Hirofumi Kiyonaga, creative director of Japanese brand SOPHNET, has successfully designed the mens line for the last 14 years, based on the simple idea of creating sophisticated clothes for every day use. What began as a small line called SOPH has now grown to become SOPHNET with two sub-brands, F.C.R.B. (Football Club Real Bristol) and Uniform Experiment (UE), and undertaken multiple collaborations with the likes of Nike and fellow Japanese brand, Visvim. Today, SOPHNET has earned worldwide respect in the fashion arena for its innovative, function-oriented clothes for urban citizens unaffected by trends.
Spring Summer 2012 will see Union Los Angeles bring SOPHNET and Uniform Experiment into the United States. To celebrate the launch of these two collections, which include pants, knits, shirts, and accessories, Union shared a moment with Kiyonaga to talk about what inspires him.
UNION: Can you please describe in a few words what SOPHNET is about today? How has it evolved from where it was when you first started the brand in 1998?
KIYONAGA: When I began the brand in the early days, I looked at adopting the traditions, functions and beauty of Japanese clothing but that has changed over time as the brand and I have grown. These days I look more at how my designs can be more authentic in representing and expressing daily life. I design the collections based on what I see in my customers’ personalities so that I can get an understanding of what it is they would like to wear. I believe that I am also a customer of the brand so it doesn’t necessarily feel like I’m designing that much. I’d like to continue working in this way in the future.
U: We read that Sori Yanagi was an inspiration to your brand when you first started. It’s a pity he passed away at the end of 2011. Is there anything you would like to say about him and how he’s influenced your work?
K: Yanagi based his designs on the idea that products should blend into one’s daily life. I was very much influenced by him in this way. It is something that I have always adopted in my designs. I would like to say “thank you so much” to him for his influence and may he rest in peace.
U: Was there anything in particular that became the driving force for this season’s collection?
K: Never change, just keep on doing. I try and do that with courage.
U: Are there any plans to work with artists in the future for the brand in the same way you did with Julian Opie?
K: No plans for now but maybe in the future…
U: What is your favorite thing in the world right now?
K: Soccer has always been my favorite thing in both my personal and work life. I’m also very interested in urban art.
(Images: top 3 = SOPHNET, bottom 3 = Uniform Experiment)