We will tell you the story of Nepenthes and its founders, Keizo Shimizu and Daiki Suzuki, a friendship that led to Needles and Engineered Garments. Or how two friends from the Japanese countryside took on fashion industry thanks to a libertarian and qualitative vision of textiles. Don’t trust their smiling grandpa looks, they are Punks who have changed the history of Japanese fashion.
Nepenthes, a passionate meeting
Keizo Shimizu : Needles Designer
Born in 1958 in Kofu, Japan, Keizo was always passionate about the fashion industry and clothing. After studying fashion in Tokyo, he worked in shops in the city, notably Van and Redwood, to perfect his knowledge of textiles. He is a pioneer, a fan of the Ivy style and outdoor wear, challenging all norms and stereotypes thanks to his flexible spirit and overflowing energy.
Daiki Suzuki : Engineered Garments Designer
Born in 1962 in Hirosaki, Daiki Suzuki grew up in a rural part of Japan, with hobbies far removed from the fashion industry. Fisherman, cyclist and baseball player, little Daiki dreamed of becoming a pro cyclist but his father forbade him. In 1975, he came across Made In USA Catalog and a new passion grew in him, the Outdoor clothing, a passion that devoured him, until he encouraged him to join a mountaineering club to get as close as possible to it. Then followed a fashion school in Tokyo and a job at an Italian and American textile importer with brands such as CP Company and Gitman Bros. That’s where he met Keizo Shimizu.
Nepenthes : an obvious meeting
The 2 men, while exchanging, developed their interests in the American manufacture, the Ivy look and the outerwear. After 6 months Daiki left his job to join Keizo at Redwood, a store he managed. 5 years later, Keizo Shimizu decided to found his own store and he did not intend to leave his friend behind. In 1988 Nepenthes was born in Tokyo and Daiki Suzuki became after many adventures buyer for the shop, Keizo in Shibuya and Daiki in New York, the two men are determined to find the best parts to present to their customers.
Two men, one vision
Freedom at the service of fashion
Daiki Suzuki and Keizo Shimizu have gathered around a common passion for fashion and a libertarian vision of it, no combination of pieces is forbidden, the ugly is subjective and is not locked in its original aspect, everything depends on how to wear it, how to match it or how to assume it. They are two curious men, eager to discover local fashion from all over the world in order to get the most out of each culture.
Beautiful products hunters
Without the Internet at first, the two sidekicks got together to meet the best craftsmen. They would stop in a city and flip through the yellow pages looking for good addresses in terms of expertise or design, like in Minnesota for engineering boots or Texas for cowboy boots. Why be satisfied with the selection of shops nearby when you can go directly to see the craftsman who made the piece? Santiag’ style boots with tracksuits shock you? They don’t and that’s what makes them pioneers, opinion leaders, important and respected figures in the international fashion world.
The création by Nepenthes
A desire of innovation
As American fashion began to arrive en masse in Japan, the two men sought increasingly sharp and original brands. Until Shimizu found a simple solution to be sure to sell unique pieces that corresponded exactly to the universe Nepenthes wanted to develop and create its own range. Needles arrived in Japan in 1997, like a UFO to break all the codes.
Needles, the betterfly brand
Between military clothes, sportswear, western and vintage American denim, welcome to the brand’s psychedelic universe with a butterfly… Needles. Japanese brand with diverse influences, at the same time colorful, retro, sport, cowboy… A universe difficult to define, isn’t it? Simply because Keizo Shimizu does not allow himself any borders, he wants to be free to create as he sees fit without having to enter boxes or respect codes. In Needles Homme’s showroom, models are women, why? No answer except “why not! ».
Engineered Garments, the American cousin
In 1998, Daiki Suzuki returned to New York after a visit to California, heard about a location in Soho and rushed to create Nepenthes New York and at the same time Engineered Garments, the Japanese vision of American textiles made in New York. The store later moved to Garments District in the heart of Manhattan. In 2002, Engineered Garments officially became a brand in its own right and Daiki saw her dream come true, to become a Designer. His creations inspired by the world of traditional American workwear and claiming New York craftsmanship have led him to be named “Design Revelation of the Year” by GQ, offering Engineered Garments a larger exhibition.
Nepenthes, Needles, Engineered Garments… three emanations of the story of 2 friends, 2 clothing enthusiasts, 2 creative people eager for freedom and driven by the desire to create an original style representative of who they are.
By Simon Baumer-Poulain