Interview with Engineered Garments founder Daiki Suzuki
Interview by Kevin Kafesu
"Inspired by his early love of old-school Americana fashion, Daiki Suzuki founded Engineered Garments as a platform to retool the classic styles of hunting, sporting, and suiting. From his creative base in New York's Garment District, Suzuki has designed updated vintage menswear silhouettes for the last 20 years. True to the ethos of his cult-followed brand, Suzuki has crafted something new from something old. The Engineered Garments' One Star sneaker celebrates four generations of Converse logo design—featuring the One Star, the chevron, the star and bars—all tweaked and refashioned in one iconic sneaker."
Shop the collection.
Tell us why you wanted to collaborate with Converse
Converse is one of my favorite sneaker brands. I grew up with Converse and I have some good memories with Converse sneakers from when I was young.
Why do you think the Converse One Star has become an icon within the sneaker world and for you today?
Converse is one of the true classic American sneaker brands and they have an amazing heritage history. Chuck Taylor and the All Star leather models are original works and most sneakers today are in some way or another inspired from these sneakers.
What was the inspiration behind this collaboration?
I know that I can only really mine things from my memory for my designs, so naturally I got an idea from what I remember from the All Star leather sneakers that inspired the designs.
Copyright © nepenthes.co.jp
"The base model is the original One Star leather which is combined with the most memorable designs from the 70's, the Star Chevron, Stars & Bars, and two One Stars with two different stitching"
Have you worn the sneakers? What do you love about them?
Yes I have, and I like that they are classic designs that go with my clothes well. Also, I love that they are original icons that many other companies were inspired from.
Are you a fan of the One Star?
Yes, I also love the All Star in canvas but the One Star leather was the one I couldn't afford to buy when I was a young boy. The One Star model has been a dream sneaker to me ever since.
Why do you think Engineered Garments and Converse complement each other so well?
I feel that both brands are based on American Classic heritage backgrounds, which makes a good fit for working together.
How would you style this collaboration?
Styling for this One Star collection would just be universal.
Tell us more about the collaborative process with Converse
I came up with the concept idea and sent over my design sketches to Converse, after some talks there were a few sample runs and improving details before the final result.
Let’s talk about the relationship between Nepenthes and Engineered Garments for those that may get the two confused? How do you define the relationship between the two brands and how did Engineered Garments become a part of the Nepenthes umbrella?
Nepenthes and Engineered Garments are the same. Nepenthes is the company behind Engineered Garments as Nepenthes America started in 1989 and Engineered Garments started as one of the brands in the Nepenthes umbrella in 1999.
How long have you been living in New York City, and why did you choose that as your base?
I have been living in New York City since 1997 but I lived here before that too. When I moved here the first time in 1990 it was for our business. It was just easy to be here and deal with all the manufactures we bought then. Later I moved to San Francisco to see a store there and then I moved back to NYC to open our 1st store in the US in Soho. There was always a business reason for living here but I personally love this city so much that I couldn't get away from it.
With the One Star, why was it your choice of sneaker from Converse? Also, what is your most memorable moment with the sneaker?
The Converse One Star is the sneaker I dreamt of when I was a boy. They looked so cool, and a few friends of mine had them but I couldn't afford to buy them because back then the sneaker was so expensive in Japan. Later I found an ad for the One Star in Popeye Magazine and I tried to buy them from my home-town in Aomori by calling to a store in Tokyo. Being from Aomori I had a heavy accent, the store staff couldn't understand what I was saying so I just hung up on me, which resulted in that I couldn't get them again.
How did the signature play with asymmetry come about? It appears to have become an iconic thing for Engineered Garments and Nepenthes to play around with on most footwear collaborations?
I like the idea of asymmetry, negative/positive, inside out, reversed, color blocking and so on in general. This not only applies to sneakers or footwear but asymmetry is one of the main elements for Engineered Garments' apparel as well. It all starts from a real idea, a classic idea but then we go to the left instead of going right as you normally would.
We can see that you sketch a lot in your previous interviews and articles about you. Can your briefly tell us how your design process starts?
I try to come up with ideas and then I sketch them down. Sketching is the best way to explain what I want to do, so most of the time, I sketch a lot to visualize my ideas.
What would you say are your key sources of inspiration?
Memories of clothes I wore, loved and bought.
Is it important to you that Engineered Garments is manufactured in the USA? If so, why?
It's easier to manufacture here for us. It's getting smaller and smaller every year but New York still has a great garment center that has great factories and resources. We love New York and we live here so we manufacture here as well, just like the old days when US fashion was made in NYC.
How would you define American Sportswear?
T-shirt and Jeans.
What’s a piece of Engineered Garments that you cannot live without?