On the occasion of our latest OUTDOOR ISSUE, we talked to several designers, brand-makers, buyers and everyone else who has a say in the field of urban outdoors. One of them was Daiki Suzuki, designer of Engineered Garments. Here, he told us about his passion for the outdoors (and outdoor clothing).
Born in 1962 in Hirosaki City, Japan, Daiki Suzuki has been hunting the best US American fashion style ever since. Inspired by movies and magazines, he sought the very rare specialties all over the Japanese country when he was a kid and he studied fashion design and started working at fashion stores to be well placed for his passion. In that time he dove entirely into the American style of fashion and became an expert of both US clothing history as well as of the newest fads reaching out from overseas. Some years later he moved to the US to work for Keizo Shimizu’s store Nephentes as a buyer. Staying in the Nephentes family he founded his own outdoor line Engineered Garments in 1999, which today stands for state-of-the-art outdoor wear that’s made in the US. And in 2006 he was appointed as designer for Woolrich Woolen Mills. Suzuki’s style shouts out his passion for rooted garments as well as for being actively outdoor. He seems to strive for the highest possible function with the most soulful materials, adding some surprising color combinations. His collections are urban and in the middle of nature at the same time. We tried to trace his way of thinking with this interview.
What does “being outdoor” mean to you?
For me, it means seeing yourself objectively in nature and being part of nature. It’s refreshing really, relaxing–you escape the pressures of everyday life.
How did the outdoor market change in the last 20 years?
The outdoor market had a moment where it became fashion oriented. At the same time, technical innovations and materials have changed quite a bit with real use market demands. The serious outdoor lovers are definitely still the core consumer but the fashion consumer is taking notice again slowly but it’s slowly evolving and connecting again. As much as they are different, they do have similarities where it’s almost a totally new market.
If you’re dressed with gear you trust, you’re comfortable and if you understand all the technical functionality, you will be confident.
What does being well-dressed mean to you? Also concerning outdoor fashion.
If your asking me, in general, being well dressed is feeling comfortable and confident, whatever you wear, you will look cool. Outdoor fashion would be the same principal. If you’re dressed with gear you trust, you’re comfortable and if you understand all the technical functionality, you will be confident. That would make for being well dressed in the outdoors.
How would you define quality?
Good materials, great construction, new functions if possible, the latest technologies and good design.
How do you choose materials? How important are natural (organic) fibers for you?
I choose materials based on the facts of the time, place and occasion. I love natural fibers, cottons and wools are my preference. I didn't like polyester garments in the ’70s and have been looking for all natural materials ever since. I know there are new polyesters around and they are better then cotton sometimes but unless I'm using it for serious outdoor purposes, I'd rather have cotton. It's just something that feels good for me.
Colors seem to be an important design aspect for you. How do you use and choose them?
I have my basic colors always: khaki, olive, navy, heather gray and black. Other than that I use a few bright colors but it's only seasonal, depends on the theme I am using.
I read the expression "Not designed but engineered“ in the context of Engineered Garments. What might this mean?
It's like our motto. We don't make designer clothes. All designs usually have their origins somewhere and we just rearrange them, engineer them if you will. Details are very important to us and we love to make it look like there’s nothing there from the outside, unassuming.
As a young boy you were outside in the nature most of the time. Today you live in urban surroundings but you still spend a lot of time outside. Is there a connected feeling/perception between those two outdoor scenarios?
Yes. I still live in my memories when I was a kid being in nature. Now I live in NYC but it’s not difficult to escape the city. Beaches are just an hour’s drive away, rivers and mountains are a few more hours. Whenever I go out, for surfing, camping, fishing, I can always go back to when I was a kid. It’s refreshing for me. The difference between when I was a kid and now is money. I spend a lot of money for equipment, it’s my escape and my pleasure.
As a youngster you cycled, today you go surfing every day. Is that right? In general being active seems to be very important for you. Why?
It’s just refreshing. I need something that gives me a break. Once I am interested in something, I go all the way. This is my problem. Maybe I'm always looking for an excuse to escape from what I do.
You developed a passion for US fashion very early. What is so special about it for you?
Watching American movies, TV dramas were so popular when I was a kid in the ’70s. I would see people so well dressed, so cool and surrounded by so many home appliances, cars and motorcycles...the future. Naturally I admired American life from then on. The ’70s was a very interesting period to me, American culture, lifestyle, fashion all came in to Japan and it was all so new. I loved it all.
Since the very beginning of your career your job is to sense trends or rather bestsellers. How to you achieve that?
I started my career working at a shop and became a buyer when I moved to the US and now I design clothing. Ever since I got in the fashion industry, I always wanted to find something that I never knew was there before that point for me. So I would say definitely I didn’t sense trends or bestsellers, I think I slowly developed something and that’s taking a long time because I'm still working on it.
How does a happy moment look like for you?
It's kind of an abstract question to me. I am just like everyone else. Eating something very delicious. Drinking and chatting with friends. The feeling you get when you accomplished something.
How will fashion–and outdoor in particular–change in the future?
Technology changes. New materials, new solutions, new construction. Most people go in the same direction and hopefully a few people will see it differently and create something new. This mix up makes new choice for consumers. I think it's good either way.
Have a look at our brand new Outdoor Issue and read more about the booming segment.