Once a Month Gallery" is a project in which we invite artists who are active in various genres and turn the shop into a gallery. From September 25 to October 15, we are pleased to announce that we will be hosting visual artist/designer Mick Itaya, whose work spans music, fashion and art.
We asked him about his art, handkerchiefs, and creation while looking back on the 18 years of Classics the Small Luxury.
He said, "Handkerchiefs are also square, so it's okay to be more particular about squares.
While looking at the handkerchiefs and lanterns designed by Mick in the exhibition (titles omitted below)
Mick, a chochin is a chochin only when it can be folded.
- They are delicately made with stars and heart ornaments, and I thought that this was what they were for. They can be folded, can't they?
MIC Yes, yes. The lanterns can be folded. I think it's the same as saying a handkerchief is a square. I've been thinking for a while that brands should be more concerned with squares, and everything should be surrounded by squares, even the office table is a square, the glasses are a square... Classics people need everything to be square.
- You once told me that I should make my business cards square, didn't you?
Mick, we have a policy of square handkerchiefs, and that's our theme, so basically they are square. He said that.
- That's interesting.
MIC Since handkerchiefs are bound by that kind of constraint, I think there's no way we can't take advantage of that. On its own. But when was the first time you did Classics?
- I think it started in 2005. The main shop here at Roppongi Hills opened in 2003, so I think that's when we first met.
Mick I see. Yes, the first thing I drew was a skull, a skull. (laughs) He said, "Mick, draw a skull."
- It wasn't me who said that, it was Akiyama-san. He was coordinating the artists at the time. He was really a wonderful person.
His skulls were very nice.
I remember how nervous I was when I went to Mick's atelier with the samples.
At that time, he gave me this one piece, which I still use to this day.
CURONECOMIC I heard that Mick-san lives with two cats, a boy and a girl.
Mick: Beige is a boy and Kuroneko is a girl. I was supposed to get them. Well, their personalities are complete opposites. Like humans, the boy has a "me!" attitude. And the girl was like, "What are you doing?" Suddenly, the girl popped the boy on the head from behind and ran away. And the boy was like, "What the hell was that?
- (laughs) But, they are good friends, right?
Mick, yes, that's how we get along. Also, boys and girls have different butts, even if they're cats.
- Oh, I see.
Mick: Kuroneko comics are not girls, they're more like boys, but the sex appeal of such creatures, the power of their existence, can be seen in their poses. I'm very conscious of that. In fact, the Kuroneko Comics that are used as handkerchiefs are really agile, so they can pick up butterflies as soon as they want to, but the Kuroneko Comics are more like butterflies playing with me. The butterflies are playing with me. Rather than trying to avoid being caught, I want to read it as the cat not catching it. Because if you catch it, the play is over, isn't it?
- That's true.
Mick, we don't know what cats and butterflies are really thinking, do we? It's human to be able to feel that way, so I'm aware of that. There's a reason why something is cute, isn't there?
- There is always a reason, isn't there?
Mick, but this time, "CURONECOMIC", there was a request to make it into a handkerchief, but I wanted to go back to the original classics, the heart, the rose, and the angel. I thought that was good. The contrast with "CURONECOMIC". The other one is "Medals", which is a classic, you know, the kind of classic.
- When we first saw the design, we were talking about how French or European it looked.
Mick I drew it as if I was interpreting the outrageous aspects of current pop culture, like rock and punk. I was thinking, "What would I do if I were to bring European classics to this situation in Japan? That's how I came up with it. As for "CLOUD," well, I got some advice. Yeah, I'm sure it came out a little differently than you thought it would.
- No, no, no, not at all! My advice was a little more specific... I wasn't thinking about expressions, but I was thinking about a brand name that would be pop and bouncy in these times. I was wondering what you would do. When I received it, I thought it was really good. I also like the title "Cloud".
Mick Oh, that's right. Cloud. But I thought it would be interesting to make a whole alphabet out of it and put it together in various ways. If you ever need anything like that, just let me know.
- By all means.
Mick, I'll draw the other missing letters too. (Laughs)
Mick, Counter Culture, and Akiyama-san
- As I mentioned at the beginning, you and Classics met more than 15 years ago, and it was Akiyama-san* who inspired you, wasn't it?
Mick I've known you for a long time, but you let me work with you in this way, and I got a casual letter from you, though it wasn't that big. It was a good job, and I'm really grateful for it. I was given a good opportunity to do a good job, and that kind of work is really special. I wondered what it would be like to have Mick draw skulls, because I've drawn angels before, but never skulls.
- I'd drawn angels before, but I'd never drawn skulls before, so... well, your words and your relationships with people were really important to me. That's how I was able to meet Mick-san, and now we're working together again like this.
- I'm sorry that I've been so familiar with you, Mick.
Mick, please get used to me! (LAUGHS)
- (Laughs) No, no, no, I've been looking at your works and stuff for a while now, and you're someone I've been longing for. And I thought that if I wished, I could work with the person I admired. When I visited her atelier for the first time, I was so nervous. It made my stomach hurt, didn't it?
