Keiko Nishiyama’s view of the world, inspired by Shibusawa Tatsuhiko ‘s ” Cabinet of curiosity
Keiko Nishiyama (Designer)
Keiko Nishiyama is a designer living in London. I was given the opportunity to speak with her about her activities and future plans in London.
The interview took place at a cafe along Haggerston’s Regents Canal. Designer Keiko Nishiyama, who lives in London, arrived at 10:30 to meet me. Haggerston is located two stations north on the ground line from Shoreditch, a city in the northeastern part of London. The distance is about 10 minutes by car. Many creators have relocated to this area due to soaring rent in Shoreditch, as redevelopment advances in East London. Due to this situation, this area is also undergoing development. Not many Japanese are seen here since it is not a tourist area, but I felt a strong energy in the city.
Ms. Nishiyama had just moved her studio to Haggerston, and her office was still unorganized. Therefore, we decided to meet here at the café instead of her office. As I mentioned, development is also progressing in this area, creating strange contrasts between old warehouses and newly built condominiums.
Here is a view of the Regent’s Canal from the Kingston Road Bridge. On the left are warehouses that have not yet been redeveloped, in an area where artists and creators reside. The place where we met is a bit further down the river coast, to the right of this photo. This area has been redeveloped, as you can see in the new residential buildings standing proudly, side by side. I will write about Haggerston in another article. Now, let’s proceed to the interview!
－ So you studied abroad in London, after studying at a Japanese university? What were some differences between the Japanese university and that of London?
Nishiyama: At the London College of Fashion, we definitely learn a lot about fashion, but when it comes to research, we study content which leans towards conceptual art, which requires a lot of researching. I eventually began to feel the urge to make clothing which holds meaning, through appreciation towards historical and cultural backgrounds.
－ I see. So you really dug deep into these backgrounds.
Nishiyama: I designed clothing inspired by landscape gardens for my graduation production. I would say that is now the origin of my current work. Gardens in France are geometrically designed, but ones in Britain, often called English landscape gardens, are different. They make full use of perspective in order to portray natural beauty.
I myself use perspective methods in the prints I create. This may be unusual, since prints are generally considered planar, but I approach mine as if they are paintings. Even with something like tights, there is a sense of perspective, just like looking at a landscape painting from bottom to top. Another method I use is choosing different patterns for various parts by changing the fabric. It is very tedious work compared to using a single piece of fabric.
－ I am aware that you produce work every season. That must be a lot of work. Are the motifs derived from gardens or photos?
Nishiyama: There is something else at the very root of my inspiration. From the 16th century to the 18th century, British aristocrats imported flowers from around the world, then innovated them. There are documents about this in museums, and the actual flowers can also be seen in gardens. This to me was very interesting. Before, I did not put much thought into such things, but after studying in London, I began to hold interest and do research on it. It was just so fascinating to learn that they innovated the flowers to create originals.
The flowers in the prints I design are original plants that actually do not exist! I’ve combined various flowers, such as a “sunflower-like” flower and “tropical-style” flower. This one here is a mix of camellia and irises. I also have some that mixed peonies with sweet peas.
－ So they are neither Japanese nor Western , but your original style?
Nishiyama: I mix tropical countries with Japan, using a unique color scheme. So I guess they can be either tropical and oriental, or neither.It is like there are layers within the clothes, overlapping images of a garden. Since I must draw these from scratch, designing the print is much more work (laugh).
－ What is the concept of the brand?
Nishiyama: The concept is “Cabinet of curiosity”.
－ Is that Shibusawa Tatsuhiko?
Nishiyama: That’s right! It is Shibusawa Tatsuhiko! I feel that I have been strongly influenced by him!
－ Really? Mr. Shibusawa’s style seems quite different, but I do feel a resemblance in the decadent features. With that in mind, I am starting to see your work through a whole new perspective (lol).
Nishiyama: Don’t worry (lol). I am not mentally ill or anything (lol). It is just that my taste is in this direction. I am overwhelmed by surrealists like Kiki Smith or Francis Bacon.
