INTERVIEW: gouk's Takeshi Kunitomo @ Sakura-Con 2016

Japanese fashion line gouk had its successful US runway debut at Sakura-Con in March of this year! In fact, if you haven't seen it yet, follow this link for our report on the event and see the selections for yourself!

This is a brand with a long and strong history of upholding Japanese traditionalism with a modern edge. gouk has influences drawn from Japanese art and history, and has been building on that foundation since their 2001 debut. They have made several notable collaborations with other artists who share the same vision, a relevant example being a 2012 costume collaboration with visual kei band Kiryu.

Over Sakura-Con weekend VKH Press was able to meet with designer Takeshi Kunitomo, and we are delighted to share a deeper introduction to the aesthetics and intentions behind gouk through this interview.

VKH: How has your experience at Sakura-Con been so far this weekend?

Kunitomo: People here in the U.S. are so full of energy, so vibrant.

VKH: Can you tell us some of the highlights from the show?

Kunitomo: Well, it was our first show in the States. This time it was a mix of collections featuring one-of-a-kind items we announced at Mercedes-Benz Tokyo Fashion Week, our “gouk Samurai” line for men, and the Wa Lolita “gouk MIYABI”.

VKH: How did you choose the clothing or outfits being featured in this weekend’s fashion show? What about other fashion shows?

Kunitomo: I made the decisions after talking it through with my assistants. When selecting the items, we chose to include designs from both our Lolita and men’s gouk lines.

VKH: Can you explain the concept and direction behind gouk, for readers being introduced to your style for the first time?

Kunitomo: It’s a Western-style clothing brand that uses traditional Japanese themes. The clothing styles are meant to give an image of long-ago Japan—beautiful Japanese flowers and other motifs as well as traditional Japanese kimono.

VKH: What does it mean to you to create clothing that is directly influenced by traditional Japanese pieces, and represent and market those styles then to other countries and cultures?

Kunitomo: Through fashion, I want to convey to people in other countries the traditions and crafts that the Japanese have been creating from their small island home. I also want to inspire Japanese people, including those here in the States, once more, by reminding them of what is good about Japan.  

VKH: How has gouk evolved since its debut in 2001? Has the same theme stayed true for 15 years?

Kunitomo: Basically we’ve stayed true to our roots. That said, we have since also launched Lolita and men’s lines...

VKH: Your work is multi-faceted, including design, developing of design students and company management. Which side of working in the fashion industry have you enjoyed the most?

Kunitomo: It’s interesting to me how something cute or beautiful starts out in someone’s head, and after passing through the hands of different individuals, can then gradually go on to take shape.

VKH: What keeps you motivated during times when inspiration or enjoyment is low?

Kunitomo: Looking at flowers and antiques.

VKH: How did your path in fashion design lead you to designing such elaborate clothing, rather than a career in more ready-to-wear designs?

Kunitomo: I didn’t want to make things you could find anywhere. I wanted to create something unique.

VKH: A few years ago, you collaborated with Kiryu for some designs and a show. How did this come about?

Kunitomo: I saw them play live and thought that they were a good match for the kind of spirit or atmosphere that gouk is attempting to create.

VKH: Would you be interesting in collaborating with another artist or brand again?

Kunitomo: Sure. I’d like to collaborate with artists across many different genres. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re famous or not—if there’s a genre I haven’t done and they fit that sense or spirit that gouk is going for, then I would love for us to be able to get together and create something.   

VKH: Thank you so much for your time. Can you leave us with a message for our readers who weren’t able to attend the show this time around?

Kunitomo: I would definitely like you to see our gouk designs on display. And if are able to visit Japan, it would be great if you had the chance to experience the atmosphere at the carefully curated gouk galleries in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Very special thanks to Sakura-Con, and to KINCs for having us, and for this opportunity! 

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