When you think of iconic Japanese designers of recent decades, Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe of Dover Street Market and Comme des Garçons come to mind. But after cutting her teeth under these giants, Chitose Abe has become an icon in her own right, known for her spliced and diced everyday statement pieces. On her recent visit to Hong Kong to celebrate her pop-up at Lane Crawford IFC, we sat down with Abe to chat about family and staying true to your roots.

How did you develop your love of fashion?

My mom used to make clothes for me and rather than normal cuts, she’d make pieces with details like big sleeves. Then, ever since I was little I would make clothes for Licca dolls, which are like the Japanese version of Barbies.

I also remember seeing a commercial on TV featuring a fashion designer, and that’s when I realised that being a designer is a job.

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You took your time to launch your brand, Sacai, and you're known to stay true to your own timeline and aesthetic. How do you feel about the fast-changing trends of today?

It was a conscious decision to build the brand slowly and organically over the last 20 years. Occasionally the aesthetic will match the trend but that's not intentional. We don’t ignore trends of course, and we try to make something new every season, but we don’t feel the need to pursue it.

An important thing to Sacai is that you’re able to mix our clothes across seasons or years.

You have a very abstract approach to designing–what inspires your designs?

A lot of designers take inspiration from their travels but that’s not me. An important part of my brand is that it’s based on my daily life and routine. I dressed differently when I first gave birth compared to when I travel or go out in the evenings, so this is how I create clothes for my collections.

As my daily life changed, so did my collections.

You’ve said that it’s very important that your brand and team is grounded in Tokyo. What is unique about Japanese style compared to the rest of the world?

Japanese style is unique but I think it’s because of the Japanese lifestyle. In America, it’s common for people to dress casually during the day and change for an occasion at night. But in Japan, people will wear the same thing all day to go from work to going out.

We thought that was normal for everyone, but turns out it's quite different in other countries, so that’s why Sacai clothes can be worn across all occasions. 

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You've recently launched menswear. What do you feel is the biggest difference between designing for men and women?

The concept for the collections are more or less the same, the only difference is that I’m a woman and don’t wear menswear. It’s harder to visualise how something would look, but the approach is the same.

You spent a lot of time working under Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe at Comme des Garçons, what do you admire most about them?

They taught me the importance of being original and that’s what I would suggest to younger designers as well; to be original and true to what you’re creating. You have to identify what your brand is strong in, and believe in it and keep doing it.

Find out more at sacai.jp

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