Let the Solo Continue: An Afternoon with Takahiro Miyashita
Let the Solo Continue: An Afternoon with Takahiro Miyashita
- Words Asaf Rotman
- Date March 29, 2017
About fifteen miles east of New York, past the Great Neck exit on the Long Island Expressway, sits the Americana Manhasset shopping center. In a town where the median household income ticks just shy of $200,000, and sprawling estates and gated communities are commonplace, you'd surely expect some high-end shopping. And while the usual key players are all here—your Gucci, Louis, Fendi and Cartiers of the world—Hirshleifers, the crown jewel of the complex, is anything but expected.
Photos by Joe Rovegno
Follow Asaf on Instagram here.
Servicing everyone from local millionaires to Long Island’s newly developed high-street fiends (aka those millionaires’ kids), the specialty store has quietly become an international shopping destination. With a brand list extensive as any department store on Madison Avenue, the relatively reclusive shop is a hidden gem on the North Shore. With stock ranging from Valentino, Balmain, Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, and Cucinelli, to some of the most directional and coveted labels around, Hirhsleifers toes the line between department store and high-end boutique in a way few shops can.
Currently run by the fourth generation of Hirshleifers, the family business has been a local landmark for decades. Recently though, through the addition of MRKT—a portion of the shop dedicated to young and directional brands such as Off-White, Enfants Riches Deprimes, AMIRI, and ReadyMade—high-profile events and curated social media content, the store is poised to become a fixture in the greater New York retail scene.
I am here today for one in a series of pop-ups. The legendary, and notoriously press-shy, Takahiro Miyashita is presenting his S/S 17 collection, “The SKOLOCT.” Miyashita has brought SKOLOCT, aka Tsuyoshi Nakano, a Tokyo-based graphic artist who served as inspiration and collaborator, along with him. TheSoloIst. designer is showcasing specialty one-of-one pieces, including paisley vests made from discarded silk ties, ponchos constructed from repurposed Ralph Lauren towels and a play on his signature patchwork denim, bleached and customized by Nakano.
Nakano sits at a desk surrounded by a few dozen POSCA paint markets and various colored sharpies. In front of him is an old BAPE ad, on which he furiously scribbles away his signature creature, coincidentally also called SKOLOCT. Similar to Jun Takahashi’s “Grace,” SKOLOCT is a fictionalized character that “tears through the fakes” with his signature three-clawed paw, a truth-seeking, poser-shredding wolverine. While the character, which oddly resembles a Happy Tree Friend, is usually limited to canvas and various leather accessories, for S/S 17 the artist worked alongside Miyashita and artist Shin Murayama to bring the creature to life. Using numerous bandannas, the trio devised complex masks—which at a $1000 quickly sold out on sites like HAVEN—that allow the wearer to don the SKOLOCT mantle.
Miyashita, decked head-to-toe in his own designs, paces somewhat anxiously back and forth. Despite it being nearly seventy degrees inside, he wears a camo long-sleeve shirt, one of the aforementioned reconstructed vests (a personal edition made from vintage army ties) and a loose-leaf camo bomber is slung over his shoulder. Dark tinted sunglasses and an olive wool camper hat obstruct his face and various skull rings—remnants from his Number (N)ine days—adorn his fingers.
I’m told to speak through his assistants, rather than confront him directly. He motions towards the rack, and as I flick through this season's offerings—distressed crewneck sweatshirts, logo tees with “soloist” crossed out and replaced with “SKOLOCT” in red sharpie—a pair of all-white, patchwork denim catches my eye. Rigorously reworked, the zipper-fly sits on the outside left thigh, rather than dead center, to create an entirely distinct silhouette. I’m told the jeans, with their numerous zippers, and cargo pockets, were created with vintage Levi’s 501s. A quick peek at the price tag reads $1760. I audibly gasp, and for the first time, Miyashita laughs. I nod my head. He nods in return before flashing a quick grin.
During his tenure at Number (N)ine, Miyashita’s key inspiration was music. At TheSoloist., this fascination continues. “[For] SS17 I wanted to be a different person, become a different persona, just like David Bowie when he became Ziggy Stardust,” he said later via email as a true, in-person interview was not possible. Looking through the collection, it becomes quite clear that Bowie’s passing had a profound effect on Miyashita. With lapels on jackets shaped like stringed instruments, bright blue jumpsuits, and metallic silver python Chelsea boots, Ziggy Stardust clearly lives on through Miyashita’s latest offerings.
The ability to take on different personalities and, in doing so, find one’s self is core to TheSoloist. philosophy. “Just after David Bowie passed...I said I had to become someone different,” he said. SKOLOCT, then, was brought on as a facilitator, to help Miyashita transform from Bowie to Ziggy. “I wanted to create [Nakano's] character in a wearable way so anyone could become SKOLOCT,” Miyashita says. Becoming SKOLOCT provided an escape; a method for TheSoloist. to deal with the death of an idol.
The event is relatively tame, with only a few guests. I can’t help but wonder why Miyashita chose Hirshleifers, rather than a stockist in the city—his collection, for example, is available at both Barneys and IF—where there would inevitably have been a larger crowd. “Hirshleifers are a good client and I love their energy,” he says. “Lori Hirshleifer is fun and adventurous, so I thought it would be nice to do something special and different with them.” Fair enough.
Miyashita certainly was not lying. Wearing the same bomber, with jeans scribbled on by SKOLOCT and a fistful of Chrome Hearts rings—there’s a CH boutique in the back of MRKT—Lori’s infectious energy lights up the room. She explains that her great-grandfather Jacob opened Hirshleifers in Brooklyn as a furrier in 1903. Shortly thereafter, he relocated to Queens. About sixty years ago, the store settled in its current location. She runs the store along with husband David, sisters Shelley and Caryn, and children Marci and Rob, the fifth generation of Hirshleifers.
“We met [Takahiro] a year and a half ago, and have been carrying his collection since. We find him extremely talented and creative. He's a legend!” says Lori. Her faith in his work is well-founded. While the event doesn’t draw the sort of crowd as, say, a Dover Street Market installation, there’s something endearing about the intimate nature of the pop-up. Refreshingly removed from the hype associated with similar events in the city, Hirshleifers offers an intimate look at the storied designer's craft.
Being an unabashed fanboy, my conversation with Miyashita unavoidably steers towards his departure from Number (N)ine. “Well, I quit the band and became, TheSoloist. I just want to make unusual clothes that you can wear. I just listen to my mind! I don’t want to only be luxury or only street, I want to create something new, something different, a mix of the two! Something smart!” he says. God bless him. Let the solo continue.