Takahiro Miyashita

Takahiro Miyashita doesn’t like labels.

While his collections for TakahiroMiyashita The Soloist have often been called streetwear, Miyashita is not a fan of this nomenclature.

“I don’t think of what I do as a street brand. I think of it as clothes,” he said. “I don’t want to be labeled as any particular category. I don’t say those things myself and I don’t really like it when other people say them about me either.”

Statements like these hint at Miyashita’s self-confidence, which shines through despite a very shy and humble demeanor. Soft spoken and pensive, he rarely makes eye contact from behind his tinted lenses and he chooses his words carefully before speaking.

With no formal fashion training, Miyashita could easily have been at a disadvantage when he launched his first line, Number (N)ine, in 1996. Yet he received wide critical acclaim when he began showing in Paris in 2003, and his current brand, started in 2010, has generated just as much buzz, if not more. He says one advantage to his not attending fashion school is that he can sometimes see things in a way that other trained designers cannot.

“I think that’s the good thing, but if we’re talking about the bad thing, it’s that there are still a lot of things that I don’t know, so I’m learning every day,” he said.

When he heard that he had been selected as a guest designer by Pitti Uomo, Miyashita said his first thought was, “I wonder why they chose me?”

“Honestly, I thought [of Pitti] as a place that had no relation to me,” he said. “I didn’t think Italians even knew about me.”

For his first show outside of Japan with The Soloist, Miyashita will present his collection alongside Jun Takahashi of Undercover, a personal friend whom he has known for more than 20 years. A joint show is not something Miyashita ever really thought of doing, but in this case he thinks it will work well precisely because of who the other designer is.

“I’ve never done a show in cooperation with any other designer before, and the shows I did before were just about myself, so I think this is something extremely special,” he said. “For me, Jun is someone who I really respect, but I think he’s also someone who understands me well, so in terms of how I feel [about doing the show together], it’s an extremely special feeling.”

In addition to sharing a show venue and time, the two brands will also share a theme this season. It’s an interesting concept, but one that has upended his design process, which Miyashita describes as being “like a sushi shop” in terms of the order in which he normally operates.

“First I prepare the materials, and I start thinking about what kind of clothes would be suited to them. I don’t really think about things like what kind of world I want to create or anything,” he said.

But time constraints for Pitti meant that this season has been different.

“This time the sequence was totally the opposite, so I started designing first and then found the fabrics,” Miyashita said. “But there was a lot of excitement and also pressure and I think I’m probably nervous, but I drastically changed what I do in the middle of the process, so now it’s become quite difficult. Well, I don’t know about drastically, but I did change from my original idea. It’s really all because there just wasn’t enough time.”

Despite the tough schedule, the designer said he expects things won’t be completely finalized until the very last minute. This, he said, is the case with the majority of his collections.

“Every day my opinion changes. Every day, little by little, things change. My personality is such that something I liked until yesterday I have no problem dropping today.”

Miyashita often takes inspiration from films and music — which he says he needs to watch and listen to “in order to breathe” — but he does so in ways that are often unrecognizable.

“Basically I want to show the inside,” he said. “For example, I might see an artist and that person might project an image of colorful, Pop Art but I think there is definitely another side to this person. That is what I want to know about. Why is he taking these kinds of photographs? Why is she painting these kinds of pictures?”

He said because of his personality, he doesn’t see himself branching out into women’s wear, even if he is tempted by the idea.

“I’d like to try doing it, but on the other hand, if I do that I think I would like men’s clothes less. When I see women’s clothing, it’s very free and there are so many different types. I’m envious of that, so for decades I’ve been thinking that I want to try [making women’s clothes], but I almost certainly won’t,” Miyashita said with conviction. “There are a lot of inconveniences and rules in men’s wear, but I think that trying to do something freely within these confines suits my personality. Trying to do something freely within something that is already free feels restrictive to me. I want to be inside somewhere inconvenient and try to change the rules from within.”

The Soloist has grown organically into one of Japan’s most sought-after men’s brands, but Miyashita is more focused on creating than on business. While he wants to continue designing as long as he can, he said if even one more person discovers his brand through Pitti, that will be enough.

“For now I just want to work hard to be able to make good clothes, and if the result of that is that the brand grows, I think it’s a good thing.”