WAVE OF SAND
February 10 - February 20, 2021
Daily 11am - 6pm, February 10 - 20.
The Japan-born, Brooklyn-based designer Kozaburo Akasaka is known for his signature menswear, in which classic details are cleverly updated with inspiration from street style and subculture. In his synthesis of tradition and subversion, Akasaka creates work that feels as if it comes from the near-future—a place that isn’t entirely alien to us, but that has advanced further along the paths of aesthetics and style. Upon winning the prestigious LVMH Special Prize in 2017, Akasaka cemented his reputation as a leading mind in the world of fashion design.
In this exhibition, NowHere presents Akasaka’s Wave of Sand, a new collection of functionally-minded garments anchored by his Gigi pants. Inspired by his time practicing karate, the Gigis (pronounced with hard g’s) are meant to serve wearers of all body types in all sorts of activities. “I want the owner of the Gigi pants to be able to wear them wherever they want to go,” says Akasaka. “Just like classic jeans.” But at the same time, there is an emotional component complementing the practical element of this work. Wave of Sand is driven by Akasaka’s vision of a more egalitarian future. “In a broader sense, I’m picturing a state of harmony where individuals respect each other’s uniqueness,” he says. “A moment filled with love and adventure. My hope for Wave of Sand is to provide a feeling of connection with this sense.
“I often think of an idea I learned from my karate dojo,” Akasaka says. “Buken shu-ki, which means: ‘Practice as a way of finding and realizing your own potential.’ I interpret this to mean that through practice, the aim is not to defeat the opponent but to develop and realize oneself.”
In the democratically-conceived pieces on display here, we see this idealist philosophy made concrete in a humble but significant way: a garment that is engineered to adapt to any body in any circumstance. If this work can be taken as a glimpse of a possible future, then it can also be seen as a welcomed occasion for optimism.
Shown in royal blue
Curved, wavy lines lend a supple softness whether one is on the mats training at the dojo, hiking in nature, or relaxing at home. Gigi pants bring the flexible, prepared mindset of a martial artist along with you wherever you go.
Shown in beige
Engineered for high-performance with multiple pockets, knee pleats, and a reflective tab, Mobi pants are the more rugged sibling of the Gigi pants. A strong companion during challenging tasks of all kinds, Mobi pants are evolved utility wear.
With his namesake menswear brand, Kozaburo Akasaka seeks to express his pure artistic concerns. The same quest that animates Wave of Sand also runs through his high-fashion work—it is the possibility of a union between the global and the individual that concerns Akasaka. In fact, his most recent collection was explicitly inspired by the Japanese concept of en-yu, or the state of individuals existing together in harmony.
Having grown up in Japan during the 1990s, Kozaburo’s aesthetic is heavily inspired by the music-based subcultures and street styles he was exposed to. A masterful tailor, his scrupulous concern with detail manifests in his choice of materials—from the sustainable innovations in his earlier work, which featured scraps of denim rescued from the secondhand community and surplus deer hides gathered as a result of the hunting of overpopulated animals in Hokkaido, to his most recent experimentation with more synthetic elements such as Tyvek and polyester, Akasaka finds narrative in the tactility and provenance of his building blocks.
Kozaburo’s most recent menswear collection, Space & Consciousness Exploration for the Mind, was presented in Tokyo on a circular stage that was built to resemble a massive record player. A camera on a long robotic boom, mimicking the tonearm of a turntable, completed the picture. Clad in Gigi pants, the Koyasan Shingon Buddhist priest and Butoh dancer Ryushin Takiyama opened the presentation with a performance. This prologue to the show also functioned as the global debut of Wave of Sand. In this explicit link between the two sides of Kozaburo Akasaka’s expression—the street- level functionality of Wave of Sand and the more rarified art of the menswear presentation—we saw the dawning of a new energy in his creative practice.
The Universal Individual
— An interview with Kozaburo Akasaka
What led you to create your Gigi pants?
My intention was to make a new staple for this generation: utility pants that accommodate various body types, ages, and genders.
