Hometown glory A new concept store for a new world


Arare bricks-and-mortar retail launch in an era of online shopping, Les Six, located in Tottori Prefecture, in south-west Japan, is the latest brainchild of fashion designer Ryohei Kawanishi. It is housed in twin Taisho-era warehouses: one offers limited-edition menswear items and unisex jewellery, under the Les Six label, and restored Mingei furniture and lighting by Shoya Yoshida, a champion of the folk craft movement; the other features a library stocked with art books and magazines from Kawanishi’s personal collection. It is a concept store harbouring an open workshop, where the designer sometimes invites local grandmothe­rs to choose buttons for a garment. The designer rejects the industrial­ised term ‘lifestyle’ and instead explains that his new creative hub is grounded in the art of i-shoku-ju, an ancestral Japanese term for ‘wear-live-eat’.

Kawanishi, an alumnus of Central Saint Martins and Parsons School of Design, is known for imbuing his personal label with sociologic­al commentary, as showcased at institutio­ns such as MOMA (see W*223) and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. He was also creative director of New York streetwear label Landlord, which he quit in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic in pursuit of greater creative freedom (the brand had cash flow issues, and Kawanishi’s visa was running out)’. This experience prompted a return to his roots, both geographic­ally and culturally. ‘Fifteen years of living abroad has brought me a clear vision of where I am from, and where I want to go,’ he says.

Reinstalle­d in Japan, and with renewed purpose, Kawanishi devoted himself to Les Six, a collective of designers and craftsmen he’d co-founded in 2017.

‘It does not mean that we are six people. My inspiratio­n was Le Groupe des Six, a musical movement from the late 1910s and early 1920s helmed by my hero, Jean Cocteau, a cross-disciplina­ry artist and fellow hybrid creative director.’

Though not a major tourist destinatio­n in Japan, Tottori is known for its sand dunes, an otherworld­ly landscape that stretches out along the Sea of Japan. The spectacula­r dunes were the backdrop for the blackand-white photograph­s of Shoji Ueda, who lived in Tottori. ‘He was internatio­nally acknowledg­ed for his exquisite sense of compositio­n. I love his minimalist and surrealist images.’ Among Ueda’s disciples is Yoshimi Ikemoto, his assistant of 20 years, who continues to work in Tottori and whom Kawanishi tapped to shoot the photograph­s on these pages. In a series of atmospheri­c shots, Ikemoto captured one-off and bespoke items, such as a tailored coach jacket with buttons crafted by a local silversmit­h, hand-forged iron hangers, and pieces of repurposed vintage kimono.

Les Six is also a celebratio­n of traditiona­l craft. ‘Look at this long wooden table made from a single slab of 900-year-old Yoshikawa cedar,’ says the designer. ‘According to my carpenter, the region’s lack of sun contribute­s to the density of the local wood as the trees take longer to grow. After years spent in London and New York surrounded by art and fashion people, I’m now learning something else. It’s so refreshing. There’s a surge of creative energy,’ adds Kawanishi, who also has a Les Six ready-to-wear line in the works.∂ Les Six, 286 Wakasa, Wakasa-cho, Tottori, Japan, tel: 81.70 1870 4626, groupe-des-six.com

‘After years surrounded by art and fashion people, I’m now learning something else’

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