Mindseeker x Surrender in Singapore: Interview with Taiki Nozawa, the modest founder of the Japanese label

Mindseeker x Surrender in Singapore: Interview with Taiki Nozawa, the modest founder of the Japanese label

Underground vibrations

Text: Debby Kwong

Editor: Crystal Lee

The humble Japanese founder and designer got his hands dirty customising clothes for his fans at the new Surrender store.

The '90s has made its way back into our consciousness for some time now. If you, too, are gripped by nostalgia, Mindseeker will be right up your alley. Baggy shorts, vintage t-shirts and oversized hoodies in striking colours are the name of the game of this Tokyo-based streetwear label, which is all about embracing individuality and self-expression.

The mastermind behind it all? Taiki Nozawa, who was in Singapore last month for the reopening of Surrender. Mindseeker also exhibited its archive collection, and launched the #mindseekerxsurrender t-shirt at the new store. Take a peek at label's Fall/Winter '18 collection, inspired by protests that occurred in France during May of 1968, and find out what the '90s mean to founder Taiki Nozawa in our interview below:

What was the first thing you ever designed?
I customised vintage t-shirts and gifted them to my friends.

Why did you launch Mindseeker in Los Angeles?
When I launched Mindseeker in 2016, I felt that people in Japan seemed reluctant towards local brands and instead looked more to international brands. So I started the brand with the first collection in Los Angeles. Starting in Los Angeles was easier for me, too, because of my connections in the industry there. I got so much inspiration from the people and fashion culture in the city. It was creatively stimulating for me as a new brand.

Mindseeker is now based in Japan. How will it affect the brand?
Manufacturing, craftsmanship and fabrications are of very high standards and quality in Japan. Being in Japan enables me to produce and present better collections as compared to being based out of Los Angeles.

How has your background influenced your attitude and design philosophy?
Prior to Mindseeker, I had worked as a construction worker, then moving to retail as a sales personel and, later, a buyer. I believe those past experiences helped me with the non-creative but important aspects of starting my brand. In terms of design, the hip-hop culture has always been my biggest influence for me, and since I was young. My father was also obsessed about American denim culture — such as Levi's — so growing up, I've always expressed myself through fashion.

How did you come up with the idea for this installation?
I want my customers to express themselves through Mindseeker in their own way. Each piece can be customised to their liking, and they have a part to play in creating it. I prepared a few screen designs that are classic Mindseeker with options of different colourways. It was a precious experience for me to welcome the customers directly at the installation. I was able to discover what they need and what they want to see more of in future Mindseeker collections — which is going to help me in my future projects!

What was the collaborative process with Surrender like for the limited edition t-shirt?
It's such an honour to work with Surrender. They requested for me to design something with a rock sensibility, reminiscent of the earlier collections from Mindseeker. I wanted to add a new element to the old design (graphic is new design), hence I used the graphic based on vintage Bruce Weber's work.

How do you feel about the comeback of 90's culture?
Personally, I love the '90s, so I'm happy to see it becoming popular again. But fashion moves so fast. I'll be sad when it no longer catches the attention of everyone.

What are some highlights of Mindseeker?
Everything is special. I'm greatly honoured to see how fast the label is growing; it's much more than I had expected. Since moving my base back to Japan, I am surrounded by amazing people who continue to inspire and change me creatively, and I will continue to do my best.

Athleisure, normcore, and even warcore, as seen in your FW18 collection, are (still) trending. Do you think it's easier to do luxury streetwear now than when Mindseeker first launched?
Mindseeker is designed for everyone regardless of age, gender or trends, so it won't always sit within the luxury streetwear box. It's a concept I've been working towards since starting the brand, and even though it sounds difficult, I believe that I can do it. It's not easy to create a brand that lasts for the next 10 to 20 years, so I'm always trying to think of what I should do now for Mindseeker's future.

What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in streetwear now?
Virgil Abloh named as Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. It's a clear indication that streetwear is now right at the top of the fashion industry, when it was always the outcast. It gives me the hope that one day, I can be like Virgil too.

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