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Pushing the boundaries of art and function, we partnered with the outdoors-inspired streetwear label White Mountaineering to unite performance with the aesthetic needs of the fashion world. Inspired by textiles and patterns from his travels around the world, White Mountaineering Creative Director Yosuke Aizawa mixes folkloric design elements with premium suede, moisture-wicking UGGpure™ wool, and ultra-durable outsoles to carry men through winter in style.
Recognizing overlapping principles of uncompromising quality and tasteful design, he decided to partner with UGG for a collaboration capturing the best of both worlds. We sat down with Aizawa to talk art, culture, inspiration, and the outdoors:
How did you get into the fashion industry?
I studied textiles at university, but never actually studied fashion – I wasn’t originally planning on entering that world.
How does your appreciation and understanding of textiles set your designs apart?
I studied textiles because I wanted to create hand-made things. If not textiles, it might have been sculpture or block printing. Textiles are obviously very important in fashion design, because apparel is over 90% cloth. It’s similar to when a ceramic artist looks for the right clay.
Did you receive any pushback from the fashion industry when you were first starting?
When I launched the brand, the concept of outdoor-inspired fashion wasn’t on-trend, so I had a very hard time spreading it.
What made you decide to combine your love of the outdoors with fashion?
As a child, I would go camping and explore nature with my father. That sparked a passion for the outdoors that remains at the brand’s core today.
Where do you go in Japan for inspiration?
I like snowboarding, so I visit the snowy mountains of Hokkaido.
Does snowboarding influence your designs or creativity? If so, how?
I used to design for a snowboard brand. Unlike clothing as fashion, snowboard wear must be 100% practical to be comfortable. Comfort and practicality are central to White Mountaineering, so there’s a definite correlation.
Why did you want to collaborate with UGG? What sets UGG apart?
I wouldn't collaborate with UGG if there wasn't synergy between our brands. The root idea of UGG is something that is not only fashionable, but also practical, which really aligns with my concept.
How do you decide who to collaborate with?
I collaborate with brands that I can generate synergy with to create things that I can’t express on my own.
How did you first hear of UGG?
Sheepskin boots were very in-style when I was in high school. UGG was the best among them.
How do people in Tokyo style UGG?
Fashion is pervasive in Japan. UGG is a brand that people can style into their daily lives without sacrificing comfort.
Now that comfort is such a big component in fashion with the rise of athleisure, how does this affect your brand?
The direction I was aiming for when I started White Mountaineering is now the trend, so I’m glad I stuck with it for 13 years.
How do you remain progressive while paying respect to the past?
When I’m creating something new, instead of copying what I know – traditional textiles, practical outdoor wear, or military wear – I connect each of them, combining elements to make something unique. So I think there’s no present without the past. Everything that I have felt over the past 41 years leads to tomorrow.
Finally, what is Japan’s role in fashion? What about California?
Japan has a wealth of textile producing regions and outstanding factories, so I hope that Japan will continue to produce talented fashion designers. On the other hand, California is a place where culture, sports, and fashion merge, so I think the lifestyle serves as creative inspiration.
On the Runway.