Designer spotlight: Interview with Masanori Morikawa, designer and founder of Christian Dada

Designer spotlight: Interview with Masanori Morikawa, designer and founder of Christian Dada

Special feature

Text: Andrea Sim

Photo: Vanessa Caitlin

Image: Adam Katz Sinding
Image: Surrender

Dadaism: The questioning of societal conventions with a sense of ire, curiosity and liberty — getting to know the man behind Christian Dada and the designs that uphold its namesake behemoth

To term it simply, designer Masanori Morikawa of Christian Dada is a rebel.

A rebel with a soft spot for romance and a keen eye for evocative embroidery — 
two key markers of his design aptitude that has commanded the attention of an international audience. Known for achingly sweet womenswear renditions inspired by his muses and in contrast, gritty menswear collections that nod to the outlaws of culture's past (bondage, bikers and skaters), what sets Morikawa apart from his Japanese peers is his fine balance of subtle subversion and ability to weave a story. Which, comes as no surprise as the designer found his footing under the tutelage of Charles Anastase who in a way, is cut from from the same cloth.

With sights set on the horizon far beyond Japan's luminous towers and snowy capped mountains, Christian Dada's first concept boutique in Singapore (and outside of Japan) will welcome shoppers by the end of April. Morikawa chats to Buro 24/7 Singapore about his womenswear SS16 collection, the romance that birthed a poetic summer vision, and how his menswear creations are an astute reflection of himself.   


Let's start from the very beginning. Why 'Christian Dada'?
I love the philosophy of Dadaism, but I didn't want to step on anybody's toes, so I came up my own original concept. Christian is for my grandfather who specialised in embroidery, which are my roots. There are also prominent designers with the name Christian, and what I represent is tearing apart that idea, and presenting it in my own way — albeit, with irony. Of course, I truly admire those designers.

Congratulations on your spring/summer 2016 womenswear show. Tell me about your inspirations.
I was inspired by a trip I took to Kanagawa where I saw beautiful hydrangeas and Chinese gardens. Also, the Landmark tower which has a merry-go-round played a part. The way I see it, this series of locations reads a lot like a date, and I took the hydrangea and interpreted it in lace. Of course, my muse's wardrobe was also key — I have someone in my heart and mind. She's a secret, though! The last collection (FW15), I was inspired by a British girl I met, but this time, my muse is a Japanese girl. She's always in long silhouettes, which you see a lot in my SS16 collection. It's tight and wide, and all very '50s. 

Backstage: Womenswear SS16

For spring/summer 2016, what are the key pieces that you'd like to highlight?
I definitely want to draw the focus to the beautiful embroidery as that is achieved by hand, courtesy of our team. Especially the souvenir jackets and the yokoburi embroidery, a traditional Japanese technique. Some of the looks are hand-stitched using that method, but not all are. You can actually feel the difference between the two as there is a lot more detail on the former. I also used a traditional dying method of hand painting, most often seen on kimonos. A fine, thin pencil is used to apply the dye, and starch is included to make sure that the colour doesn't bleed. It's very luxurious and an expensive technique, and it looks and feels like a painting. I basically mixed in Japanese techniques and even used some kimono fabrics.

You've previously worked under designer Charles Anastase. What is the most important lesson you've learnt from him?
I basically learnt everything from him — from patterning, to designing and drawing. I still love his collections and he takes fantasy and fairytales and incorporates it into his work. It's so dreamy. In my opinion, women's collections have to be more romantic  — down to the show music and everything.

Tell us about Christian Dada's foray into menswear.
Yes, we've have recently moved into menswear, and the Christian Dada man encapsulates my memories and my feelings. It's a projection of me, essentially. I like things skinny and black. Last season, I was inspired by bikers. My grandfather used to do embroidery for biker gangs — it's illegal, but he did it. As such, I focused on the hardcore aspect of culture. With that in mind, I looked to American skateboarder Jay Adams who was really a hardcore pioneer in the skating culture. He doesn't care about the money, it's more about the punk attitude, just like in Catherine Hardwicke's Lords of Dogtown. The menswear line represents my heroes and my personal style.

Menswear SS16

You've showed at Paris Fashion Week menswear during the spring/summer 2016 season. How different was that experience from Tokyo Fashion Week?
It is incredibly different. In Paris, it's so international and everyone goes there for the shows. At Tokyo Fashion Week, it's a lot more slow paced and I feel that we're showing really late as well. Paris and the other cities like London and Milan is in September, and we're only having ours in October. And in Paris you get interesting feedback about your designs — the press don't mince their words as much there. If they didn't like it, they'll let you know. However, the Japanese press is very polite, and I like that I actually know what people think of my collections in Paris. That said, I am based in Japan though. It's great for us to show in Paris even though we're so young, to have a wider audience as we're building an international brand, not just a Japanese brand. We're not just looking to cater to the Japanese customer. We've had support from international celebrities like G-Dragon, Lady Gaga and Chris Brown. It is very heartwarming and we're glad for the opportunity to get our name out there.

For the store opening in Singapore, what are you most looking forward to?
This is our first store outside of Tokyo and it's only the beginning. We have our sights set on China, Hong Kong and maybe even London and Paris. The Singapore boutique will be a concept store, and nothing like our boutique in Tokyo. Our space in Tokyo is simple and very straightforward. What you can look forward to in the Singapore store is that there will be more to experience than just the clothes. It's so exciting, but at the same time I'm nervous. It's a good combination though.

Behind-the-scenes imagery with a closer look at the womenswear spring/summer 2016 collection: 

Shop the spring/summer 2016 collection at the Christian Dada boutique by the end of April, located at 268 Orchard Road, #01-02.