A presentation in the outskirts of the city doesn’t make for the most convenient of appointments to squeeze into a packed show schedule, but the fashion crowd freed a spot on their agenda pronto for Setchu, especially after designer Satoshi Kuwata scooped up the annual LVMH Prize earlier this month. That alone speaks for the mission and relevance of the contest itself.
“Seeing [people] start coming to see my work, that’s really the best present, isn’t it?” said Kuwata.
In addition to a humble and soft-spoken designer, guests arriving at the all-white location could find a handful of tatami mats arranged on the floor and displaying key pieces from the collection. Looking like a conceptual art installation, the scene was intended to spotlight the construction behind the pieces — including a zippered fleece sweater and a leather biker jacket — and their multifunctionality. To provide better clarity on the different fits, video projections displayed tutorials on how to wear each item.
“The collection is about a ceremony. We have ceremonies for flowers or tea, so as a Japanese designer I came up with one on how to wear [a piece of clothing],” said Kuwata, pointing to a ribbed black sweater with rows of buttons that can be worn five ways.
In the same vein, buttons were instrumental in chic asymmetric fluid dresses offered in solids or splashed with floral prints, that offered a sensual counterpoint to more sartorial pieces.
Tailoring shone with its crisp look and folding creases that seemed like ironing mistakes but were calculated tweaks delivering a twist to blazer jackets and pants. Standouts included a pastel pink suit and a pin-striped double-breasted jacket with matching Bermuda shorts with wide pleats that winked to origami folding techniques.
Blame all the buzzy talk around AI, but there was something poetic in the collection and the artisanal approach to fashion Satoshi pushes forward, as well as the charming way he blends Japanese and Italian culture in his work.
“The materials mainly came from Italy and all the making is in Italy, too,” he said. “I love the culture of where materials come from: suiting comes from Biella, knit from Bologna and linen from Prato. Italy is the best place to produce a really good product,” he added.
Along with respect for different cultures and crafts, his clothes are rooted in a clear vision and deep knowledge, the result of previous experiences he piled up by working for everyone from Huntsman in Savile Row to luxury sneaker brand Golden Goose. Now the stars are aligned for his own brand to shine, too.