In the noisy world of fashion competitions, the showiest designers often get the most attention, so Kenta Matsushige’s Jury Prize at this year’s International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères was a pleasant surprise. The 26-year-old’s prize-winning collection stood out for its restraint: no bells, no whistles. “It gave me a great opportunity and confidence,” says Matsushige of his achievement, which is his second major prize after winning the Kobe Fashion Contest as a student
at ESMOD Osaka.
Matsushige looks for inspiration in art and architecture. Important influences on his work include American land artist Walter De Maria and Korean painter-sculptor Lee Ufan, with whom Matsushige shares an aesthetic minimalism, a sympathetic engagement with nature and the earth, and a commitment to conceptualism. “My collection aims to be urban and modern while respecting hinabi [pastoral beauty], which is in opposition to miyabi [urban beauty],” the quietly confident designer explains. It was made from white cotton and natural-toned wool worked into crisp, structured pieces: a cropped sleeve coat, cut away from the body, was beautifully constructed, as were wool culottes that wrapped around the leg to fasten neatly at the hip with covered buttons. When describing his work, Matsushige speaks with a lack of hyperbole that reflects his admiration for restrained labels such as Jil Sander and Céline, and his meticulous attention to detail: “I build and deconstruct until I obtain a result which satisfies me.” His pared-back designs fit into a quiet revolution in fashion today that values good construction, favours the discreet over the conspicuous and remains unseduced by frills. For now, the designer plans to establish his label and hopes to show in Paris. But it’s not all head – there’s heart in his approach, too. “For me, business doesn’t mean how much money we can make,” he says. “It means how much happiness we can give someone. Many designers gave me happiness; I would like to do the same with my clothes.”
All clothes by Kenta Matsushige
Art direction Mate Moro, Aron Filkey
Creative direction Nora Gyenge
Styling assistant Harry Doncaster