Are they meant for daily wear? In which contexts do you think they will be most useful?
They can be used for daily casual wear as well as indoor and outdoor activity. I can imagine them being used for yoga, meditation, karate, bouldering, gardening, and hiking—just for a few examples.
It’s interesting how simple yet variable they seem at the same time.
The pants have been designed using details that allow each wearer to customize them. The adjustable waist accommodates not only a variety of sizes, but also wearing the pants in different waist positions. It also gives you the option of wearing them using the attached drawstring or your own favorite belt. The cuff drawstring gives you the option of a cinched cuff or a straight leg. It depends on the wearer’s preferred style for whatever situation they’re in. I hope people will find their own way of wearing the pants at different times, and that people will wear them for a long time and build a lot of good memories.
Would you say that traditional gi pants are the “ancestors” of the Gigi line?
Yes. Keikogi is the traditional Japanese uniform for martial arts such as karate and judo. In the western world, the gi is more commonly known today as the uniform for training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Gi pants really are some of the most elegantly useful garments ever conceived.
The monolith is depicted in a Cartesian cubic lattice system with a mathematical ratio of 1:4:9 in the third dimension. But the cube is an old spatial concept, made standard under the conditions of Earth’s gravity. In the standard that will develop under zero gravity in the 21st century, it would be more of a Fullerian tetrahedral system.
This is somewhat complex stuff. Are you able to put it into layman’s terms?
They were originally designed using efficient pattern- cutting that took anatomy and movement into account so that their construction would hold up against the repeated stress that martial arts training would subject them to. Minimum timing of manufacture, with easy care and long wear.
Have you trained as a martial artist?
Yes. As a former practitioner of karate, gi pants are very familiar to me. I’ve been interested in redesigning them for a long time. I’ve been wearing my gi pants a lot during quarantine, and I rediscovered the potential of the pant’s design. Starting from the tradition and history, I set out to redesign them by imagining their ongoing timeline from now into the future.
Please tell me about your Wave of Sand concept.
Sand is something that has resonated for me for a long time. It has to do with my mutual image of Japan and America—and the future. In Japan we have karesansui, which is the traditional garden style where patterns are created using waves of sand or small pebbles. In America, there are the vast sand deserts in the west, where the spirit of the land endures.
And how does the future tie into this?
I imagine the future as looking like some of the illus- tration work of the artist Moebius, where things are somewhere in between east and west, with a feeling of adventure and positivity.
How does the Wave of Sand moniker apply to this line of garments?
It’s based on democratic and collaborative principles. Since I was born and raised in Japan, traveled throughout Europe, and am now based in New York, I believe in a universal sense that can connect each individual while still respecting their unique being.
So the universal is like a field full of grains of sand, which are the individuals.
As a word “sand” implies an uncountable mass noun. So I feel it translates the concept of the new line. And when I think of the “wave,” I wish to send a good vibration from this line as far as it can reach into the future.
Born 1984 Tokyo, Japan
Lives and Works in Brooklyn
After leaving Toyo University during the final year of a philosophy major, Kozaburo Akasaka relocated to London to study fashion at Central Saint Martins College of Art, where he obtained his undergraduate degree. He then moved to New York, where he began to gain professional experience with designers such as Thom Browne. Akasaka soon enrolled in the MFA program in Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design. His first year’s work there led to him winning the VFiles Runway competition for Spring/Summer 2016. Akasaka’s thesis collection was stocked at Dover Street Market—a grand achievement for a graduating student. In 2017, Akasaka received the coveted LVMH Special Prize.
Akasaka’s rigorous academic and professional backgrounds are always at the core of his process, particularly in his consideration of garment quality, fit, and finishing—all of which benefit from his precise tailoring skills. Making new-yet-timeless designs of classic menswear apparel is the guiding light toward which Akasaka employs his aesthetics.
The work on display in this exhibition comprises Akasaka’s new line Wave of Sand. For this, his first professional excursion from the high-fashion milieu in which he has generally worked, Akasaka has created a roster of malleable garments that promise to be equally useful to people of all physical types and backgrounds.