Or, more accurately, Fumito Ganryu—now a full-fledged, independent designer label
Fumito Ganryu (centre) engaged in a “conversation” at Surrender. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
By Ray Zhang
The fashion world is thankfully not without Fumito Ganryu. When the news broke in 2017 that Mr Ganryu has left the Comme des Garçons group where his eponymous label started, many fans thought they would no longer be able to spend on the brand that had cleverly brought together streetwear, athletic wear, and denim wear in rather unexpected and special ways. Ganryu was possibly caught between the way-out styles of Kei Ninomiya and the commercial accessibility of Junya Watanabe, but was never not interesting. Perhaps, as I speculate, it is this middle ground that sealed the fate of Ganryu at CDG.
For the launch of Fumito Ganryu’s debut collection at Surrender, the store invited Mr Ganryu for a “conversation” but it was not to be with the invited guests. Still, the word going round was that Mr Ganryu “must not be asked about CDG” or why he left or if he left without the blessing of his former boss, unlike his ex-colleague Chitose Abe. “Do not mention R”, went the warning. I also overheard someone wearing a denim shirt from the last collection as a single-name brand being told not to stand too close to the designer because Mr Ganryu “does not want to to be reminded of his past.”
Fumito Ganryu did not appear concerned with what the guests wore, whether from his past or present collections. Seated on a high chair throughout the session, he barely looked at the audience, the top of his spectacles obscuring is eyes. He was happy to talk about designing, which surely would include his earlier work, but he made no mention of it except how fashion design came to draw his keen interest.
Special Fumito Ganryu corner at Surrender. Photo: Zhao Xiangji
“In my childhood,” he let on, “I love drawing, and then music, and then fashion. Between them, I chose fashion. I was also influenced by my brother, who was very fashionable. In my teens, I looked at how my brother dressed, and became more interested in fashion.” That sibling-roused interest led him, like many of his compatriots successful in fashion, to Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. In 2004, four years after his graduation, he joined the Junya Watanabe studio as a pattern-maker.
His stint with Mr Watanabe must have been so notable to the most important person at CDG that in a brief three years, Mr Ganryu was given his namesake men’s wear label, which quickly gain a following, especially among those who thought that Junya Watanabe was getting, well, a little too predictable. Ganryu then was a delightful synthesis of nearly everything that did not fall into the category that we still call office wear, all with a vague, but discernible CDG imprint. However, Fumito Ganryu today is not specifically designed with just guys in mind. Mr Ganryu was eager to expound what he had previously told the media: his own concept of “non-sex”.
I don’t want gender to be attached to the clothing… Right now in society, there are no more boundaries between males and females
“I started selling women’s wear, then I became a patterner for women’s wear, and then a designer with a collection that was unisex and then for men, so I went through everything” he explained. “Because I have done everything, I thought I could come up with something I have not done yet: non-sex. I don’t want gender to be attached to the clothing. Right now in society, there are no more boundaries between males and females.”
Although he says his approach is post-unisex, it does coincide with the increasingly less-binary optics and buying of fashion. Gender may no longer be ascribed to his clothes, but the Fumito Ganryu collection still looks masculine, with separates that appear to be designed by a man for other like-minded men, underscored by what are clearly today’s male wardrobe staples. Without effort, it’s easy to guess there would be shirts, tees, hoodies, and blousons, and there are.
Select pieces from the Fumito Ganryu spring/summer 2019 collection. Product photos: Surrender
Despite the store’s relatively small buy, the debut collection is easy to understand. But, the fabric choices, including neoprene and blends with a significant percentage of spandex, are a little harder to appreciate considering how they do not really suit the weather here, which on this early evening was a Real Feel® of 38ºC. I like the treatments applied to the T-shirts, with zips that can be undone to configure the attendant flaps in a state of undone. Although most of the pieces are given shapes that can be considered conventional, within each I saw details that attest to Mr Ganryu’s flair for complex patterning and unexpected details.
Despite its streetwear vibe (which is more at odds with the rest of Surrender’s hard core merchandise than in chummy embrace), the designer negates such a label, preferring instead for the wearer to define what they feel and perceive. But if street wear these days is broadly seen as “fashionable casual clothing”, Fumitomo Ganryu clearly fits the bill. This first season, the “key word is water”, he told the unimpressed audience. “There are many ways to interact with water: you can play with it or you can avoid it,” he explained helpfully. The latter accounts for the presence of what can be considered rain wear, I assumed.
Cued by someone on the floor, the conversation came to an end 25 minutes later. So placid was the interview and questionable the translation that little was gleaned from this rare visit by a CDG alumnus. In the end, only the “non-sex” clothes tell his story, even if sexlessly, discreetly.
Fumito Ganryu is available at Surrender, 268 Orchard Road