Document breaks down Hiroshi Fujiwara’s six biggest influences, from Ura-Harajuku to 80s hip hop.
To label Hiroshi Fujiwara as a renaissance man even seems insufficient. At 55, Fujiwara’s compiled such a formidable CV that it’s hard to imagine what he could do next to surprise us—but he always does, and perhaps that’s why he has remained one of the most enigmatic and exciting designers in the industry. The inspirations for Fujiwara’s Fragment Design are diverse; whether it be the Ise Grand Shrine, a sacred Shinto landmark nearby to Hiroshi’s childhood home, or experiences he had in the early 1980s of trekking crates of hip-hop records he had found in New York back to Japan, Fujiwara possesses the rare skill to share his own experiences with us through the products he creates, and he is rightly labeled the Godfather of Streetwear.
In recent years Fujiwara’s work has undergone a global resurgence in popularity, thanks to a timely slew of captivating collaborations and releases. Fujiwara’s latest partnership was with Moncler, creating a line of technical outerwear inspired by backstage sections of music venues and the snowy mountains of northern Japan. Fujiwara’s Moncler collection was one of several re-interpretations of Moncler’s signature down jacket presented in the latest Genius Series. The capsule received immense critical acclaim, as does all of Fujiwara’s work. Along with his partnership with the fashion powerhouse, Fujiwara has been keeping busy, doing lovely, and sometimes strange projects. “Now I’m making Baby Star Ramen” Fujiwara laughingly told Takashi Murakami in a conversation for Document’s S/S 2019 issue—after mentioning his recent work with Pokémon.
To understand Fujiwara’s process, we dive into his past, breaking down the places, people, and moments which contributed to his unequivocal designs.
Ura-Harajuku Fashion Scene
Fujiwara has mastered the art of collaboration. Over the course of his career he has worked with hundreds of brands and creatives, driven by a need to expand his own creative process. Fujiwara carries a strong sense of humility and is eager to work with new designers. In the early 1990s, as the Harajuku street scene was blossoming into a global phenomenon, Fujiwara was front and center, helping mentor the younger generation of Japanese designers.
The Japanese Streetwear Boom
Nigo, the famed creative director of A Bathing Ape, worked closely with Fujiwara as he developed his brand. Fujiwara also helped guide Jun Takashi of Undercover and Takizawa Shinsuke of Neighborhood, both of whom have developed their brands into influential streetwear labels. “I have nothing original,” Fujiwara told his friend Murakami, “so my basic style is to join with others who allow me to play with them on their turf. I feel like I’m changing in a good way, and enjoying myself alongside those will play with me.” It’s this notion of constant changing that seems to free Fujiwara from constraints he otherwise might have faced.
Apart from design, Fujiwara is an avid musician. He’s released 10 albums under his own name in the last 25 years; including Slumbers in 2017. Along the way, Fujiwara also developed a close friendship with Eric Clapton, and in partnership with Martin Guitars, has released several iterations of Clapton’s signature acoustic model.
Hip Hop Arrives in Japan
Fujiwara is often credited with bringing hip hop to Japan in the 1980s, as he was known to play American rappers like NWA and Public Enemy at clubs across Japan. He’s since stopped DJing, but music has continued to play a pivotal role in Fujiwara’s career, and his latest project with Moncler is indicative of that, much of it adorned with words like “backstage” and allusions to the DJs of his early days.
Skateboarding as Self-Expression
As the Harajuku district of Tokyo was expanding with regards to fashion, skateboarding was also laying its roots, quickly becoming a staple of Japanese youth culture. Fujiwara was enamored with the sport, and seamlessly began to integrate its inspirations into his design. Skateboarding fit well with Fujiwara’s aesthetic—the fluid movements and liberating ethos serving as a useful tool to represent emotion in his designs.
Snowboarding in Northern Japan
It isn’t too surprising that Fujiwara is an experienced snowboarder—he’s a regular at the ski resorts in northern Japan. He’s even released Fragment Design signature snowboards in partnership with Burton, eliciting the importance of functionality in everything he creates.