Talking "Food" with Hiroshi Fujiwara

The fragment design founder joins for the sixth and final episode of ‘Breaking Bread.’

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Hiroshi Fujiwara is the sixth and final guest to join host Boris Yu for HYPEBEAST CN’s Breaking Bread series for a “Food”-themed installment. Fujiwara, the famously-multidimensional mind behind fragment design, is also a well-versed “foodie” who equally appreciates the best of fine dining and local street food in his travels.

Here, the pair meet at Tokyo’s Chicken Kitchen share their observations on the development of the global dining scene, their culinary preferences and their love of pop-ups.

Dining

BORIS YU:It seems our conversation is always inseparable from food and dining.

HIROSHI FUJIWARA:I have always liked food, interesting food. I think food became really trendy about 10 years ago, maybe seven. I can understand because all the chefs can now meet each other online.

Breaking bread boris yu episode six fragment hiroshi fujiwara

Hypebeast

Yu: There was a time when they all used a very traditional style of business and communication.

Fujiwara:In the ’90s, or before the ’90s, if you wanted to be a chef, you had to be in one restaurant for 10 or 15 years.

Yu:We actually have a lot more choices of food and dining concepts than in the ’80s or ’90s.

Fujiwara:Yes, it’s fun. Everyone has more information. Every little town I go to, I can call you and ask which is a good restaurant, I think it’s very interesting. It’s very similar to when streetwear came out.

“I always tell chefs to not just look at things one way. What they create must be reflected in their personal appearances.”

Yu:So you think it’s very similar to streetwear going into high fashion nowadays, or high fashion integrating into streetwear? It’s my personal observation, in terms of creative process, whether it’s fashion or art or design or technology, and even food, we seem to be stuck at a certain point, we don’t see any more radical movement.

Fujiwara: I think they are still doing things in a traditional way, making clothes and doing collections every three months. But like the way I work may be different, with many collaborative kinds of things.

Tastes

Yu:I know your particular dietary preference. Has it always been like that?

Fujiwara:Yes, since I was 18 or 19, I’ve opted not to eat red meat.

Yu:What made you decide on this?

Fujiwara:It was a collective decision amongst my good friends at the time.

Breaking bread boris yu episode six fragment hiroshi fujiwara

Hypebeast

Yu: You also never drink [alcohol].

Fujiwara:No, I never drink and smoke. I have never touched any drugs at all, not even once.

Yu:So you have the clearest vision of [’80s London].

Fujiwara:I think so.

Experience

Yu:How did your experience in both the U.S. and U.K. influence your view of the Tokyo scene?

Fujiwara:A lot. I always wanted to go to London when I was younger, because punk was happening in 1977. I was a teenager at the time, so I always wanted to go to London because we couldn’t get information so easily like nowadays: no web, only pictures in magazines. So when I was 18 years old, I went to London. Sure, I was inspired by many things, but also I found out how good Japan is. Every time I go to London or New York or Milan, I always feel good returning to Japan and really appreciate Tokyo.

“What’s good about food is you have to go there to experience it for yourself. You cannot order online from Amazon.”

Yu:I couldn’t agree more because those places are very nice, but living there is a totally different thing. I lived in the U.K. for 14 years. In London especially, what influenced you more? Music at the time, or fashion at that time, or both?

Fujiwara:During the ’80s, fashion and music were always together. I liked both, really, 50-50. I was DJing already before going to London, and I got to know DJ friends in London. At the time, being a DJ was kinda something to do with fashion too. It was a trendy thing.

Yu:When did you start your partnership with Nike?

Fujiwara:1995. And it’s been going on until now.

Yu:Was it difficult to start with?

Fujiwara:Hmm, not really. Nike was trying to break into this kind of fashion world, there was this one guy called John C. Jay from Wieden+Kennedy and he introduced me to Mark Parker, he was Vice President of Nike at the time. He moved to Europe, and then we met over lunch. We talked, and he asked me what I could do with Nike.

Breaking bread boris yu episode six fragment hiroshi fujiwara

Hypebeast

Yu:And it became HTM.

Fujiwara:“H” is me, “T” is Tinker Hatfield who designed for Air Jordan, “M” is Mark Parker. This is how we started, and then all of a sudden it became really big.

Yu:Throughout your career, when was your most difficult time — or most unhappy?

Fujiwara: In fact, I’m kind of frustrated all the time. Maybe early days I was DJing and I was into fashion also. In the ’80s, people didn’t recognize these two things together: a designer should be designer, a DJ should be DJ. So if I was a DJ, people would say, “oh this is a fashion guy pretending to be a DJ.” If I was in the fashion business, people would say, “this is a DJ pretending to be a designer.” So I was fighting through those public images all the time, and I felt sad. But after the ’90s or ’00s, people started to do many things at once.

“Opening a restaurant is fun, but it’s hard to sustain.”

Yu:I think now everything is more integrated.If you specialize in one thing, maybe you will be very successful. But nowadays, most view fashion, art and other creative aspects as interlinked, like David Bowie.

Fujiwara:But he’s not a fashion designer.

Yu:No, but he knows how to design himself, his own image.

Food & Fashion

Fujiwara:Speaking of this, when I want to have dinner with a sushi master, I can hardly imagine him taking off his white chef uniform. What will he wear? Because I have never seen the image of a fashionable chef in a food magazine.

Yu:It is slowly changing.

Fujiwara:Now it is really changing.

Yu:Chefs are getting younger, and they realize that it’s part of a lifestyle that they need to be aware of. I always tell chefs to not just look at things one way. What they create must be reflected in their personal appearances.

Breaking bread boris yu episode six fragment hiroshi fujiwara

Hypebeast

Fujiwara:Maybe after five years, it will be completely different. Because five years ago, many chefs’ clothing styles were bad, but now many chefs are looking fashionable.

Yu:Because of us! Especially when we attend Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony, you can at least see them wearing some Issey Miyake pieces which is good.

Fujiwara:Some people only like fine dining, but you and I are also into local food, convenient eats. That’s what I want to talk about with you, not just Michelin stars.

“In the ’80s, people didn’t recognize these two things together: a designer should be designer, a DJ should be DJ.”

Yu: Yes! The almond tofu from 7-11 [Japan] is the best. It’s like fashion: price doesn’t reflect good taste. Especially with young people, they need to understand that it’s not just all dressing up in dollar signs. The same goes for food: you have to tell people it’s not only Michelin stars.

Fujiwara:I totally agree. There is no boundary in food.

Yu:Is [Chicken Kitchen] your hometown style?

Fujiwara:Not exactly my hometown, but next to my hometown they have this chicken BBQ style. I brought Oya [the owner of Chicken Kitchen] to this restaurant to eat and he liked it, so he included it in his menu. I had nothing to do with Chicken Kitchen. I just did some design, so it’s not really produced by me or my business at all.

Breaking bread boris yu episode six fragment hiroshi fujiwara

Hypebeast

Yu:So you don’t want to be involved in the restaurant business?

Fujiwara: No, I’m trying to stay my way.

Yu:It is always nicer to be the customer.

Fujiwara:Yes, I can complain [that the food] today wasn’t really good.

Yu:Yes, I was involved in a fine dining restaurant in Hong Kong and looking at the same menu every day was very boring for me. Takes a certain ego to be chef and owner.

Fujiwara:Maybe the same as opening a store. When I had a store, I was really frustrated every three months. I didn’t wanna go to the store to see the same thing all the time.

Yu:Opening a restaurant is fun, but it’s hard to sustain.

Fujiwara:Pop-ups are more fun. But what’s good about food is you have to go there to experience it for yourself. You cannot order online from Amazon.

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