An interview focusing on the creator's philosophy, planning and thoughts behind the creation.
The special feature this time is about DEVOA, which is a brand we have been handling since the brand's inception.
The designer has a unique background and way of thinking when it comes to his creations. Up till now, this has not been revealed before; Mr. Nishida’s ideas, creativity and works based on his theory will be put out to the world.
This designer interview will be released as a series of seven chapters.
The first installment of this article is about the process leading to the brand launch and the source of DEVOA's philosophy that has been cultivated from his own experiences and lessons.
Raised in Nagasaki Prefecture.
After working as a sports instructor, he founded the brand in 2005.
Patterns and high-quality manufacturing is based on his own experiences and knowledge, attracting the support of core fashion lovers from both Japan and overseas.
--- First and foremost, please tell us about your past career.
Up until now, I used to wrestle and I also worked as a sports instructor,
After that, I worked retailing apparel for several years but I never would have imagined that I would be the maker of apparel products, until today, I still think and feel like its a mystery how I got here.
Various encounters, turning points and happenings overlap to where I am now.
I was a sports instructor for about 5 to 6 years.
About three years later, I also helped with fashion product retailers in Aichi Prefecture.
The experience working in the clothes shop has been put to good use and the first opportunity was when I met a certain pattern maker.
At that time, he was working either on a different brand or project or was hired by a company.
When I met and talked to this patternner, I still remember the topics we talked about, from taking about Martin Margiela, thought process of various clothes, art, the photographer Duchamp and also manufacturing, etc., all in all, we talked a lot and this memory is still fresh in my mind.
However, at that time, I did not think about creating items with him.
---What was your motivation for choosing the path of manufacturing?
In my late '20s, I thought that it was about time to change jobs, considering family and the future.
At that time, I didn’t know what fate would bring me but I knew that it was a turning point in my life.
I had various encounters, my own ideas and when I was in the cooling period from leaving my previous job, I started playing around with making small items while thinking about the future.
At first, I didn’t feel the urge to launch my own brand but I had the opportunity to study from people who were in the industry of manufacturing.
At that time, I met with the patternner every day and while we were making various things together, I recognized that I liked making things after all, and that was when I started to build the philosophy little by little.
---So it was from there that you decided to go onto this path?
After that, I refused reemployment from another company.
I think that it was a big decision and chance that I was able to start selling (products I made) at restaurants and cafes etc., While I was trying various means and ways to manufacture my products, I was helped by the different people I encountered on the way.
Then for about two years, while selling my products personally in restaurants and cafes, I looked back on my life, thinking about, as a designer, what my convictions were and I thought about the construction of a philosophy where the directionality does not change.
Above all, I thought that the most important thing was to be able to continue for five, ten, or even twenty years down the road with the same way of thinking underlying the design and the same philosophy. I felt that need and spent a lot of time working on my philosophy.
In order to work out that unchanged philosophy, Ie xperimented in Nagoya for two years.
--- You mentioned “experimenting”, can you further elaborate on that?
I don't know if the word “experiment” is appropriate, but the part I wanted to know was whether the products I created myself simply looks attractive to the customers and if they were valuable products that can be paid for.
In fact, with the approval of the stores, I was allowed to directly sell the items to the customers of the restaurants and cafes.
If you think about it now, it kind of makes me laugh as I was able to do that.
Of course, I had descriptions on the products I sold and when customers tried on items, I would ask them various questions like what they liked about the products and more.
Customers who purchased them fell in a wide range of ages and occupations.
How and what kind of people were interested in the proceeds, how much they understood about the items to lead them to pay that amount, there were many parts I wanted to reaffirm the fundamentals of selling.
During the two years, I learned various skills such as sewing processing and fabric production and had an opportunity to go to Tokyo.
---After two years of experimentation, did you build up your own philosophy and ideas of creation?
The root of DEVOA's philosophy was the most intensive and time-consuming project of my life.
I think that creating patterns that are so-called three-dimensional creations, with the importance that it is not only three-dimensional but also created with emphasis on sports medical ideas and body balance.
I think that at the beginning of my creations, I was able to look back at myself and sublimate as a brand with my own life experiences.
I always think about what makes me different from other designers in creating clothes and how it is important to create clothes.
