Conversations with Masayuki Ino, the founder of Doublet, a Japanese streetwear label stocked at Dover Street Market Singapore
Winning the LVMH Prize for Young Designers is no easy feat. Masayuki Ino of Japanese unisex label Doublet is the first non-European to bag the grand prize of €300,000 and a year of mentorship from the conglomerate, after rising as a victor over 1,300 applicants. Despite a career high in 2018, the six-year-old label remains relatively unknown internationally with only 25 stockists globally including Dover Street Market Singapore. To find out more about the man behind the mastery, we sat down with Ino, diving further into the method which drives his streetwear label, his fashion journey, and where from he draws inspiration for the unconventional.
We are living in the age of streetwear and athleisure and a lot of fashion now is based on novelty in the distribution and marketing of clothing, rather than the surprise of the garment itself. The staples are familiar, like T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants. How has that changed design and the role of the designer?
Masayuki Ino (MI): It is true that T-shirt and sweatpants are key elements of the Doublet collection — this was intentional. Even with the T-shirt, I would create new techniques or use new materials each season to keep it fun and unique. Our goal is to create a brand with many elements that people will be responsive to. Moreover, we don’t retail our products like other brands. We use different techniques such as a capsule toy machine (gachapon) to sell our T-shirts.
It's novelty, surprise, and it's also nostalgia. It's evocative of childhood. What does the gachapon machines represent in Japanese culture and what do they represent to you personally?
MI: My childhood memory. Do you know the miniature figurine, Kirikuma? My friends and I used to collect and exchange them among ourselves.
If there were no limitations, what is the most surprising or strange thing you would put in a gachapon machine?
MI: I would put a person. [Laughs].
That would be quite fun but slightly horrifying. [Laughs] What is your earliest memory of fashion?
MI: When I was in highschool, I began to pay more attention to my looks. I read fashion magazines and went to the shops to talk to the staff. At the same time, there was a big boom for vintage fashion and designer labels as well.
When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
MI: I really wanted to focus on fashion as I was about to graduate. So I enrolled in a fashion school, Tokyo Mode Academy, to study fashion.
After all these years, is there a certain reference or idea you go back to all the time that never gets old?
MI: When I am designing each season, I strive to create products that spark conversations. For example, if you tried to take a photo with flash of one of the T-shirts in the collection, a ghost will appear. This, I hope, creates conversation between customers and the shop staff or between you and your friends.
Where did you think that desire to spark conversation comes from? Is there a bigger purpose to it or just to satisfy curiosity?
MI: I don't know about the future but to Doublet, a conversation or an experience is a really important element of the collection.
Contemporary fashion is so fast-moving — as soon as something goes on social media it starts to age as an idea. You have to constantly generate new ideas and products. How do you recharge creatively when you are tired?
MI: I talk to other people, from my staff to my friends, and have an exchange of ideas. I get inspiration from daily communication and daily life.
When you create you are always looking at culture and what's happening in the world and in your personal life. What would you say is on your mind right now?
MI: Of course, it is important to know what is going on in the world. In the fashion world right now, sustainability is really important. The same could be said for other fields too. But while it is important to have a pulse on the world, the most important thing to my work is my personal experiences.
What have you watched or seen recently that you really attached yourself to?
MI: I am interested in amusement parks such as Disneyland, which could be transformed in the next season.
What is the most used item in your personal wardrobe right now?
MI: Ninety-five percent of my closet is Doublet clothes. I’ve recently started started wearing DC sneakers as well.
What are the most interesting accounts that you follow on Instagram?
MI: @PZtoday. She’s an artist, a visual designer, and creative. She works with Dover Street Market to publish magazines and create unique installations.
Have you collaborated professionally with her?
MI: Not yet. I first met her at the Dover Street Market launch party in Japan. She has many interesting, inspiring ideas.
How has the reaction been to your brand?
MI: Our clients around the world love the exhibition and the surprise. Our gachapon releases are sold out.
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