Eley Kishimoto’s collaboration with Eastpak has proved to be such a perfect fit that it’s surprising it took this long to happen. Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto are old hands at the creative partnership game, having lent their talents (via eye-popping prints) to companies from Volkswagen to Louis Vuitton, Uniqlo and even the iconic London double-decker bus. Fresh from a hectic London Fashion week, Eley took time to walk us through their multicolored world, the story behind their latest partnership and balancing a crowded professional plate.
JC Report: How did the collaboration with Eastpak come about?
Mark Eley: Our Japanese office mentioned the idea about a year and a half ago, and we began talking with Eastpak’s Antwerp office who deal with the creative side of things. We really liked their approach—they understood us and the brand. We liked what they did with Raf [Simons], and they clearly understood how designer collaborations work. It was the perfect fit. We’ve taken this project all across Europe and I’ve really enjoyed the experience that’s come with it.
JCR: Was the popular “Flash” print always the first choice?
ME: No, it wasn’t the immediate choice. We originally thought about doing seasonal prints or a one-off, but Flash seemed so appropriate for this particular product. I love the idea of two people in the street wearing flash on different products and there being that recognition, that connection. It’s been a popular print for us so it seemed obvious to marry it with Eastpak’s iconic models.
JCR: Was it important to keep this line so limited?
ME: Very, otherwise the print becomes crass, bastardized—it impacts the integrity of our work. I’d rather give it that exclusivity as a means of protection. There’s a thousand of each color, but within the gigantic world of Eastpak that’s tiny.
JCR: Will this be a one-off or a continuing collection?
ME: It won’t be dual-branded next time round, we’ll just be supplying print which is the normal process for us when we work with other designers. That will then be followed by another Eley/Eastpak line. We’re moving on from Flash, we want to create a story with the next one. We’re at the beginning stages, but watch this space.
JCR: How did you find LFW? What was the thinking behind the collection “Jetset Masala”?
ME: We really enjoyed LFW. We have our formulas, our processes, but basically got to the show and hoped for the best. It’s been a nice period. You get to release all those ideas you’ve been working on—it comes alive, we can finally talk about it. We wanted to create something bright, optimistic, colorful, positive. Everyone talks about this air of doom and gloom but we just have to carry on as normal.
JCR: How would you describe the London fashion scene right now?
ME: I think London’s style and our smaller scale way of working is particularly appropriate right now. All our little micro businesses is the healthiest way—four or five kids starting up their own little thing. Within the four fashion capitals we’re not the biggest, but we’re the epicentre of creativity. Perhaps the financial squeeze will push people to think more creatively, offer some sort of positivity among all this depression.
JCR: What’s in the pipeline for Eley Kishimoto? Any other collaborations coming up?
ME: We’re juggling quite a few at the moment. We have the house in Cannes we’re designing (we’re filling the pool right now actually). We’re still working with Lewis Leathers, we just opened a shop in Japan. Then there’s our kimono line. We recently produced our own currency “flash notes.” We’re looking to organize an exhibition at the end of the year. For us, the first question is what sort of product would we want to use, not what would work commercially. Perhaps food will be the next venture—Eley Kishimoto Rice or maybe an illegal bar somewhere, that’d be nice. Fashion is primary but it’s also a platform. We’re interested in how the brand can interact with day-to-day life. That’s what really excites.
This interview was conducted by Lena Dystant