Other than that, the person who influenced me the most in the way of thinking and philosophy is the anatomist Andreas Vesalius (※).
Although the prints he left behind are actual dissected human bodies, the muscle structure is mostly designed by Vesalius, and there are many design elements in the appearance and creation of the human body in the prints.
Moreover, I think it's interesting that it's not clear why it was designed.
When I moved to the present atelier six years ago, the prints of Andreas Vesalius was sold in the rose flea market in Paris, it was by mere coincidence that they were being sold and although it is only 8 pieces, those 8 pieces are now in my possession.
I thought about Andreas Vesalius and about when I got the prints 7-8 years ago, it was a strange experience to have a showroom in Paris as that was where I got the prints that influences the brand, I felt as if I had found a treasure as a child.
※ Andreas Vesalius
An anatomist and doctor from Brussels.
Author of the most influential book in human anatomy, "De humani corporis fabrica" (structure of the human body). It is said to be the founder of modern human anatomy.
---In addition to building a philosophy and way of thinking as a brand, you also learned about making clothes at the same time?
I have never studied at a fashion school before.
The fabric shop, the pattern shop and the people of the sewing factory were all my teachers on teaching me how the clothes were made.
As for the fabric, I did not know how to buy from the secondary wholesale, so I checked on the town yellow pages and booked an appointment directly to the machine shop.
Even if I wanted to make an original fabric, there was a lot of production and the quantity I wanted to make was not feasible as the quantity was one that I could not finish using.
With regard to sewing, cutting, finishing, how to use the interlining, how to use the pattern amount, etc., I helped out an old tailoring shop and was taught the minimum rules for constructing clothes.
However, for shoes, there were many parts that could not be learnt without proper teaching as there are many rules and details of shoe production. I then learnt for about a year under the direct guidance from an Asakusa craftsman.
---During the first collection, I heard that you were stuck on which store to choose from.
After coming to Tokyo, I was also producing my own brand while supporting sales agent work.
While going to sales to select shops across the country and experiencing being a Tokyo collection assistance, I was sending out direct messages to shops, gradually taking appointments and doing sales activities as an agent. However, for me, I could only think of this act as being very cheaply advertised.
Of course, it was the policy of the sales agent company so, at that time, I just worked as directed.
However, I always thought that if I would like to operate my own brand, it would be necessary to build a close teamwork relationship between the brand and the customer as much as possible.
I think it is more important to create a team that can help each other on an equal footing, including the character of the brand so that they can build deep relationships rather than just getting many customers.
When I first held the exhibition in Ebisu, I was travelling around the country with a sales agent, I wrote 13 direct messages to the stores I wanted to work with, asking the owners for appointments.
As a result, 11 of the 13 became business partners until today.
---SInce then, you have been focusing on building this kind of relationships right?
At that time it was the fastest and most logical way for me, after thinking hard enough, I think that it was the appropriate judgment and action when considering my own character and brand personality.
In the beginning, these acquaintances bought and supported me, but more than anything, the goal was to continue this brand and I also wanted a deep connection with our buyers.
-One year after the first showroom, it was announced that you were to have a showroom in Paris as well right?
When we first presented in Paris during the 2009-10AW season, we were exhibiting with individual sentiments.
By the way, the debut of individual sentiments by Ms. Yoko and my debut time was exactly the same from the start in Ebisu. I had been working for two years before the brand was launched, but it was only from the 2008-09 AW season that I had officially started as a brand and held showrooms.
She had experiences with an Italian brand and had many initial skills, in contrast to me so I never would have imagined having a showroom in Paris together with her a year later.
---What were the responses you got when you announced that?
Until the first two seasons, I had buyers come to view my collection and also ordered from me, but after returning to Japan, there were a lot of cancellations and for a while, I had a distrust for them and was desperately clinging on in confusion.
At first, there were no responses at all and I was desperately thinking of ways to continue showing my collection in Paris.
At that time, we were exhibiting with individual sentiments in the same space.
Individual sentiments were experienced with foreign brands and had a high level of attention, they were surrounded by a large number of buyers and I still remember trying to escape the jealousy and embarrassment I felt that time.
Until the second year since I started the showroom Paris, I was not visible by buyers at all.
It was from the 3rd season, we received about 10 orders and I felt the showroom in Paris picking up its pace.
