaborations for years which I respect.

Can you talk about the unisex nature of the collection?

This comes down to the concept of “play all together” which is just like… why do only men play baseball? I have a lot of girlfriends who like baseball and like to support a lot of teams. I think Reebok has a very open mind. I think the product has to show Reebok’s open mind. So do I, so does Kitsune as well. With the music label you can see we have a very, very open mind. We sign not only one kind of music, but good music. When designing the collection I was already thinking about a unisex team. I think that should be the next step of sports in general, you know, men and women playing together. When you see men and women being active together what I see most of the time is running. It’s not really team sports yet. That’s why the shoot has both female and male. Through this I wanted to say that team sports are not only for one gender.

On the collaborative apparel:

Basically, the idea is that Maison Kitsune is a brand of today, but we are always keeping timeless pieces; something like a Parisian version of East Coast preppy. We discovered a technical material through Reebok (on the sleeves of the jacket) and that’s what we started with. Then afterwards it was the choice of the font, choice of the washing, etc, etc. The Brooklyn Dodgers were one of the main inspirations I had. That’s why the font is done in an old school way. But basically in my mind it always had to be timeless. Though the varsity jacket dates to the ’50s or even ’40s from the US, we wanted the jacket to be very today. We saw this look in the 1950s and I hope we could also see this look in the next 10 years. You know, something that always has a cool touch.

On the use of orange in the collection:

I can’t remember why I chose this color! For me, these colors just pop. Originally the collection was pretty dark, kind of black, grey, metallic, blue, but I spoke with the Reebok team in Barcelona, who are in sunshine everyday and I was wondering why not bring a little pop color?

The very first sketch you had for the shoe, and it was on a napkin. Is that typical of the way you work?

Yes. It’s very weird to say but I didn’t study fashion, I didn’t study business, I didn’t study economy or marketing, or anything. So the process of working, me and Gildas, is when we feel something we just put it down on paper and keep it somewhere. The story with the shoe sketch is basically we just had great dinner with Reebok Global and as friends we were joking around saying “why doesn’t Reebok put a French flag on the shoes” and then I said let’s change the “O” to a heart. The first idea was for Valentine’s Day – to come out with men’s and women’s sneakers on Valentine’s Day. This note was basically the start of this project, or this collection.

Even my collections.. basically my office is right here, right now. Even right now I have some inspiration I’m going to put on my phone, or somewhere I can it write down. To answer the question, yes. It sounds very messy because I know usually there’s a studio to create, people walking behind, there’s a schedule, but I think thanks to WiFi and thanks to the iPhone we can be anywhere, everywhere, anytime and that’s how we create our collections.

On the Reebok Classic CL and material choices:

When I was in high school I used to wear the Reebok Classic Leather – very, very white – almost collegiate white. I don’t know why but when I was a teenager in high school in Paris you had to look fresh. A lot of kids, going clubbing, or even in street culture, you kind of had to have Reebok Classic Leathers in White or Stan Smiths. These were always classic pieces. But this time I chose something a little different.

I wanted to play with the materials, so you can see there are three different whites. I thought it could be nice to see three different materials get older in different ways. I hope in three years you’ll see some interesting wear. You may think it looks a bit boring but I think it’s cool to have something you want to keep as see the different faces get dirty. I think that’s something me and Gildas are always thinking about. Say when clothing is getting older, seeing the different faces. That why I tried to do these looks that are very timeless.

On the capsule collection overall:

When people see this capsule I don’t want them to immediately say “oh this is Kitsune” or “oh this is Reebok.” Obviously it says it, but in a way I wanted to try something unusual for Reebok or Maison Kitsune. I think the capsule says “let’s play baseball” and I don’t think that’s a common message to throw around today in the fashion industry. I think there’s a lot of very, very aggressive campaigns everywhere. So I think it’s cool to have this sort of easy going, playful capsule collection. We don’t have a baseball cap with a big R. There’s not too much, let’s say, advertising. I think Reebok understood that idea and played with us.

Kitsune is a lifestyle brand with a music side, a fashion side and a cafe. Is there anything else you’re planning for the future?

Well, everybody’s been using this term “lifestyle brand” for the past 5 years or so. A lot of people keep saying “lifestyle, lifestyle.” For us, our lifestyle is really music and clothing. We opened the coffee shop because I’m a coffee addict. So I said to Gildas, let’s do a coffee shop. He’s not really a hardcore coffee drinker, but I am! He’s more addicted to music and club culture, because he’s from the scene. You know, he used to work with Daft Punk. For me, he has one of the best ears for always finding great artists.

I think we’ve been travelling so much and keep travelling still, travelling a lot, so .. it’s like why not open a hotel, why not open a restaurant? Of course we could do that, but the project has to make sense. For the fashion side, it makes sense for us because we’re both fashion guys, with the clothing. And then music is obviously still a big part of life, and the people we sign, people like and listen to. Since we opened the coffee shop we’ve had more and more people coming and enjoying our coffee, but for now I think we’re just going to focus on betterizing what we do now, which is fashion, music and coffee.

But I wish I could open a gym! That would be nice. I mean no fashion brand or music label has opened a gym. But in the gym you could have DJs playing or something that like. Music is everywhere. And the product, we know how to do it, so why not? So, there’s nothing planned yet but maybe yes.

Which cities around the world inspire you most?

These days, New York City. I used to live there when I was young. I spent 3 years there in the 90s. But New York somehow still inspires me a lot. Probably because of all the artists and street culture. You know, New York City is all about style. Downtown or Brooklyn or Harlem or Queens. It is always about style. It’s a joy to be in the city of New York.

I grew up in Paris. But.. I can’t really say it inspires me. But it’s home.

These days I have to say I spend a lot of time in Tokyo and we just opened a first store in Hong Kong. Hong Kong inspires me as well, sort of. I think Asian cities in general are now starting to influence the market. So I can’t ignore the fact that Koreans are inspiring the market a lot these days in fashion. We have our new Fall/Winter 2015 collection that is in stores right now, it’s called “Kim.” Kim is the most popular name in Korea, but we turned it into Kitsune Institute of Music; K.I.M.

What I want to say is New York City is very street, and when I’m in the street I think is when I get most of my inspiration. And then Hong Kong is kind of the New York of Asia and then Tokyo is always about the quality. And then when you see Seoul City: it’s consume. They really consume the market. So when you mix up all this.. that’s my inspiration right now.

  • Photography: Pete Williams for Highsnobiety.com
Editor-In-Chief, Highsnobiety Magazine

I am Pete Williams. Editor-in-Chief at Highsnobiety, founder of clothing label Raised by Wolves and resident of Montreal, Canada. For more, check me out on Instagram @petewilliams.