Hiroshi Fujiwara has a resume that most designers could only dream of. In his thirty-plus year career the Fragment Design founder has worked with Nike, Starbucks, Stussy, Neighborhood, Casio, Carhartt, Beats, and Disney. Oh wait, did I say in his career? Because that was just in the past year. Pull back a bit further and you’ll find names like Oakley, Cole Haan, Clarks, Sacai, Visvim, Sophnet, Converse, Levi’s, and Martin Guitar. And that’s just his work as a designer. Fujiwara is also an accomplished musician who has collaborated with Janis Ian and Eric Clapton. Oh, and if that’s not impressive enough he appeared in Lost in Translation.
Fujiwara’s career is a lesson in curiosity. In the 1980’s he was just another face in Tokyo’s budding fashion scene until trips to New York and London placed him a top the Harajuku hierarchy. Fujiwara capitalized on the porous nature of creative life in these cities during that time. In London, he hung out with the likes of Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, Boy George, and Stephen Jones. He planned on staying in London for longer, but McLaren implored him to go to New York (McLaren thought London to be too “boring”) where Fujiwara immersed himself in the fledgling hip-hop and skateboarding scenes. Upon returning home, Fujiwara introduced these Western discoveries to his friends, and in doing so provided new outlets for the discontented youth of Tokyo. He spun hip-hop records as a DJ. He launched Goodenough, a clothing label that would pave the way for all streetwear brands to come. He became the “Godfather of Harajuku.”
To say that Fujiwara legitimized street-fashion by focusing on the “coolness,” (aka the exclusivity) of such a style is true, but it skips over how exactly he achieved this. Fujiwara was a cultural carnivore. He gobbled up these different elements and artifacts from around the world and repackaged them for his peers. Fujiwara was the catalyst for a design approach that has now become the norm not just in Japan but across the world (especially with the way in which the internet has juxtaposed once disparate cultures.) Having recently celebrated his birthday, Fujiwara continues to work at the pace of someone half his age. This year in addition to his aforementioned collaborations he also opened up the Pool Aoyama, a Tokyo concept shop set inside an empty swimming pool. His work with Nike continues to be his most visible (and sought after) work though, both through his Fragment Design collaborations and as a member of the HTM design team alongside Nike’s CEO/designer Mark Parker and legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield. In this era of overexposure, it’s rare to find a genuinely underrated figure, but considering his track record and his lack of fanfare, I believe that Fujiwara is just that: a designer deserving of more acclaim than he actually receives.