Hirofumi Kurino is known worldwide as a fashion expert and style icon whose contribution to Japanese fashion has spanned decades and continues today. After gaining professional experience at the retailer Beams for over 11 years, he founded United Arrows in 1998, a retail company that became an industry leader throughout Japan and Asia. Over the years, Kurino has been awarded several prizes and acknowledgments including the Honorable Fellowship from Royal College of Art in London in 2004, and he appeared on the inaugural Business of Fashion 500 list in 2014. He has also been named among the 30 most elegant men in the world by Vogue.com. Since 2014, he been a jury member for the LVMH Prize.
What is a trend or item that reflects men’s style at this point in time?
I spoke with our buyers and they noted that hooded items are among the best sellers: classic hoodies, mountain parkas and even classic coats for commuting that feature hooded details. So I analyzed this phenomenon as a kind of ‘anti-virus’ or ‘fear-of-virus’ self-protection mindset. Of course, the hood itself doesn’t protect against the virus-like masks do; but at the same time, this makes sense as a figurative point of view — as a reaction to human being’s fragility, our customers feel protected even if the detail is largely symbolic. It reminds me of when frightened children hide themselves under blankets to feel safe.
How can fashion as a form of individual and free expression play a role in our changing societies?
With Covid-19, life is drastically changing. Basically, we need less clothing than before because we are staying at home; so naturally, this leads us to minimizing our shopping.
How does the current crisis impact people’s relationship with clothing and fashion?
The government has required us to ‘stay at home’ and to refrain from going out. Gathering must also be avoided in cities and elsewhere. Usually, this situation would negatively affect the fashion business. But at the same time, as it seems that the situation won’t be solved in the immediate future, some people have realized that they want to dress up anyway — even more than before — to boost their motivations. For this reason, they are more opinionated, buying less and more carefully. That said, female customers want to wear high heels to maintain their self-esteem and consciousness, while men want to dress up in a very elegant British gentleman’s style.