Lady Gaga donning his clothes - it's no big deal

His clothes have been worn by the likes of American singer-songwriter Lady Gaga and Korean pop star G-Dragon, but Japanese fashion designer Masanori Morikawa thinks that is "nothing special".

While the reticent founder of Japanese label Christian Dada respectfully acknowledges that Lady Gaga donning his outfits was a "turning point" in his career that exposed him to a wider audience, he becomes only visibly more enthused when speaking about contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

The 54-year-old artist - clad in customised clothing from Christian Dada, including a long grungy jacket splattered with paint - appeared on the cover of the April-June edition of Time Out Tokyo magazine this year.

Morikawa, 32, says: "I've always been a fan of his and it was really exciting to work with him. It was an honour."

The designer was in town last month for the official opening of the label's first store here at 268 Orchard Road. The flagship store is the first outpost outside of Japan.

Morikawa tells The Straits Times that opening in Singapore was a natural choice considering that the brand is backed by Singapore-based investment group D'League.

Known for his deconstructed designs and detailed embroidery, Morikawa's love of art is also reflected in his Fall/Winter 2016 collection, a collaboration with Japanese contemporary artist and photographer Nobuyoshi Araki.

In 2013, Araki lost vision in his right eye due to a retinal artery obstruction and shot photographs for a series titled Love On The Left Eye. He used black marker to colour the right side of the film before the prints were developed.

The photographs reflected Araki's vision - the left side shows a clear image, while the right side is clouded.

Inspired by the collection, Morikawa incorporated the shots into his clothes.

He says: "His art reflects life and death, black and white, and I was inspired by the contrast and duality. He also battled cancer before losing sight in his right eye. I was inspired by his attitude, that he used his low points to create art."

Morikawa started Christian Dada in 2010. He says cryptically, that "Christian" is from his grandfather's name and also takes a swipe at prominent maisons such as Christian Dior and Christian Louboutin.

He explains: "While I respect the big labels, I didn't want to be in the system of fashion. I don't want to follow the major brands but to create my own positioning."

As for Dada, it is derived from dadaism - an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century whose anarchy Morikawa loves.

The bachelor's interest in fashion was sparked by his grandparents' embroidery business. He attended a fashion school in Japan before working for a while as a designer at a Japanese fashion label he declines to disclose.

From 2005 to 2007, he worked under fashion designer Charles Anastase in London. In the years that followed, he started another fashion label with a friend before differing creative visions led to Morikawa breaking away to start his own label.

Christian Dada has since been on the runway at Tokyo Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week.

Asked about future plans for the label, Morikawa says: "I don't want to set goals because I feel that they restrict me. As a brand, I want to grow organically. Fashion changes so fast now - it's important to see, feel and respond to what is happening in the environment rather than have fixed goals."

This article was first published on September 29, 2016.
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