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Essentials: Setchu Designer Satoshi Kuwata


Wayo Setchu (Wayo Setchu) is a trend that arose in Japan after the Meiji Restoration, integrating local Japanese style with Western culture. Seibien, located in Hirakawa City, Aomori Prefecture, is the most representative Japanese and Western eclectic building. Setchu, a fashion brand named after this word, takes “Japanese-Western eclectic” aesthetics as its core, mixing Eastern and Western elements to create something new and unexpected. In Setchu’s design, you will see that the art of origami (Origami) is transformed into foldable functional clothing, and a series of Japanese characteristic elements such as Zabuton (Zabuton) and Geisha (Geisha) are conveyed to the public through modern Western silhouettes.

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Founder Satoshi Kuwata had extensive experience before launching his personal brand. He first worked at BEAMS, then came to Central Saint Martins with his dream of being a designer. During his schooling, he worked as an apprentice at Huntsman & Sons, the mecca for tailor-made suits, on Savile Row. After graduation, he worked for Gareth Pugh and Kanye West, and then joined Givenchy as the design director of Edun. He came to London from Kyoto, then moved to New York and Paris, and finally chose to establish his personal brand Setchu in Milan. Winning the 2023 LVMH Prize also made this designer well-known to the public. This time, Hypebeast invited Setchu designer Satoru Kuwata to share his must-have daily items, as well as his past experiences and behind-the-scenes of the competition.

Origami Bird

Riccardo Dalla Fontana/Hypebeast

Kuwata Satoru: Origami cranes are something I have been doing since I was a child. I love paper and whenever I see a new paper I make this. In the SETHU office we use recycled or handmade paper. It calms me down. This is what I do when I need to meditate, or when I feel like making a wish!

Yard O Led Pencil

Essentials: Setchu Designer Satoshi Kuwata

Riccardo Dalla Fontana/Hypebeast

Kuwata Satoru: This Yard O Led pencil is one of my favorite product designs. I have been using their pencils for 20 years. It’s my favorite company. I like the thickness of the refill and how it feels when I use it. The company’s name comes from the fact that when you line up the 12 refills in a pencil, the total length is 1 yard. I quite like this Story Telling.

Hermes Notebook

Essentials: Setchu Designer Satoshi Kuwata

Riccardo Dalla Fontana/Hypebeast

Kuwata Satoru: I carry this notebook with me wherever I go. Recording ideas and sketching, my life is inseparable from it.

Chain Bracelets

Essentials: Setchu Designer Satoshi Kuwata

Riccardo Dalla Fontana/Hypebeast

Kuwata Satoru: I bought this silver pair when I first moved to London when I was 21, and I’ve been wearing it ever since. The gold necklace was purchased in New York when my uncle passed away. He taught me how to use a camera to take pictures, and this necklace reminds me of my time with him.

SHIMANO Fishing Gear

Essentials: Setchu Designer Satoshi Kuwata

Riccardo Dalla Fontana/Hypebeast

Satoru Kuwata: SHIMANO is one of my favorite Japanese fishing gear companies. I carry this fishing gear with me all the time. Whenever I go to the beach I take these with me! This way I can fish for at least 5 minutes.

Interview With
Satoshi Kuwata

Essentials: Setchu Designer Satoshi Kuwata

Riccardo Dalla Fontana/Hypebeast

HB: Can you first introduce yourself to our readers?

Satoru Kuwata: I graduated from Central Saint Martins in Womenswear (2006-2011), and previously worked at Huntsman & Sons (2007-2009), Gareth Pugh (2010-2011), Kanye West (2011-2012), Givenchy ( Worked with Edun (2012-2013) and Edun (2013-2016). The experience in different fashion brands and cities is very different. Starting my own brand has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. Before I was ready to get started, I spent about 20 years saving up capital and fleshing out the idea of ​​a brand DNA and a business plan.

HB: What was the opportunity to create your personal brand Setchu?

Kuwata Satoru: Setchu was founded in 2020 during a very challenging period, and I had to have a very clear and specific understanding of the production situation in order to complete the work as I wanted. I think this is the right time. After working for different brands over the years, I was ready to start my own brand.

HB: The brand name “Setchu” comes from the Japanese word “Japanese-Western eclectic”. Why did you choose this concept as the core of the design?

Kuwata Satoru: The brand concept is the fusion of Japanese traditional utensils and Western culture, embodying the true spirit of “Japanese and Western eclectic”. My designs are a fusion of Japanese fashion cornerstones and Western minimalism, which is my signature style and something I think I was born with.

HB: The official website of Setchu has always displayed photos of the classic Japanese and Western eclectic building – Shengmei Garden. What is your connection with this building? Why did it have such a profound impact on you?

Kuwata Satoru: This building has a perfect balance of “Japanese and Western eclectic”. I did a lot of research on Japanese and Western eclectic architecture and found this to be one of the best balanced ones!

Essentials: Setchu Designer Satoshi Kuwata

Riccardo Dalla Fontana/Hypebeast

HB: Can you also share some of the artworks that most influence you and why?

Kuwata Satoru: Anything that is a classic or something that becomes a symbol does not mean it is obsolete. 2001: A Space Odyssey is my favorite movie, I love everything about it in every frame.

HB: In the current brand archives, which work are you most satisfied with?

Kuwata Satoru: They are all my children, it’s so hard to choose! But I might choose the “Origami Jacket” because it’s the first piece of clothing I designed for Setchu.

HB: You have also worked for Gareth Pugh and Kanye West, two artists with distinctive personalities. Is there any interesting little-known anecdote you can share?

Kuwata Satoru: Gareth Pugh is amazingly creative, especially after experimenting with classic tailoring… He knows what he’s doing. Kanye West is as creative as any designer, and his fanatical obsession with studying what he doesn’t know is what I learned about pop culture and the way art is treated in America.

HB: Starting from Kyoto, you traveled to London, New York, and Paris. Why did you choose to settle in Milan now?

Kuwata Satoru: Milan was the natural choice. Because here I can find, design and develop the best materials and hand them over to the best manufacturers to best produce the SETCHU series I envision.

Essentials: Setchu Designer Satoshi Kuwata

Riccardo Dalla Fontana/Hypebeast

HB: Any behind-the-scenes anecdotes or unforgettable moments during the LVMH Prize competition?

Satoru Kuwata: During the semi-finals, my suitcase was lost at the airport and it was filled with all the work I was going to show! I can’t name them all during the finals because everything was so intense and exciting. I was so happy (when I won) that I couldn’t wait to tell my mother back home in Japan.

HB: Can you share the follow-up to winning the LVMH Prize?

Satoru Kuwata: This is a very exciting part of the award and I can’t wait to start receiving financial and management coaching. I really enjoyed being able to learn everything about the company’s development and loved designing my company.

HB: If you weren’t a fashion designer, what would you be doing?

Kuwata Satoru: I would probably go fishing and spend time in nature waiting to catch the best fish. This is my purest hobby. Live by the sea and cook your catch.

The article is in Chinese

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