- Words Nico Lazaro
- Date September 8, 2016
58-year-old Needles founder Keizo Shimizu has long been renowned within Japan for pushing boundaries and redefining stereotypes. In the 80s, his shop Redwood was the first fashion retailer to stock Nike and Air Jordan brand sneakers, which were sold alongside American workboots and US Army fatigues. Shimizu founded Nepenthes in 1988 as a small second-hand shop in a residential part of Tokyo, selling American-made products that Shimizu imported himself from factory stores in the US. In the 90s, as American companies began exporting more of their manufacturing overseas, Shimizu realized a need for genuine American-made products and began several of his own brands alongside his business partner and longtime friend Daiki Suzuki, including the now-defunct Hoggs and Opus, the predecessors to Needles and Engineered Garments. After a trademark dispute forced him to close down Hoggs, Shimizu founded Needles with the intent to create more sophisticated collection of clothing within Japan, while Suzuki founded Engineered Garments with the intent to produce high quality clothing exclusively in America. As most Japanese retailers had only been buying special order products directly from factories in the States, Shimizu realized the opportunity to create a better product using the unparalleled materials and local craftsman in Japan. While Needles was originally created to support the imported stock at Nepenthes, it has since become a key brand that reflects the creative spirit that Nepenthes represents. From its bohemian, soft-tailored offerings to the Rebuild sub label of repurposed vintage garments, Needles has continued to display a refreshing and perfectly coordinated balance of traditional garments with avant garde tendencies.