Illustration: Alvaro Javier Cecchetti

Streetwear Impact Report - HF

Hiroshi Fujiwara on Streetwear’s Origin

This interview is part of the Streetwear Impact Report. The report includes data analyzed through two key research methods: a consumer-facing survey and an industry-facing survey. Full description of the methodology behind the report can be found in the Introduction.

Hiroshi Fujiwara is a Japanese musician and founder of multidisciplinary imprint fragment design. Read our other Streetwear Impact Report lead interviews with Daniel Arsham , Alexandre Arnault and Josh Luber .

What is streetwear for you? How would you define streetwear?

Hiroshi Fujiwara: The first thing that caught my attention in streetwear was the skate label Vision — clothes for skaters. The street fashion I envision comes from skateboarding. Skateboarding was a sport you did on the street, so I think that’s where it comes from, originally.

The street was the arena for skateboarding, so that’s probably why the word “street” was used often. Of course other brands such as Stüssy (surfwear brand) were also around back then, but as for streetwear, it started with Vision. I feel like other brands weren’t referred to in the same way.

It’s possible all skateboard wear was called streetwear, and that’s because a category for street skating was created within skateboarding itself. If you surfed, then you wore surf wear, but I believe the word skate wear wasn’t used so often and instead it was streetwear.

How has the definition of streetwear changed?

If you’re talking about the origins, then I think what we call street fashion now has naturally flowed on from skateboarding; but the current reality is different. It feels like a sneaker culture now; sneakers and hip-hop culture have become the street culture.

How were you involved with street fashion in the 80’s? What was your role in bringing streetwear to Japan?

I wasn’t intending to bring street fashion to Japan, I was simply just introducing the things I liked. That includes items from Tiffany, documentary films from Japan, and various other things. It just so happened one of those things was skateboarding – that’s all it was.

What is your view on streetwear’s role in the luxury fashion industry?

In terms of streetwear and luxury fashion, I think it’s a case of being used by and using each other. I don’t think luxury fashion and streetwear will ever be one and the same in a real sense, and they shouldn’t either. I feel it’s better if the big names become bored with what they call street fashion and move on to the next trend, or it’s picked up by somewhere else.

Do you think luxury fashion brands can authentically be part of the streetwear movement? Or is what they’re doing something different?

I don’t think they (luxury fashion and street fashion) are actually fused together that much either. What everyone seems to think is streetwear that is uniquely street fashion – such as myself maybe or perhaps Virgil (Abloh) or Kim (Jones) – those three are definitely not street fashion.

To put it more clearly, I’d look at something like Gucci. It may look like a fusion between luxury fashion and street fashion, but what the average person thinks is street fashion is not what I consider to be street fashion.

You collaborated with multiple fashion players, amongst others with Nike, Converse, Levi's etc. Which criteria are relevant for you to engage in a collaboration? Is there a specific company still on your bucket list?

There is none in particular, it just depends on the timing and people then. Maybe someone has an interesting personality, or there is something appealing about them; I’d say one criterion is to be doing something that’s exciting and fascinating.

What was the thinking behind retail concepts like The Conveni, a retail store that mirrors a convenience shop?

There’s no thinking behind it. It was just me wanting to do something at that place. I had the place and the timing was right, and I thought of doing something like a convenience store there. It’s just me doing what comes to mind then, so there isn’t really any thinking behind it. It’s my idea at the time.

Is there any particular interesting geographic market, demographic segment and or clothing segment that you find especially attractive and why?

My focus is constantly on Eastern Europe. The (three) Baltic countries and around those areas are really amazing; they still have what the rest of Europe has lost. I think the fashion there is also original and interesting. But it’s the same everywhere, right? Whatever comes on the market changes not because of the country, but only because of the people there.

What is it that you think Europe has lost?

Its color. Apart from certain areas, London isn’t really London anymore. I feel that Eastern Europe still has good parts left in it, but maybe that isn’t related to fashion. I prefer it if fashion isn’t an “-ish” - something that reminds you of a certain place or thing.

What is your vision for next 5 years and how much is streetwear a part of it?

I’ve never had a vision; and I’ve never thought about the future either. So forgot about the next five years – I don’t even have a vision for next year. I’ll still be in Japan five years from now – I probably won’t be living overseas. So I don’t have a vision; it’s about timing, right?

This interview has been translated from Japanese to English and cut and condensed for clarity.