‘Power and el­e­gance’: Ja­pan’s boxer turned de­signer Yana­gawa

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LIFE -

LON­DON: Af­ter mak­ing the chal­leng­ing switch from the box­ing ring to the cat­walk, Ja­panese fash­ion de­signer and former boxer Arashi Yana­gawa talked about rolling with the punches dur­ing Men’s Fash­ion Week in Lon­don.

“Be­ing flex­i­ble and con­tin­u­ally learn­ing is some­thing that I take from both box­ing and styling,” Yana­gawa told AFP as he put the fin­ish­ing touches to his col­lec­tion in a clut­tered stu­dio space in east Lon­don.

The 41-year-old heads up a fash­ion la­bel he cre­ated called John Lawrence Sullivan – named af­ter the leg­endary 19th-cen­tury U.S. boxer who is con­sid­ered the first heavy­weight cham­pion of the mod­ern era.

Af­ter box­ing for sev­eral years, “I felt I had achieved what I set out to. I was ready for a new chal­lenge,” said a smil­ing Yana­gawa, dressed in a cam­ou­flage shirt, dark green leather trousers and a black cap.

“An­other pas­sion of mine since child­hood had al­ways been fash­ion, so it felt right that I take up a path in de­sign. I wanted to take the lessons I had learnt from box­ing – hard work and per­se­ver­ance, and chan­nel this into a new ad­ven­ture,” he said.

Yana­gawa’s style is a mix of clas­si­cal and ec­cen­tric, fluid and vir­ile, and dis­plays a pas­sion for leather as well as hints from his past – some of his bags re­sem­ble punch­ing balls.

He now has three stores in Ja­pan and is plan­ning to ex­pand abroad but the jour­ney was not al­ways easy, es­pe­cially for some­one start­ing out with no train­ing.

“The big­gest chal­lenge when I started was dis­cov­er­ing the right fac­to­ries and fab­ric mills to work with,” he said.

“As with any new de­signer it is very im­por­tant to find peo­ple that you have good chem­istry with, who you trust and are right for the brand.”

Af­ter sev­eral years in an ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive busi­ness, Yana­gawa be­gan mak­ing a name for him­self in Tokyo and was praised in a 2008 ar­ti­cle in The Busi­ness of Fash­ion, a top in­dus­try pub­li­ca­tion.

“De­spite his non-fash­ion back­ground, or per­haps be­cause of it, Arashi is at the van­guard of a group of promis­ing, young menswear brands that are tak­ing Tokyo by storm,” the re­port said.

Box­ing is never far away for him and he draws par­al­lels with the world of fash­ion.

“On the face of it both might seem quite sim­ple: left, right punch­ing, or dress­ing some­one in clothes,” he said.

“How­ever as you delve deeper it’s a lot more com­plex. There are many dif­fer­ent styles, tech­niques and vari­a­tions,” he added.

Asked about his in­flu­ences, Yana­gawa cites David Bowie – the late rock leg­end who passed away a year ago Tues­day.

“I find his gen­er­a­tion of mu­si­cians very in­spir­ing. They rep­re­sent traits which I in­cor­po­rate each sea­son, ex­press­ing power and el­e­gance in unison ,” he said .–

Yana­gawa poses for a pic­ture at a fash­ion stu­dio in east Lon­don.

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