I was able to exhibit along with individual sentiments for 4 seasons, but each time, I could not exceed her orders even once during those 4 seasons.
Even now, we would still talk with each other about work or about our private lives over the phone, exchanging information about our current situation.
It may only be my thoughts but Ms. Yoko is a good competitor and an important person to me.
---It sounds like you had many hardships and setbacks that you overcame to result in your current state.
There are always setbacks.
For example, when you cannot find the kind of fabric you had in mind, or if you have confidence in the product but can’t get an order for it, or in the case of overseas clients, orders were made but with no payment, there were around 5 cases like these in the past 10 years.
Frustration and failure are all part of the job.
I always respond to it and tell myself that I have to desperately move forward no matter what.
What I particularly think about when selling overseas is that there is really no certainty for businesses, but determination is very important.
In the future, I think that the decrease rate of shops will overtake the number of new shops opening, when that happens, it will be more important for the brands and shops to unite as a team and to face the same direction.
In order to continue manufacturing, I am constantly challenging production with a sense of urgency.
---You mentioned that you grew up in an environment where you had opportunities to touch on manufacturing from an early age, could you elaborate on that?
My parents are from Nagasaki Prefecture, Sasebo City, and my grandfather ran a tailor there.
This was before I was born.
I grew up surrounded by such an environment but I had no chance to learn about clothes from my grandfather or grandmother.
As a teacher of Sogetsu style flower arrangement and fresh flowers, my mother renovated the work factory into a fresh flower, tea ceremony and kimono dressing class and did not take over the family business.
When I was a child, I played around with the sewing machines, vases and pottery. I actually experienced the Sogetsu style flower arrangement and tea ceremony as well, the fact that I was in such an environment may have had a large impact on my life than I expected.
Even though I did not aim to be a teacher in the field of flower arrangement and had been doing sports since junior high school, I didn’t think that any of those experiences would have any influence on me, but now, since entering this industry, I noticed that I might have been influenced more than I thought.
When I got to do an exhibition in Tokyo, that was about 5 years after starting my business, my mother gave me 2 of my grand father’s scissors as well as a brand tag that my grandfather attached to the tailor. I still remember the feeling when I received that, it was like getting a job after graduating with a diploma.
---Did your grandfather actually use those scissors that you received?
The ones I received were about 60 years ago and I use them both.
They were the latest ones my grandfather used to use and after re-grinding them, I still use them until today.
I cherish them but it is a strange feeling that I'm using tools beyond my generation.
---Were there any changes in your mental status when you received them from your mother?
It was a strange feeling.
I had never thought about it because I was desperately producing products, but I felt like it was somewhat like destiny.
In fact, when I started the brand, I decided that I would quit if I was not able to make a business out of it by 35 years old.
The reason why I chose that age was that when I was studying psychology, I was studying the number of fates with a certain book, at that time, I happened to chance upon something a person with multiple personalities wrote, “A table that describes how many years a person was born in the life, and at what age what happens". Looking at the year I was born, there was a mark at the age of 35 and intuitively, I decided to make my work a success by the age of 35.
Before going on this path, I thought of not eating and becoming a Judo practitioner, or become a chiropractic teacher, there was a part of me thinking that I should get a stable’s salary by working as a knitter at a sock shop that my family introduced me and getting a stable salary first.
Sometimes I tell myself that I shouldn’t continue if I can't expect a certain level of performance.
When I received the scissors at the age of 33, the environment and experience I had lived up till now came in like a running light and it was a great experience that made me think deeper.
Until then, I had never thought about my past and have lived without much opportunity to tell people as well.
I think every designer has the task of delving into his past and experience in creating his own brand, it is one of the experiences that made me think of various instances this time.
There was no particular change in my mind regarding my grandfather and my mother but I think with that interaction, my resolution has become stronger.
Next : Meaning and reason to creating art pieces
- [First Chapter]
The source of thought, philosophy and manufacturing
- [Second Chapter]
Meaning and reason to creating art pieces
- [Third Chapter]
Pattern work based on experience and theory
- [Fourth Chapter]
Commitment to sewing and the relationship with the factory
- [Fifth Chapter]
Difference between Japanese and Italian fabrics
- [Sixth Chapter]
The feature of Faliero Sarti
- [Seventh Chapter]
About 19-20AW Collection