Upon first appearance, one might find it a little hard to believe that Yoshiki Hishinuma is a designer of haute couture.  The veteran Japanese designer is casually dressed in a plaid shirt and white pants for our interview, and presents himself as rather mild and soft-spoken. This is a stark contrast to his bold , eye-catching and undeniably  innovative designs. Yet his creations speak for themselves. As I speak to him, I get a strong sense of his individuality and desire to play by his own rules. What also strikes me is his dedication and the deep sense of satisfaction that he gets from his craft.

Before becoming a designer, Yoshiki was a graduate of the prestigious Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. He then began his career as one of Issey Miyake’s assistants, though opposing views regarding textile development led to them parting ways. After which, he became a freelance designer and specialized in costume design, gaining acclaim for his kite-like clothes which relied on wind for its final form. In 1992, Yoshiki started his eponymous fashion label, and launched his haute couture collection just last year.

The designer made a strong and highly anticipated return this year at Fide Fashion week. We present to you some highlights from the collection, as well as some interesting insights into the designer’s inspirations, design process and his long-standing obsession with outer space.

The collection

All in all, Yoshiki’s collection made apparent the designer’s passion for nature and outer-space. Floor-length flowy gowns seemed to resemble trees and plants featuring an abundance of ruffles, folds and pleats. The garments were also paired with interesting headgear that gave the impression of women from another planet. The futuristic music and peculiar hand gestures of the models each time they struck a pose further added to the mystical, ethereal vibe.

What was also impressive was the seamless movement and flow of the garments on the models as they walked down the runway, making the clothes seem to take on a life of their own. This can be attributed to Yoshiki’s past experience as a costume designer for a dance company. The designer relates how designing costumes allowed him to learn the relationship between body and movement, something which he has always kept in mind when designing.

Despite not having cast his models prior to his arrival, the garments fit each model perfectly, accentuating their form and curves. This is undeniably a testament to Yoshiki’s dedication and attention to detail. Here are a few pieces that caught our eye.

We love the tie-dye effect of this gown, and this is one piece in particular which really exemplified how perfectly the dress flowed as the model glided down the catwalk, exuding a sense of beauty and grace.

The multiple layers, drapes and interesting flora-like patterns on this dress were an undeniable tribute to the designer’s love for nature.

A piece that instantly caught our eye as it provided a refreshing contrast to the long, floor length garments which were seen earlier, giving off a relaxed and tropical vibe. The wide array of colours proved to be visually pleasing to the eye rather than jarring as well.

The interview

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Rebecca:  How did you start out in Fashion?

Yoshiki: When I was a student I wanted to be a movie director actually. But somehow I ended up going to fashion school, and I became a fashion designer.

Rebecca: What was your experience like in fashion school?

Yoshiki: You know, I took 10 years to forget what I studied in fashion school. School was not necessary for me (laughs). I actually learned more when I started designing for myself. Of course education is important, but when you make clothes sometimes it doesn’t help you. So for me, I took a long time to forget what I learnt in school.

Rebecca:  What were some difficulties you faced when you first started designing?

Yoshiki : I couldn’t find many difficulties. It was quite a natural process for me. Maybe I can tell you some of my frustrations. I started haute couture one year ago. Previously I was designing pret-a-porter. Pret-a porter, it’s team work.  You have to work with many people. Sometimes you can make clothes just by telling people what to do and making easy drawings. The people then make the cutting and the clothes. But I’m really tired of group work. That’s why I studied haute couture. Now I make everything by myself. I do drawing, cutting printing, the entire process. This gives me a sense of accomplishment.

R: So you would prefer haute couture as opposed to pret-a porter?

Y: Exactly. There’s more freedom and creativity, When I was doing pret-a-porter for a fashion show, I made more than 100 pieces. But now there’s only about 15 pieces for one season. So you spend more energy and time on one piece. It’s really satisfying.

Rebecca: How would you describe your latest collection? You mentioned in our previous email correspondence to  “imagine that there is another planet and the queen of that planet came to earth with new Beauty”. Tell us a little bit more about this.

