Zenta Nishida is a magazine editor and the chief executive officer at Magazine House Brand Business Department. From 2007-21, he was the editor-in-chief of BRUTUS, publishing 322 issues. He was also involved in the launch of the lifestyle magazine, Casa BRUTUS and the women’s fashion magazine, GINZA. During his time as Brutus editor-in-chief, he introduced a wide range of special culture features that explored fashion, food, books, film architecture and more and proved popular among readers.
In what ways is exploration a natural part of the design process?
Akira Minagawa’s brand, Minä Perhonen, may have the answer. The Minä Perhonen art exhibition “TSUZUKU” (continued in japanese) has been touring museums all over Japan since 2019. Minagawa’s production work is “exploration” itself. In the video, the scene where Minagawa hand-paints the fabric pattern in the morning sunshine, and its signature design “tambourine” embroidered on the loom, draw me in every time I watch it. At the end of the exhibition, Mina’s clothes, which people have been wearing, are displayed along with the number of years they have been wearing – like 8 years or 15 years – and the memories of each person with their clothes. I think only true designers can think that far. A designer starts off creating something in their mind, many staff work hard to produce their products, then they get handed over to people, and they wear them for a long, long time. The exhibition demonstrates that Minä Perhonen explores all of these phases in detail and I believe that, as a whole, is the design process.
What are some of the themes and ideas that you would like to see designers exploring through the next few seasons?
The word “exploration” is fascinating to me. I think the exploration is that you don’t need professionals looking for answers and trends, like marketing and research. There are clues in the city. Fashion is created from dialogues between people. The other day, I had the opportunity to talk with about 40 men and women in their early 20s about fashion and themselves. They are surrounded by so much more information than when I was their age, but no one is copying anyone else, they are not influenced by any styles, and they are just exploring their “likes”. Some of them have started their own (amateur) brands and sell their clothes.
“What has been decided by everyone is correct, but it’s not interesting.” This is the most important rule of my editing manners. In the next few years, it seems to me that fashion designers have their own personality to explore in depth, not information or what’s out there.
How do you, personally, explore what’s new and exciting in fashion?
When I handed over the position of editor-in-chief of BRUTUS magazine after 14 years to a younger generation, I decided to develop 13 magazine brand businesses through the publisher, Magazine House. I traveled for two hours to Toyama prefecture to visit an independent tailor called Piisu to tailor suits and shirts for me. I love the suits I made while interacting with the tailor and envisioning my new self all afternoon. I think it’s the fun of dressing up in fashion that makes you feel both proud and timid at the same time. Realising who you are and finding a little newer ‘you’ through dialogue with fashion lovers is an exploration of fashion that will not change in this fast-changing world.
How have the past few years shaped your exploration through social media and the virtual world?
I have a friend who found a new Romanian brand and ordered a piece of clothing on Instagram. A parcel got blocked at the airport due to a mistake in the invoice. Soon after, a message of apology came from the brand designer herself. This is the kind of “miracle” that is already happening. As an apology, the product arrived with a gift.
What is fashion now and what form should it take in the future?
Journalists have been analysing this in the past. However, from now on, designers will be able to feel the vibe, judge or make decisions for themselves through social media or the internet. Today, anyone can explore social media to find their favourite designers. I am excited to see the world where the exploration of the designers and people meet directly.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.