- So I brought this with me today. The old one.
Mick, what did you bring? Isn't it stomach medicine? Ahhhh. "TRA number one. That's great.
Hey, Mick, this is the magazine with the cassette.
- Oh, yeah, he told me about it. Here it is. It's from the legendary Moma collection. At the time, I was surprised to see it in the bookstore. How did you come up with this idea?
Mick: Well, I wanted to have a medium that represented Tokyo. At that time, in New York, London, and Paris, there was a lot of focus on the culture of these magazines. I think it was around this time that I saw Warhol's "Interview". There were a lot of very visually interesting designs, but they didn't exist in Tokyo.
- That's true. Like in London. The "i-D" magazine. Yeah.
So, Mick, I was thinking of doing something with cassettes, like music, or something that could be expressed on paper, like fashion, or photographers, or architects. So I interviewed them and recorded their voices and put them on cassette. I wanted to show that there was something new and interesting in this age, not in the mainstream, but in the counterculture, or in the underground. It's a new artist catalogue, or to put it simply, it's a catalogue of the new generation of artists. Well, I guess it's just my luck that I got involved in this, but in a good way.
- Oh, is that so? It doesn't seem that way to me.
There's a subtlety to it, but there's a gap between what I think I am and what my public image is, and I think it's best if people say, "That's you, Mick, no matter what you do. I think the most important thing for me is to keep doing what I do. It's very normal to say, "This is good, isn't it? You should try it." I can say that.
- Hmmm. It's so simple,
isn' t it, Mick?
That's what makes it unique.
Handkerchiefs and classics
- There are many ways of looking at textiles, fashion, and so on, but what is a handkerchief to you, Mick?
Mick, handkerchiefs. A handkerchief is basically a multi-purpose thing. There's a sense of security when you have one.
Mick, when you were in elementary school, was there a handkerchief inspection?
- Yes, there was. Yes, I did.
Mick, whether you had one or not. I don't know if they still do it now.
- I think they still have it now.
Mick I think that's a good thing. When you get hurt, you can use it for wiping, and it's something you don't feel safe without. And there are many designs, so it's quite free. But if I were to say that the function and existence of a handkerchief in the context of a handkerchief is a little bit cool, it's a little bit cool. Because it's a handkerchief, you know.
- Since a while ago, we've been talking about Classics, Classics and handkerchiefs... Are you enjoying your work at Classics?
Mick. -Of course, of course. It's a lot of work, but I'm always thinking, "How can I make it more beautiful? In that sense, the worries are not unpleasant, and it's easy to use your energy to think about what to do. Especially when you have three different tendencies in the same writer like this. I think that's a trait of mine. If you make three different kinds of work, you'll end up with a certain direction, but I think it's rare for someone like me. There's this, there's that, and there's this. Because it's a type. Also, the fact that it's a handkerchief specialty shop, and the fact that it's only handkerchiefs, is the most important thing, that the customers come there to buy handkerchiefs, they have a clear purpose, they have a vague idea of what they're looking for, or they have completely decided what they want to encounter. There are people who just happen to like cats, and they're really into it, and there are people who don't even notice it at all.
- Well, if you don't mind, I'm relieved.
Mick. -No, no, no. I don't mind at all. I'd love to work with you every month. (LAUGHS)
- (LAUGHS) I'll indulge you.
After this, we had an enjoyable time of learning about accumulating feelings, the power of continuing to draw picture diaries, and choosing to communicate with words. Mick's tall and stylish appearance may seem a little unapproachable, but in reality, he is a friendly and kind person who values time with people and feeling, as well as stoicism. His edgy work is also very typical of Mick's work, with traditional Ibaraki craftsmanship and design, and many other things that came up in our conversation. Happy handkerchiefs again, please.
Next time, I'd like to introduce you to a designer, Yuko Tokuda, who is coincidentally related to Moma. Note: The products designed by Mick Itaya are still available in the shop after the exhibition. Please note that the stock status of the products in the text may vary depending on the store and the time of year.
Mr. Akiyama: Michio Akiyama, President of Scoble Complex Company, Sommelier of Value (editor, producer, creative director, bookbinder, actor, lyricist, composer, etc.) Died on September 19, 2018 at the age of 69
MIC*ITAYA Visual Artist / Designer Born in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture. After graduating from Tama Art University's Design Department, he worked part-time as a graphic designer at a foreign advertising agency, and began working in illustration and fashion. After that, he became freelance. In 1982, he launched "TRA", a sound and visual magazine with cassette tapes, which was later permanently preserved at MoMA. Since then, he has been active in works that cross over music, fashion and art. He has had many solo exhibitions and collections of his work. In recent years, he has been presenting "SUZUMO Chochin", a series of Suifu chochin from the Edo period in his hometown Mito. He is active as a future-romantic artist who visualizes and fuses many flashes of inspiration that transcend genres.
Interviewer: Shigeru Goto, Sarumi Oya (Classics the Small Luxury)