－ If you like Shibusawa, wouldn’t you want to go to France instead of London? (Lol)
Nishiyama: I think British culture is a culture which cultivates, imports and stores. For example, it is hard to understand where the B & A museum derives from. I am also fascinated by the irony in this culture. I hope to include such elements in my work.As a brand, I hope to shift to textiles and aim for a brand that covers a wide area of lifestyle, such as clothing, food and housing.
－ Interesting. Are you also interested in interiors? How is your house that you currently live in?
Nishiyama: I am not in the state where I can focus on that. I try to keep my current house minimal so that I can move easily. On the contrary, my family’s home in Japan is filled with items that I adore. I do have a small “favorites” corner in my current house here, but it’s tiny (laugh).
－ My idea is that the culmination of a brand is a physical store. If you were to open a store, where would it be?
Nishiyama: London, and specifically, in this neighborhood. The lifestyle of this neighborhood is not in the suburbs nor in the city. It’s just right. Adding to that, there are many creators here, so it’s fun to see the lifestyles they are living.
－ What is your current customer base like?
Nishiyama: The products of my brand are not cheap. So naturally, it attracts those with a high conscience and passion.
－ Right. I can imagine it being costly to make originally printed fabric. What is the target age of the women you imagine wearing your clothes?
Nishiyama: I am not too conscious about that, but I would say women around 28 years old. I feel that this age may have been a turning point for me. Also, in general, people at this age begin to think about marriage, or maybe start to make plans based on work experiences within a company. I say all this although I am not married (laugh).
－ Do you plan to continue working in London?
Nishiyama: I’d like to stay here in London. It is my dream to live in London while developing business in Japan. I collaborated with a Japanese handkerchief brand, and the designs were released in February of 2016. They are also being sold at “KITTE” at the Tokyo station.
－ Ideally, how would you like your creations to be introduced to the world? I’m sure you will continue to present your work, but what do you think is the most important medium?
Nishiyama: As a designer, I think Instagram is the most important. It is indispensable. Various people are paying close attention to the brands and daily fashion that bloggers upload, so I feel the need to keep an eye out.
－ Are the opinions of bloggers important?
Nishiyama: Outside of Japan, that is a definite yes.
— Do fashion bloggers have a strong influence?
Nishiyama: Not only fashion, but lifestyle-style bloggers as well.
Nishiyama: It is a great tool for young designers who do not have funds. I hope to be introduced and connect with others.
－ Do bloggers contact you?
Nishiyama: My first encounter was with a blogger at an exhibition. Even though the blogger had a huge base of followers, she treated me very nicely.
－ Would you say celebrities play that role in Japan?
Nishiyama: Here, bloggers introduce “delicious restaurants” and “cool cafes”. Although they are more like stylists.
－ Japan is somewhat different from the world, compared to the global economic scale, presentation power, and scale of influence.
Nishiyama: First, Susie Lau came to my graduation collection and featured me. This had a lot of repercussions and its effects were amazing.
－ As an owner of a brand, you must produce items which sell. But as a creator, you want to follow your inspiration. This must be a great dilemma.
Nishiyama: As for my taste which does not fit into the market, I would like to stay an artist and not sell in. Though I cannot ignore the trend when considering business, I am no intention of bending my style solely for sales. Of course, I do understand that I can’t always choose what I truly wish to do.
－ It must be inevitable to separate passion from what is required or demanded. Nowadays, we don’t necessarily have to sell in a physical store. The Internet can be used to target customers globally.
Nishiyama: When presenting to the world, I want to make sure that the core of my work and values are visible. I would like to maintain the artistic part of me.
－ The opportunities created through the internet, enabling us to reach out to the world is truly innovative, making a huge difference between times when things were more local. I look forward to seeing your creations evolve and establish a unique place utilizing the internet.
Text: Koichiro Sato
Picture: Koichiro Sato
Translation: Yukie Haneda
Studio： SouthGate studio 2-4 Southgate road London N1 3JJ
46a De Beauvoir Cres, London N1 5RY
TEL: +44 20 7249 0765