Yoshiki: Each season I imagine a certain type of girl, but they’re not real girls. Picturing an imaginary person when creating outfits gives me more energy.  Sometimes I see UFOS, so I believe somebody is living in another planet.

Rebecca: Oh you’ve actually seen a UFO? That’s really interesting!

Yoshiki: I’ve seen it 2 times. Once near Mount Fuji, I saw more than 50 UFOs. It was really beautiful. The second time was in Tokyo, in the middle of the city. A friend of mine is living in Shinjuku, and from his house, he can watch UFOS every day. When I went to his home, he told me to have a look, and you could see four or five UFOs. Then, I really started to think about another planet, and the idea that there may be a human being from another planet. It’s really fun to imagine what kind of women would exist on that planet, and that’s what I picture when designing. So the person I have in mind would be someone from this other planet.

Rebecca: You also cited nature as a source of inspiration for your collection. You also previously had kite-like clothes which used wind for its form.  What elements of nature have inspired you?

Yoshiki: I’m crazy about travelling, especially Africa. I’m not really sure why, but I get strong inspiration from trees and flowers. Have you heard of baobab, it’s a special tree in Africa. It’s really beautiful, and I even have a small one at my home. That tree gives me a lot of inspiration.

Rebecca: I see. What other places have inspired you?

Yoshiki: Machu Picchu is beautiful, and so is India. I’ve been to India more than 30 times, to almost every part. Just the smells, the colours really fascinate me. I also really love Paris, where I showed my first haute couture. I like it because Paris is really special; it’s like a city of dreams. And fashion needs dreams to thrive. I like Paris because it’s not realistic, it’s really old and there’s so much imagination in the air. I would really love to show my collection in Russia though.

Rebecca: You’ve also compared this collection to your previous one, saying “The Spirit is the same, but I spend more time creating shapes”. Could you elaborate more on this?

Yoshiki: I do drawing , cutting, printing, and embroidering for each piece, everything is interconnected and the piece is done solely by me. I cannot explain what this spirit is, it’s intangible. But I hope when you look at it it gives you a kind of feeling, like feeling rain on your skin. A very natural,  but at the same time indescribable sensation.

Rebecca: What kind of woman do you have in mind when you’re designing, in terms of personality?

Yoshiki: I like crazy women. (laughs) It’s very important that she be creative.

Rebecca: Any favourite designers of yours?

Yoshiki: I’m not so much interested in other designers. I get inspiration from architects, movie directors, but I don’t really look at people who are in the same industry. I don’t really compare myself to others, for me it’s all about individual style.

Rebecca: You talked about collaborating with architect Peter Zumthor?  What do you like about his work?

Yoshiki: He’s really deep. His architecture is a little minimal, but it’s really beautiful. I’m always interested in working with architects, it’s so important for me. The structures, the scales, they give me a lot of inspiration.

Rebecca: You’re also well known for your innovative use of technology and creating synthetic fibres. Could you explain more about this process?

Yoshiki: You know, designers usually buy their material. But for me, it’s really important to make the material. Making original material takes a long time, but it’s really important when I make clothes. I work with many factories, giving them an idea of how I want it done. And it takes sometimes 1 ,2 or 3 years, and I start just by making a yarn. But yes, previously I was more interested in synthetic materials, but now with haute couture, I’m more interested in organic materials like silk and cotton.

Rebecca: What’s your design process like?

Yoshiki: Well first I make drawings, and cut and print at the same time. Each process is done simultaneously; it really gives me energy this way.

Rebecca: Could you pick a favourite piece from the collection?

Yoshiki: Ooh, I cannot say. It’s too difficult. I spend so much time on each piece, and every day I like something different. You can choose. (laughs)

Rebecca: What are your future plans after this collection?

Yoshiki: I may want to do an installation, like an exhibition. I did one in the Netherlands in the past. I’d love to do another one, maybe even in Singapore.

All images are credited to “Fide Fashion Weeks