I'm a soft touch. Present me with a tinsel-edged cardboard sign, which reads "Welcome Susie" and I'm putty in any designer's hands. Even better when the designer in question has absolutely zero arse-licking agenda and just wanted to welcome a guest to his work abode. On my last trip to Tokyo back in October, I went round doing a series of designer visits with content intended to coincide with a fun little collab entitled "Oh, Bubble!" I did with Phil Oh of Street Peeper for Urban Outfitters. The content is a bit belated for several reasons but hopefully not too many of you have gotten a glimpse of self-taught designer Yuuma Yamamoku's world for his label Nusumigui. It was the first time I had ventured to the Eastside of Tokyo, where there's a growing creative hub of designers and artists, away from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya or Harajuku.
After I got over the "Awwww…shucks!" moment of being so warmly welcomed by Yuuma and his Where The Wild Things Are-esque creature at the entrance to his entrancing little cubby hole studio, I set about on a photo rampage, trying to document every single detail, born out of genuine whimsicality, as opposed to contrived prop styling. Yuuma makes the weird and wonderful thoughts in his head come to life by physically adorning his studio with anything from a furry mouse clinging on to a tap to a giant fabric chicken drumstick hanging off the ceiling. He creates his surroundings not as a purposeful set to market his clothes but as an liberating working environment. A lot of it doesn't make sense. Or it does if you're the type of person that thinks of cheese as a giant lump of yellow with holes in it. And then imagines a mouse nibbling away at it with belly-rubbing gusto. And then that mouse might have a conversation with a teddy bear. And so on and so forth.
Since Yuuma started designing two years ago, after feeling dissatisfied with fashion school, his label Nusumigui has grown to be much loved amongst the Harajuku fashion crowd. Refer to Tokyo Telephone for the ins and outs about the culture of the DIY boho aesthetic strain in Harajuku's fashion scene. It's difficult to explain without showing concrete examples, which is why I've included some pics from Nusumigui's own blog. Yuuma doesn't design seasonal collections but rather he creates stories every now and again that suits his ramshackle way of selling his clothes to a crowd that have a love of pastel cable knits, cobbled together textiles and a patchwork upcycled aesthetic that is ultra specific to a certain strand of Japanese fashion.
That's not to say Nusumigui's clothes don't translate anywhere else. Whilst sifting through his sketches, hearing how he narrates his stories which accompany his collection (the one I saw was about a mouse escaping the clutches of a giant), they are textures that you pick up on that match up with his tale. One look at the images for his latest collection about resuing a "broken sea" and it makes sense that sturdy plaid-clad evil pirates should be fighting sea princesses/mermaids in creamy knits and diaphanous blue. For the cynics who ask "But what is the point of all this…?", aside from the fact that Nusumigui does have a real band of followers, isn't it a joyous thing itself that such a label can exist in its own domain? Yuuma did gently enquire as to what would fashion people in London think of his work. If this fair city is in fact land of tolerating the weird and the wonderful, then my guess is that people would embrace it. Just don't let the po-faced fashion police near it.