【Interview】Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo

The interview is a repost of an article that originally appeared in 「Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo」December, 2020. 

Naohiro Fujisaki, meanswhile Designer


After graduating from fashion college and gaining experience at various apparel makers, Naohiro created meanswhile in Autumn/Winter of 2014. Based on the concept of “clothing as a tool,” his goal was to address the superficial, nonsensical parts of the fashion industry by developing products that exemplify functionality. In 2016, Naohiro won the highest honour in the pro category of “Tokyo New Designer Fashion Grand Prix.” In 2019, he then won “Tokyo Fashion Award 2020.” Featured not only domestically, his work has been Picked Up by Global Media Ranging From New York to Paris and Hong Kong, Receiving Accolades as A Brand to Watch Out for.


Drawing inspiration from various fields such as outdoor, military and work wear, meanswhile specializes in functional clothing. Created by designer Naohiro Fujisaki in 2014, the brand began its overseas expansion in 2015. In 2016 after winning the “Tokyo New Designer Fashion Grand Prix” contest, meanswhile continued to gain praise both domestically and internationally. In October of this year, as a winner of “Tokyo Fashion Award 2020,” we follow Naohiro’s journey as he participates in Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo 2021 S/S with a runway show.

When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?

It may have been due in part to my father being a fine arts teacher, but I’ve always known I wanted to work in a capacity in which I created things. A part of me did not want to follow in my father’s exact footsteps so when I graduated high school I decided on fashion as that was what I was into at the time. After graduating from fashion college, I worked at an apparel maker while designing what I wanted in my personal time. This was the tepid start of meanswhile.

Can you tell us more about the brand’s concept of “clothing as a tool?”

 I’ve always loved the outdoors and sports and because of that, was also interested in the functional aspect of clothing, which I see as having two facets. That is, the functional aspect and decorative aspect. The fashion industry has always been centered in Europe, with trends coming and going, forcing us to continuously want more. It is due to this phenomenon that I believe the industry has hit a wall and exactly why I want to rid the clothing I make of all unnecessary decorative aspects and focus on the functional.

Would you say this a reaction to the current state of affairs? 

I think many hear the world “fashion” and think frivolously of it. This is the impression that those who have been working long in this industry have created. What is “cool” one season is “out” the next. Apparel is now seen as a declining industry with high hurdles for those wanting to enter. This is something I would like to change.

Where do you find your inspiration? 

I find it in things all around me however, a large source does come from nature because in nature, everything exists as it should and problems tend to solve themselves. For example, if I am trying to figure out why something is shaped the way it is in the natural world, I can learn a lot by observing and in trying to come to a conclusion, figure out the functional reason for its being. 

Clothing in which functionality and structure are analyzed and reconstructed seems to require that kind of thought process.

Yes, especially in menswear in which styles from the past are often reproduced. It doesn’t make sense to exactly recreate a pocket, for example, designed 100 years intended for modern lifestyles. Fashion is a product of a period’s way of living and thinking, meant for people at that particular time.

Please tell us more about your first runway show this October.

It was originally intended to be held in March, but was cancelled due to the global pandemic. As a result, it also includes pieces of the current Autumn/Winter collection. I wanted the show to have a large sense of scale so took inspiration from construction sites, incorporating metal scaffolding into the set design. There will be over 50 models involved. As it is my first show, there is a part of me that sees this as meanswhile’s introduction to the masses. The runway comprising of 2 levels was also created with social distancing in mind. Allowing models to safely cross each other while moving around as if in a performance.

Due to COVID, the lifestyles and values of many are continuing to change. How do you see this affecting the fashion industry?

People’s clothing habits will change if they are not able to go anywhere, but beyond that it is hard to say. Personally, this past while spent at home has allowed me to reflect on what is important to me. It has made me realize that my achievements in the past and what I want for the future are not wrong. I want to continue to focus on the importance of functional clothing.

You’ve also recently opened up your first flagship shop. What are your goals for that?

It’s been exactly 7 years since I’ve started my brand. My life has drastically changed since then so I try not to think too much about the future. Rather than set quantifiable goals such as a certain sales figure or to present in Paris Collection, I want to spread meanswhile’s philosophy and in doing so, change the way customers think.

INTERVIEW by Yuki Harada
Photography by Yohey Goto