ABOVE: PHOTOS COURTESY OF WATARU SHIMOSATO
Kei Ninomiya‘s line, noir kei ninomiya, begins and ends with black. The non-hue, in all its amorphous possibilities, has proven to be a vast creative well for the 31-year-old Japanese designer, who completed a degree in French Literature in Tokyo and left his studies at the Royal Academy in Antwerp to work as a patternmaker for Rei Kawakubo in 2008. The meeting of the two was fortuitous; Ninomiya was given his own label under the Comme des Garçons group, and presented his debut collection in October 2012.
To understand Ninomiya’s clothing is to embrace an entirely new proposition—the conceptual-minded, couture-like garments push the boundaries of form and proportion. Ninomiya’s main preoccupation is innovation. “I want to make new things,” he says, simply. “I want to surprise people. And I really want to surprise myself.” Experimentation, is, essentially, the foundation his design practice; Ninomiya emphasizes that he takes the creation of a collection garment-by-garment, working on small fabric studies to visualize the effects of new techniques and fitting them onto the body. Many of the resulting pieces are engineered without seams, manipulating surface embellishments like studs, pearls, and metal rings to give a garment its shape, dimension, and conform to the body. The detail is minute; 4,000 studs hold one jacket together, which took four days to complete.
After a few seasons, Ninomiya made his Paris fashion week debut at the recent fall shows, and last night, Comme des Garçons brought the noir experience Stateside, hosting a preview of the Fall 2015 collection at the brand’s labyrinth-like West 22nd Street flagship. “We thought it’d be nice to present him to the New Yorkers,” noted Comme president Adrian Joffe. It was also an opportunity to see Ninomiya’s clothes in action on models, among them a bell-shaped cocktail dress knit out of fabric-stuffed tubes, a high-gloss cocoon coat constructed of flower-like protuberances, and a pod-shaped, vest-minidress hybrid, stuffed with three-layers of tulle scrunched into a gradient effect. But as much as Ninomiya’s designs amaze as art objects, their function, clothing real women doing real things, takes precedence. “It’s not a product; it’s clothes,” he explains. Plumbing the depths of the deepest and darkest of shades continues to hold Ninomiya’s attention, so don’t expect to see any dramatic shifts in palette anytime soon. “I love black. That’s all,” he laughs. “It’s strong, it’s beautiful, it’s my favorite color.”
NOIR KEI NINOMIYA IS SOLD AT DOVER STREET MARKET, COMME DE GARÇONS, AND OTHER SELECT STOCKISTS WORLDWIDE