by David Isle

Kimitoshi Chida designs Sage de Cret, which has produced some of the most unique and enjoyable clothing to come through No Man Walks Alone, from last year’s rabbit fur fishtail parka (keep an eye out for this year’s version, soon to come to the No Man store) to the newly arrived patchwork jacquard coat, shown above. He kindly answered a few questions about his design process and vision.

David Isle: What are your early memories of fascination with clothes and fabrics? When did you know you wanted to be a designer?

Kimitoshi Chida: I think I got into fashion when I was around 15 years old. At that time in Japan, it was the beginning of the time that brands like Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto started presenting their collections. Even at that time, their items were really expensive but I paid for them with all of my money from my part-time job.

At that time, I think I admired the store staff more, I felt more familiar with them, and talked with them more than designers. I liked drawing since I was a kid, so sometimes I drew fashion designs for fun. After high school, I studied many things at a fashion school, it was then that I thought I would like to make clothes that I liked, that is why I became a designer.

DI: How do you feel about designing clothes that are often based off of American military styles? Has the Japanese use of those styles been going on for so long that you feel full ownership of it yourself, or does it still feel cross-cultural in a way?

KC: I feel that military style not only American, but also European and is beyond just a “fashion”. Things I take into consideration when I create my design, is to respect and appreciate the detail and form of the original item. Then I try to make the same detail with some modern touches.

DI: Sage de Cret collections always include really interesting fabrics, particularly those with special washes. Do you always know how a fabric is going to come out when you give it a particular treatment? Or do you have to take each fabric and wash it a bunch of different ways to figure out what’s going to work best?

KC: When ordering fabrics, I imagine the end result when picking out fabrics. After washing, most of them end up with the look that I expected. But sometimes it comes out a different image from my expectation. That can be good or bad, it depends on the situation. I always test 3 or 4 different washes and/or treatments before deciding. Among those I choose the one that goes best with the design.

DI: Do you think a lot about commercial viability while you’re creating the fabric? Do you ever come up with something incredible but decide that the process is just too laborious to sell the final product at a reasonable price?

KC: I can calculate the price somewhat when choosing threads, or fabrics. However I have had a couple of experiences where during the final treatment and manufacturing process we could only produce one piece per day, so we cancelled the product.

DI: I know tailors usually wash their fabrics before tailoring them as well. What’s the difference between what they do and what you do to fabrics That they iron their fabrics smooth again after washing? Or are you using different temperatures or different baths when you wash?

KC: I understand well why they wash their fabric before tailoring. Even if the fabric comes out ideally, it can get pulled, crushed and lose its unique feel, and it is altered.

I think they wash it to get it back to the original feel it had before getting altered. I am doing the same process, just after tailoring.

People tend to think we are doing the garment-wash to add wrinkles and a vintage look, but it is just one reason out of many. Putting a wash on the item, it not only gets back the original fabric’s feel, but also the lining gains a natural wrinkle and fit to the body. And the accessories like buttons get a shine. Furthermore the stitch gets to fit the fabric better. I also think that by adding a wash after tailoring, it harmonizes the outer shell, lining, details, and stitching.

DI: A lot of the fabrics also somehow combine ruggedness and sensuality - like the rabbit fur parka, which combines a heavily treated cotton shell and luxurious fur; or the stretchy duffle from last year, which looks like a rough fabric, but turns out to be really pliant and comfortable. Is that a tension you think about explicitly when designing?

KC: The thing I consider when I order fabric is to keep it refined and high quality. For instance, I don’t like to use thick thread for cotton shirts or chinos, it makes it look unrefined. I would rather use twisted threads of thin and fine yarn, and weave it to a high thread count. Then it gains a refined shine and a close wrinkle when it gets washed. The jackets may look a bit rugged, but actually they are made from a twisted thread with thin yarns to make it voluminous, and it makes a wrinkle because stainless steel thread is used.

DI: The treated fabrics always come out beautifully wrinkled and rumpled. How do you think about the fit of the garment when the fabric is already irregular? Does the fit just not matter at all at that point? Or do you just need to wear it loose enough to let the fabric drape and fall as it please?

KC: I believe basically that the final silhouette and size is a part of the design, so I always pay attention to it as much as possible. Since the comfort and silhouette depend on the texture and feel of the fabric, I make the design with the best balance I can.

DI: You only started selling Sage de Cret outside of Japan a couple of years ago. What has surprised you the most about the process of bringing SdC to the international market?

KC: 15 years have passed since Sage de Cret was established, and 4 years since it started presenting collections abroad. The Japanese market tends to set a high value on “phenomenon” more than “items” of the brand. The “phenomenon” means the story or history of the brand, high media-exposure in magazines or a celebrity’s favorite; it also means a brand-happy market. At the other hand, “items” means clothes themselves. Sage de Cret has set a high value on “items”. We are not a “phenomenon” brand.

Quality content, like quality clothing, ages well. This article first appeared on the No Man blog in September 2015.