Interviews

DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT

7 November 2022

END. sat down with legendary designer and Engineered Garments founder, Daiki Suzuki, to delve into the personal and immersive craft underpinning his label.

DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT
For Daiki Suzuki, creating clothing is an art that’s deeply immersive and personal, summarised deftly by his label’s name and subsequent mantra, Engineered Garments: “Not Designed, but Engineered”. Clothes are not designed from a detached sense but engineered — developed with Suzuki’s meticulous attention to the fine details, with everything locally manufactured to ensure involvement at every stage.

It goes beyond that, with Suzuki’s personal experiences and upbringing channelled into each garment that’s created, ranging from Americana, instilled by the films and TV shows he grew up fascinated over during his youth in Japan, to utilitarian design codes as a nod to his love of the great outdoors. On his personal experiences, Daiki said “I grew up with old American TV series re-runs and new Hollywood movies in the '70s. So, naturally, I was obsessed with American fashion and culture.”. This love was compounded later in life during Daiki’s advent into the fashion industry, where he “became a buyer at an American imported clothing shop in Tokyo”, fully immersing himself in the milieu of the city and its fervent appreciation for Americana. Subsequently, through Daiki using clothing as a canvas for his own personal experiences, an Engineered Garments’ piece becomes something deeply personal to you; an unconventional pocket placement to carry essentials; a hardy material for unforgiving weather during commutes; a utilitarian detail which unconsciously becomes part of your daily routine. All of these small details come together to fulfill the brand’s aim: to create clothing that becomes more personal with every experience.

DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT
DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT
DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT
DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT

In 1982, Daiki had an encounter that would eventually blossom into a close friendship and working partnership. That encounter was with a young Keizo Shimizu, NEPENTHES head honcho and Needles founder, who then worked at the same footwear wholesaler as Daiki. Both had a mutual love of American fashion and films, making Daiki the natural choice as a buyer for Shimizu’s NEPENTHES at its 1988 inception. It’s these formative years that established the initial building blocks of Engineered Garments, “I started living in Boston in 1989. I was all over the place in the U.S. working with many clothing, footwear, luggage and accessory manufacturers to create products for the Japanese market”, said Daiki. It would eventually lead to a lightbulb moment — Daiki would begin to channel his experiences and love of all things Americana, creating a U.S.-based brand that represented an intersection of all of its touchpoints: workwear, outerwear, military garb, tailoring and sportswear.

DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT
"I love to work locally and with the people at the factories directly — we can grow together and learn with each other."

After spending a decade cutting his teeth as a buyer alongside Shimizu, Daiki took the step to start his own label and broaden the NEPENTHES roster. It was during the brand’s first year that an experience helped solidify the mantra at the core of Engineered Garments; when working alongside a pattern maker, Daiki “tried to add so many details onto each garment that they had a difficult time completing my requests”. This back-and-forth approach, one that entails a more considered, rigorous stance on garment design, is something much more akin to an engineer, thus sparking the Engineered Garments motto of “Not designed but engineered”. It’s an approach to product that’s intimate, hands on, meticulous — fostered through Daiki’s steadfast dedication to ensuring craft remains local to his office in Long Island, New York. On the importance of promoting domestic craft, Daiki said “I love to work locally and with the people at the factories directly — we can grow together and learn with each other”. It’s an ethos that’s long been central to New York and its garment district: a historic hub where design, production and wholesale interlink, connecting the dots between different stakeholders and enabling meticulousness with craft. It’s something Daiki emphasised his desire to uphold — “my work progress is very slow and requires a lot of back and forth between my office and the factories, and I believe garments have been made like this in New York for a long time. I would like to still make garments in this way if possible”.

DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT
DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT

Daiki’s dedication to immersing himself in the craft of products results in garments imbued with a unique approach to construction techniques and details: silhouettes are often unconventional, pocket placements asymmetrical and materials contrasting and spliced together. All of these qualities further the personal feel to Engineered Garments, something that’s made possible through Daiki’s ability to stray into conflicting themes and avoid the notion of “perfect design”. All of these little details are integral to Daiki, though he uses materials as a springboard for his creative vision — “fabric comes first and it gives me what I should make and its direction”. When asked what fabric his favourite is to work with, Daiki responds in a way that’s characteristically personal, one that you can’t help but be directed back to his youth and initial encounters with Americana: “Cottons, denims. These are my first loves and have remained ever since”.

DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT
DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT

In the contemporary fashion sphere, collaborations are a ubiquity — a tool used by labels to generate energy and tap into new customer bases. Daiki is a designer deeply immersed in the collaborative world, with the relationships he forges rooted in authenticity and respect: “I like to collaborate with brands I admire and usually I know about their products pretty well”. Like when Engineered Garments partnered with New Balance to rework the 990 sneaker — it was a collaboration formed through not only a shared love of quality and domestic craft, but Daiki’s younger experiences of owning 990s and working in stores that stocked New Balance products. Most recently, Engineered Garments partnered with none other than Palace — a partnership that may have came as a surprise to some, but ultimately represented an extension of the design codes inherent to Daiki. There were olives, technical materials, utilitarian outerwear, asymmetric detailing — all of the trademarks of Engineered Garments cast through the lens of Palace. On his approach to designing for collaborations, Daiki commented “I usually try to come up with ideas and create things as if I were a designer for the brand, thinking about what I might like to try make a possibility”. Ultimately, Daiki’s collaborative efforts represent an extension of the Engineered Garments mantra: authentic product that celebrates authenticity, utilitarian design and the minutiae of craft.  

DAIKI SUZUKI'S DEEPLY IMMERSIVE CRAFT

ENGINEERED GARMENTS AT END.

writerJack Grayson
|photographerAndrew Morales | @Lifeinreverie
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