Things aren’t always what they seem in the world of Doublet. That sounds ominous, but if you were to experience Doublet’s recent installation at Dover Street Market Singapore, you would call it a fair assessment. Instead of racks of clothing, you see two changing booths with flickering lights and mannequins contorted in strange positions and wearing clown masks. There are mirrors with signs telling you not to use flash photography printed on them. It leans closer to a haunted house at a theme party than a fashion installation.
This might seem puzzling to the rest of us that a brand at the height of its prowess would take such a dark turn, but to Masayuki Ino of Doublet, it makes perfect sense. Like we said earlier, things aren’t always what they seem in the world of Doublet. But instead of attempting to decipher the idea behind it, we speak to Ino on the inspiration behind the collection, what scares him and the idea of not getting what you want.
MASAYUKI INO: It is question time!
ESQ: (laughs) Could you tell us more about the inspiration behind the theme of Doublet’s autumn/winter 2019 collection, of horror and surprise?
MASAYUKI INO: I experienced many surprises over the past year, but there are two major surprising moments that inspired me to create this theme. First was winning the LVMH prize. It was surprising and unexpected. The second one was when my friends threw me a surprise birthday party.
These surprises were shocking, but also made me feel very happy and loved and I wanted to share that feeling with our customers. That’s why I settled on that theme for the collection. Initially, I wanted to interpret the theme in the form of a flash mob, but it was quite difficult to express it in the form of garments. I thought that the idea of horror can be something that is quite a fun experience and also an easier theme to express to customers. I also wanted to create a theme that runs counter to the spring/ summer 2019 collection; for them to have a common thread yet opposing forces.
ESQ: Is that how you see your collections; for them to be connected as you move from season to season? Do you see the next collection being one that counters this autumn/winter 2019 collection?
MASAYUKI INO: It just so happens that the current and previous collections have a connection, but usually it doesn’t have to be like that. But we can say that the idea of ‘experience’ is something that continues in Doublet. Take for example the T-shirt that was compressed into a cup noodle packaging and the shirt in the form of a hanger in the spring/summer 2019 collection. The idea of experience is also translated into autumn/winter 2019 where you can take photos of the installation and get the feeling of being surprised.
ESQ: There are many ways that you interpreted the theme of horror in your collection, such as the use of glow-in-the-dark threads that form a skeleton and a rainbow film that reveals a photo only when a flash is applied. Can you tell us more about how the idea of horror was incorporated in the collection?
MASAYUKI INO: Take for example the skeleton that you mentioned. It was inspired by a keychain from my childhood. There are so many different ways that it was expressed in the collection, but a lot of it comes from my own experiences, my childhood as well as horror movies which I was very into during my student days.
ESQ: Do you have a favourite horror movie?
MASAYUKI INO: The Shining and The Exorcist are two of my favourites. I remember the scene in The Exorcist where the girl’s head turned around, it was so scary that I couldn’t continue watching it. (laughs) But the scariest film is still The Shining because the characters seem perfectly normal in the beginning, but they get scarier throughout the course of the film. I like the mix of nightmare and reality.
ESQ: Did any of these films help inspire your installation?
MASAYUKI INO: Definitely The Shining and also the movie It, the classic version. The clown was so terrifying, it changed my notion of what a clown represents; from a character that brings joy to something horrifying.
ESQ: Let’s talk more about the offerings from the collection. What inspired this idea of the shirt where there are prints of ants only on the inside, but is not reflected on the outside. Is it a reflection of the phobia of ants?
MASAYUKI INO: When I created this shirt, I imagined this scenario where I am making coffee and while I roll up my sleeves and enjoying this beverage, a person beside me would be surprised to see ants crawling on my shirt. (laughs) The idea is to create conversations between people; maybe they might become friends and go shopping together.
ESQ: That’s a very nice idea.
MASAYUKI INO: It is very important to create products that kick-start conversations with other people. So each product has a uniqueness that people can talk about and encourages them to have more conversations with one another.
ESQ: Do you think that this travelling presentation is a better way of communicating your ideas, over a traditional runway show?
MASAYUKI INO: It depends on the collection that I have created and the materials used in them. For example, the best way of presenting the autumn/winter 2019 collection would be this installation. Because if it was presented as a runway show, people would miss all the different elements hidden in them. That said it depends on the collection. But it is important for me to do these installations because, regardless of whether the customers buy Doublet or not, they can understand what Doublet is about.
ESQ: One of the elements I really enjoy is the whole experience part of Doublet. Take for example this gashapon machine which dispenses T-shirts that are part of the collection. You purchase a coin which gives you a chance to win one of the five T-shirt designs. It is more about the experience rather just a good-looking garment you see on the rack.
MASAYUKI INO: In this day and age, anyone can buy clothing over the Internet with a few clicks, but with a gashapon, what is interesting is that you can buy the opportunity to purchase, but you cannot choose the clothing that you want. You are the customer, but you cannot choose. (laughs) You might get the same design twice in a row. So this is what I am after, the experience of the gashapon.
But of course the silhouette and quality of the material used in the T-shirts are just as important. It is not just about having a fun experience, you must get a great product. Like we use stiffer cotton for this T-shirt so that it can hold the silhouette better over other types of cotton. So the basis of a good T-shirt is also just as important.
ESQ: Are you worried about the frustration that might come with not being able to get a T-shirt from this series that you really want? Or is the idea to reach out to four friends, who each have their favourite design and try to beat it? To foster a sense of community about Doublet customers?
MASAYUKI INO: Or you might get five Landlord designs in a row! That would be a good surprise. (laughs)
ESQ: Have you ever had an encounter with the supernatural?
MASAYUKI INO: No. I would be very scared. (laughs) Which is why it is important to inject an element of humour into the collection as well, if not it would be very horrifying. I don’t want children to cry when they see the installation. But when I was younger I was quite afraid of the story of Kinjiro Ninomiya. It is a statue that is a symbol of studying in Japan, they have it in every elementary school. My friends would tell me that the statue comes alive at night and it is still my favourite ghost story because I see this statue every day when I go to school, and the idea that it is rooted in reality makes it very scary.
ESQ: Lastly, any phobias?
MASAYUKI INO: I am claustrophobic; tiny spaces scare me because I love the idea of freedom. I want to be free.
Doublet's autumn/winter 2019 collection is avaiable at Dover Street Market Singapore
Portrait of Masayuki Ino shot on Iphone XS