HQTokyo, Japan
FounderKeizo Shimizu

Leave it to an outsider to add new wrinkles to classic Americana and old Western styles. That’s what Japanese designer Keizo Shimizu, founder of Needles, has done ever since starting the label in 1997 with one piece: a loose-fitting suit jacket inspired by one worn by Miles Davis in the ‘60s. While American cultural movements—the work of actors, filmmakers, musicians, and artists—continue to inspire Shimizu, he uses Japanese textiles to design and create a range of eccentric, yet uniquely American styles and sub-labels. Those sub-labels include Needles Sportswear, which produces consistently out-of-stock tracksuits found on the likes of A$AP Rocky, as well as Needles Rebuild, a seasonal collection that “upcycles” old garments (vintage flannels and surplus fabrics) and stitches them together to create whole new deconstructed pieces. Why was the Needles brand started? Before starting Needles, Shimizu had Nepenthes, a store stocked with vintage and military surplus pieces sourced in the United States, along with labels like Ralph Lauren, L.L. Bean, and New Balance. Although the Nepenthes store first started in Tokyo in 1989, Shimizu found himself traveling to the U.S. so much that he relocated to Boston and then New York, where the current Nepenthes store exists. In the ‘90s, however, American factories were shuttering and moving overseas, making it more difficult for Shimizu to find American-made vintage pieces to stock in Nepenthes. So in 1997, with over a decade spent sourcing materials from manufacturers all over the world, Needles was founded as an in-house brand to support the existing labels carried in Nepenthes. Does Needles make Japanese clothing? While the clothing is a blend of American and Japanese influences, the clothing itself is all made in Japan. Needles Timeline 1988 — Shimizu founds Nepenthes as a Japanese distribution company specializing in U.S. goods. 1989 — Shimizu founds the first Nepenthes store in Japan before moving to the U.S. He opens a Nepenthes office in Boston. 1996 — Shimizu relocates to New York and opens a Nepenthes store. 1997 — Launches the support brand Needles with Nepenthes as its parent company. 2010s — Launches Needles sub-labels Needles Sportswear and Needles Rebuild. 2017 — Collaborates with a host of brands including Dr. Martens, Vans, and Reebok. 2018 — Collaborates with A$AP Rocky’s AWGE label for the first time, producing a tracksuit collection. 2019 — Does another collaboration with A$AP Rocky and AWGE on a second tracksuit collection. Needles Related Articles Escaping the Age of Being Safe: Discussing NEPENTHES & Its New London Base The Story Behind A$AP Rocky’s Favorite Pair of Japanese Track Pants