Despite his prominent position within the Japanese menswear industry, Hirofumi Kiyonaga is a name that most people outside of Japan won’t recognise. That’s not to say his brands are not globally renowned – SOPH, SOPHNET., uniform experiment, and F.C.R.B. are each lauded as being unique in their concepts and delivery – but the man behind these lines keeps a rather more low profile. Kiyonaga’s latest and current most prominent output is his football-inspired line, F.C.R.B. An ongoing partnership between himself and Nike, the line is both conceptual (referencing an imaginary football club) and functional, utilising Nike’s technical fabric innovations in order to exercise experimentation which Kiyonaga never could with previous collections. While F.C.R.B. has been on peoples’ radars for several seasons now, the brand has only just become more widely distributed, available to the masses this season via Nike’s NikeLab stores. That’s not to say the masses will bite; the brand has a definite accessibility threshold, but Kiyonaga’s fans definitely know what it is. Anyway, enough jibber jabber. We shot the shit with Kiyonaga to get a further understanding of his thoughts behind the brand. Read oooon.
In terms of form vs. function, where do you place your values?
Both are important, but I think the balance is most important.
I’m a big fan of your campaign imagery – using mannequins and figurines to create a sort of fantasy – which makes perfect sense for a ‘fictional team’ concept. Can you expand on this creative direction? Why have you chosen to present the brand in this manner?
Since the concept is around a “fictitious team,” I stay true by making every element, including players and situations, fictitious. It’s the same as “manga,” a huge culture that represents Japan. I feel free to imagine unrealistic situations and games in the stadiums that would never happen in reality.
There seems to be a large part of SOPHNET.’s graphic identity that comes from British artists – be that 3D of Massive Attack, or Julian Opie. Is there anything in the current British cultural landscape that particularly draws you in?
I was originally influenced by the culture of Bristol, hence the brand name – that is why it’s F.C.R.Bristol. I’m still following their culture, but there is no one specific culture that I’m currently getting influences from. I like every type of culture including art, music and football, not only in the UK but also other countries.
Are there any artists out there that inspire the F.C.R.B. aesthetic?
As you may imagine, I’ve been influenced by Massive Attack and that’s why I chose Bristol as the home town.
SS14 has been perhaps your busiest season to date – not only with F.C.R.B’s mainline, but also in terms of the amount of collaborative releases you’ve worked on. How do you approach collaboration with other brands?
I only collaborate with partners or products that I personally respect and that I have actually used and/or owned. In terms of approach, I try to maintain their attributes while thinking about how SOPH. could tweak them.
Where is the biggest audience for your brands? Where would you like to see it grow?
I don’t set any national border in my mind. I would just maintain the same attitude that has been consistent since the foundation of the brand, while it’s up to the surroundings that would allow the brand to grow. I just want to remain consistent.
What are your plans for F.C.R.B. going forward?
There is no specific plan, but with the launch of NikeLab stores and Nike.com/Nikelab in Spring ’14, F.C.R.B. is now being distributed globally and many more people have access and visibility to the brand now. For now, I want to build up good communication with these new audiences.
Shout out to Diogo for the illustration!