Winning the LVMH prize is no mean feat, but for Masayuki Ino of Doublet, winning this year's edition must taste even sweeter, especially when you consider the strong field of finalists, with names like Samuel Ross of A-COLD-WALL*, Charles Jeffery of Charles Jeffery Loverboy and Matthew Adams Dolan.
What separates Doublet from the pack is that it melds innovative ideas, subverting the idea of gender roles in clothing, all while pushing the boundaries of fabric innovation, and a healthy dose of Ino-san joyful personality.
Take for example the installation that Doublet did for Dover Street Market Singapore first anniversary – Ino-san transformed a metal container into a winter wonderland, complete with snow, sledge and you guessed it, a snowman. When asked about the decision, Ino-San thought it only appropriate to build the winter wonderland, to express the dichotomy of selling fall/winter clothing in Singapore which experiences summer all year long.
We sat down with the designer, to talk about his first foray into fashion, what he feels about winning the LVMH prize and how he would like to be remembered.
ESQ: How did you get into fashion?
MASAYUKI INO: One of the reasons was that I was into vintage clothes when I was a high school student.
ESQ: What is it about vintage clothes that you attracted you to the industry?
MASAYUKI INO: It was a big boom at that time in Japan and people bought vintage clothes, like Levi's.
ESQ: Are there any vintage pieces that you still keep?
MASAYUKI INO: No [laughs].
ESQ: [Laughs] You sold everything?
MASAYUKI INO: After that, I got more into designer pieces. I switch up my wardrobe quite a lot, so a lot of the vintage pieces didn't stay in it for long. I explored many different types of styles, from skater to punk.
ESQ: Is that what Doublet is all about? A mix of everything from the past?
MASAYUKI INO: It is a little different now. Because Doublet also means word puzzles. It’s like changing from one thing to another thing. So Doublet is kind of like this, everyday wear where I apply different techniques, and in a way that daily piece becomes something totally new, which is a feeling that I enjoy out of clothes.
ESQ: So what made you want to start Doublet?
MASAYUKI INO: I have always been seeking out the opportunity to start my own brand, since ages ago. When I was working at a Japanese brand, I was looking for the chance to be an independent designer. So that's what inspired me to start my own brand.
ESQ: Is it difficult to be an independent designer?
MASAYUKI INO: It is very, very difficult. Till this day, I don't have my own standalone store. When I started my business, I had to visit retailers, multi-brand stores and departmental stores to buy and stock my brand. If they didn't, I would not have been able to continue Doublet. That was the hardest part initially.
ESQ: What does winning the LVMH prize mean to you?
MASAYUKI INO: I think winning the LVMH prize was a very good opportunity for my brand. Before the winning of the prize, Doublet was still relatively underground but winning it helped push Doublet into the international scene due to the attention and exposure from the media.
ESQ: How did you feel when you were awarded the top prize?
MASAYUKI INO: I was really surprised. I was thinking: ‘me!? are you sure?’ [laughs].
ESQ: Can we talk about the container that you've designed for Dover Street Market Singapore’s first anniversary. What was the inspiration behind it?
MASAYUKI INO: The inspiration behind it was to build a ski lodge in Singapore. I like the irony of creating the juxtaposition of a cold climate setting to debut Doublet's autumn/winter 2018 collection, in a country that is hot all year round [laughs].
ESQ: One of the aspects that I really like is how you meld packaging as part of the product.
MASAYUKI INO: Oh thank you.
ESQ: What is this fascination that you have with infusing packaging as part of the enjoyment of your garments?
MASAYUKI INO: Some of my happiest moments are when I receive a gift and unpackage it. It's an experience that I would like to translate to my customer. Instead of just buying the item off a shelf, they have to unravel it and experience that same joy. Packaging is very important for my collection.
ESQ: Is there any very special packaging you have done for Doublet that you want to tell our readers? Or anything that is memorable to you.
MASAYUKI INO: When I was designing the packaging pieces, the design was based on dead stock pieces. Dead stocks are new products but kept in storage, where nobody can buy them. They’re basically useless. But to me, dead stock doesn't mean that it can't be worn anymore. To me the items are still alive, waiting to be worn. So the concept is based on that because over time, the plastic packaging sticks to the clothing. The packaging has a hidden meaning.
ESQ: So do you feel that packaging breathes new life into dead stock?
MASAYUKI INO: Yeah, also I think there's no expiry date for clothes. In the fashion world today, items become dated in a matter of six months, which is something I disagree with. Because fashion is forever if you take good care of your clothes.
ESQ: What does hype mean to you?
MASAYUKI INO: I would not like it if my brand were to suddenly become an immediate ‘hype’ brand.
ESQ: It's not sustainable.
MASAYUKI INO: I'd rather my brand grow slowly and gradually like Louis Vuitton. That's what I would wish for my Doublet. Slowly hype [laughs].
ESQ: [Laughs] Slowly hype. Can I ask what is your greatest fear?
MASAYUKI INO: My biggest fear is finding defective items during the production phase. To me taking care of the production process is a big part of the process. Often I will make visits to the factories, to inspect the production process. The products from Doublet are not cheap and my customers are my priority, so I would not want defective items to reach them.
ESQ: Is it difficult to infuse plastic into your garments?
MASAYUKI INO: The packaging technique is a combination of two different techniques that have been around for a while. It's a lot of experimenting with these two techniques that others have not tried melding together before. So in the beginning, it was harder to achieve the effect.
ESQ: So is that your design ethos, combining different techniques to show garments in a new light?
MASAYUKI INO: Yes, combining different techniques and discovering new techniques is part of my design ethos. The only thing I don't do is inventing techniques from scratch. I prefer finding factories with production techniques that interest me and to work together with them by adding my ideas to discover a different way of making garments
ESQ: What would you like your legacy to be?
MASAYUKI INO: I would like to be remembered as someone who brought a smile to their faces. When they think of Doublet or myself, I would like them to have remembered all the good items they had. Happiness and humour are what I would like my legacy to be.
Interview with Samuel Ross of A-COLD-WALL*