Yantor is a Tokyo-based clothing label made up of two creatives – Kosuke Sakakura and Kensuke Yoshida. Their 2017 Spring/Summer collection is based on a project called ONE by ONE, in which they make the everyday routine of wearing clothes a tool of communication. For this collection, Yantor and their film crew flew to a small village in Myanmar near a lake called Inle, where the villagers live on the lake and commute by sailing boats. There, Yantor shot a lookbook in the form of a mockumentary.
We talked to Kosuke Sakakura to find out how Yantor began the ONE by ONE project, why they chose Myanmar as their inspiration, and finally, what keeps them going as a brand.

Yantor is a clothing label but your approach to the fashion industry is very unique – using documentary films, art exhibitions, etc. What do you aim to achieve through the brand as creatives?

Our brand concept is called “SITUATIONS”, in which we challenge creativity while seeking out the unknown potential of fashion. For us, it’s about discovering the unseen possibilities and the role of fashion in different situations. It is important to think of fashion from multiple points of view and to feel free. We only do what we believe is good and we try to find ways to express this through different formats. We believe that something new and original will eventually come out as a result of our process. It’s difficult to keep a piece of clothing for a million years. Our goal is to create something that marks our philosophy and ideas that last into the future.

What is the message of Yantor? What do you want to communicate to people?

Needless to say, the key to fashion is in those who wear them. When presenting a new collection, they say that how elegantly the looks are presented is the most important. But when it comes to everyday life, we believe that if the person in the clothes can be him or herself and stay grounded, this is more important. Everyone has a different shape and character, so we learned to focus on the mentality of each individual.
I have a theory that the body and mind influences one another. That’s why I want clothes to be freeing so that they can liberate both body and mind. This idea is linked to our designs – making clothes that will not bind you, but rather will make you feel as free as possible. We consciously make patterns that have enough ease, allowing the body to move freely within the garment. Physical restraint can cause emotional stress. We want people to project their bodies onto the clothes they wear so that they can discover something beautiful or fun in their daily lives. Everything is so reachable and convenient nowadays that we are beginning to think less. If more people start believing in their own sense of beauty and wear clothes the way they want to, fashion will become more interesting.

Can you tell us about your background? Who is behind Yantor, how did you meet each other and how did Yantor began?

I started Yantor in 2008. Later I asked Kensuke Yoshida to collaborate, who at the time was working for a different brand. We first met each other in Musashino Art University. Kensuke had a background in haute couture, and could bring something more urban and pop to the table. Also, having someone who thinks differently was really refreshing. At first I only asked him to help with technical aspects, but we eventually started creating things together. We can’t remember the exact date of when the two of us began as Yantor. I am the one who designs and gives creative direction. Kensuke then reinterprets my design and ideas in his own perspective. What’s important here is to think freely. We give each other new ideas over endless trial and error. It may sound inefficient, but I think that’s what it takes to create something new.

This S/S 2017 collection ‘Inle’ is a part of the ONE by ONE project, observing different cultures and lifestyles and reflecting on what clothing is worn. Can you share more about the idea behind One by One?

Every place on Earth has its own distinct culture, and what people wear naturally shows their culture or way of life. By having people wear our clothes, we try to give birth to a new communication that allows us to share a common space and time. This project first began by questioning the role of fashion. Many brands devote themselves to delivering a new collection each season, which is inevitably a very tough thing to do. We made something after months of struggle so we ask ourselves, what kind of power will this collection have on people? How can we make the best of it? Wearing clothes is a part of most people’s daily routine, and we wonder if we can find a new way of communication by simply having people put on our clothes. We began driving from Jaipour in India, continuing all around Rajasthan. We would make stops on the street and extemporarily ask people around to put on our clothes.

For this particular project you travelled to Myanmar to shoot the lookbook and film for your collection. Can you tell us about the project? Why Myanmar?

This is our third time traveling and making films for our lookbook. We have been choosing locations where religion, namely Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, and Hinduism, play an important part in society. Almost everyone in Myanmar is Buddhist. Unlike Japan and Tibet, where Mahayana Buddhism is practiced, people in Myanmar practice Theravada Buddhism. I was merely interested in the difference. During our research I learned about the Intha, the people who live around the lake called Inle. The images I found that portrayed their lifestyles were so beautiful: transportation on the lake traditionally done by boat, how uniquely one uses his whole body to sail, and their longyi, which is a sheet of fabric traditionally used as a skirt. We were especially impressed by the longyi. They say that Its flexibility helps them to sail boats more easily, and they also use it to hide their bodies while changing clothes. It seemed as if it was a part of the body. We then decided to make a collection wholly inspired by this region.

How was the experience of traveling and shooting there? What did you learn?

The shooting took place in a village called Maingthauk. We went to see the mayor first, and from there, we got to see more of life in the village. The villagers were extremely accepting about us styling them and seemed to be having a lot of fun during the process. Once they accepted us, they treated us like we were family. It was such a rare opportunity to be able to build such intimate relationships. While spending time with them, we noticed how much they appreciate being alive. Compared to life in Japan, their lifestyle seemed more simple and powerful. In Japan, we’ve gotten so used to having everything and may have lost certain aspects of things.

Why do you choose it to be done in a mockumentary style?

I have been fascinated by documentary films for a very long time. The purpose is, of course, to document the era and culture of a specific time. Everything about it, even if it seems unbelievable, must be factual, and it’s really overwhelming. Imagine there’s a kid whose shirt sleeve is torn at the shoulder – he doesn’t put his arm through the sleeve, but instead through the part it’s torn. It looks strange, but because his gaze into the camera is so strong and assured, it makes sense as his own fashion statement. Yantor often finds inspiration from these unconscious and accidental moments of fashion. Our creating a mockumentary was not an accident. We chose to do it because we wanted to mix reality with our own imagery. Our film director Goo Koyano specializes in mockumentary films. As you can see, we introduce the village through clothing. Every villager is wearing Yantor and this is the image we wanted to create for this collection. It was important for us to produce images that have never been seen before, but at the same time make you learn about the culture, though the form of a mockumentary.

How can the village benefit from it?

It was important to us that the people of the village were enjoying being part of our creative process and that they were actively participating in this project. What they benefited from this project may have varied by individual, but we feel content as long as they remember it as a good experience. We decided to gift them the clothes and apparently they still enjoy wearing them. The clothing worked as a tool to connect us with them. I’m curious to find out how things will turn out years from now. We are also aware that when exposing an unknown lifestyle, we should be considerate of their culture.

Have you already decided the destination for your next shoot? If it could be anywhere, where would you go?

We’re not sure yet, but there are already a few places on our list. The Tuareg people in Mali for example – we are very curious about them.

As an outsider, I’d say the authenticity – the honest design and raw beauty of both your product and message – is what makes me a fan. What do you, the creators of the brand, love most about Yantor? What makes you excited and satisfied and keeps you going?

We have the freedom to express what we want to do and we are really happy about it, but at the same time, we feel responsible. We always have to find ways to express something new and different ー something better than in the past. What excites us is to envision what will come after one collection is complete. We are happiest when we are creating something, and continuing to do what we love to do.

Interview by Satoru Teshima
Film – Goo Koyano 小谷野五王
Photography – Katsuhiro Aoki 青木勝洋