Hiroshi Fujiwara: The Hype Alchemist 

‘Godfather of Streetwear’
‘Modern Day Renaissance Man’
‘The Living Internet’
‘One Man Hype Factory’
Multiple labels, one man – Hiroshi Fujiwara. 

 

One could attribute hundreds of them and it would still be insufficient to chronicle his legacy. The most stunning part of it all? He would humbly discredit himself of these labels his contemporaries describe him by. A musician, producer & designer, the vastness of his influence has only grown over the past 30 years. Everything he touches (read: collaborated on) is coveted, a collectible. 

So, what is it about this Japanese origin, bob-haired man that makes him the most sought-after collaborator in the hype biz? Let’s rewind.

Born in the coastal town of Ise, Mie, Japan – Fujiwara moved to Tokyo at 18 and was quickly catapulted into the front & centre of the booming Harajuku street scene gaining global momentum in the early 1990s. His fascination with London’s punk rock subculture led to a trip to the city and upon a friend’s suggestion (Malcolm McLaren) he later visited New York. There he was introduced to hip-hop. Inspired by his experiences in New York, he started a hip-hop group called Tiny Panx with Takagi Kan and started DJ’ing all across Tokyo. Introducing Japan to the genre he became the link between the two continents. His travels led him to meet Shawn Stüssy, who then made him an honorary member of the Worldwide Stüssy Tribe and sent Stüssy gear all the way to Tokyo for him and his friends. 

Fujiwara regularly documented his escapades in various magazine columns, most notably ‘Last Orgy’ (1987) a regular column in Japanese magazine Takarajim. His commentary on style, fashion, street culture & DJ’ing in the column garnered a dedicated audience making him the OG influencer. 

The incredibly influential column made a superfan out of Tomoaki Nagao who bore a resemblance to Fujiwara and shared many of his passions. The two came into contact during this time, with Nagao going onto become Fujiwara’s assistant for a while. This stint earned him the nickname – Nigo – meaning number two in Japanese. In 1990 Fujiwara started his own label called GOODENOUGH which would grow to be one of the most respected brands in Japanese streetwear, inspiring Nigo to start his own streetwear label - A Bathing Ape. 

Moving on to focus exclusively on collaborations, Fujiwara opened his shop Ready Made, at a time when collaborations weren’t popular at all. As expected of the designer, the shop became very popular very soon. Fujiwara, however, chose to shut it down because according to him “that wasn’t the point at all”. 

Everything that he took part in was uplifted. In 2000, he collaborated with Supreme to design box logo t-shirts, and in 2002 HTM (the AMG of Nike flyknit trainers) debuted. HTM consisted of Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield, and Mark Parker, and was one of the most elusive collaborations in streetwear history. They released multiple sneakers with Nike, their rework of the Air Force 1s was iconic. Made with black or brown leather, exhibiting meticulous detailing, and a resemblance to dress shoes, it was highly sought after. Another one of their noteworthy designs is their version of the Nike sock dart which utilized computerized knitting technology. HTM helped initiate Nike’s use of fly knit technology while creating the Nike HTM Flyknit Racer and the Nike HTM Flyknit Trainer+. The lightweight and supportive material was made with waste-reducing tech and initiated a new era for Nike.

Riding high and firm on the success of his collaborations, He launched Fragment in 2003 and in 2009 launched a home goods brand called Reta W. In 2014 two major milestones were crossed. Hiroshi Fujiwara released a visual book called Fragment, and Fragment the label collaborated with Nike to release AJ 1’s which ended up having a resale value in the thousands.

The genius of Hiroshi Fujiwara lies in the confidence and sheer willingness to stay on the move. Throughout his career, Fujiwara has collaborated on various products, right from coffee mugs to clothes to guitars (with Eric Clapton). He curated culture and created the preamble of the community that we know of and are mostly part of today. While his humility stands in contrast against his achievements especially in a time and generation where clout chasing is pretty much expected, Hiroshi Fujiwara is effortless. The Godfather of streetwear created pathways for people to follow, modify, and be inspired by. 

Directions by Harkrishan Alag