Hubert Burda Media

The Man Behind Christian Dada

Designer Masanori Morikawa is conquering hearts, one embroidered biker jacket at a time.

The Japanese label founded by designer Masanori Morikawa in 2010 chalked up its first international headlines in 2012, when Lady Gaga donned its spectacular Origami Crane dress during the Born This Way Ball concert tour. Its clothes have also been spotted on Korean boybands BigBang and Super Junior, as well as American rockers Kiss, who appeared at the label’s show during Tokyo Fashion Week in 2013.

The official opening party of the flagship boutique in Singapore in August also attracted prominent South Korean media personalities such as Yang Hyun-suk, founder and CEO of YG Entertainment, and record producers Teddy Park and Kush. Local guests included rapper Shigga Shay and socialite Kim Lim.

Who Morikawa really wants to dress, he tells Prestige in an interview, is Morrissey, the English singer-songwriter he calls “my favourite musician”.      

He has created a brand that represents multiculturalism —“Christian” was adopted from the French couturier Christian Dior, while “Dada” was taken from Dadaism, the art movement that drew on anarchy and avant-garde.    

Since its launch, Morikawa has garnered a loyal following with his deconstructed deliberations, drawing on his grandfather’s embroidery expertise and childhood encounters with biker gangs back in his home town in Kagawa, Japan. Working in London with demi-couturier Charles Anastase, Morikawa learnt to marry his Eastern upbringing and Western exposure.

“Japanese embroidery on a biker jacket was something new…it was also unique because two different fabrics were involved, so the effect was surprising. And this became our signature,” says Morikawa.

While Christian Dada explored pop culture elements the likes of skateboarding and punk in previous seasons, Morikawa pushed his sartorial sensibilities even further with Autumn/Winter 2016. Collections for both men and women featured the works of Nobuyoshi Araki, the Japanese photographer internationally renowned for his sexually charged images.

Christian Dada’s signature embroidered biker jacket 

Named “Love On The Left Eye” — the series Araki shot after losing vision in his right eye from a retinal artery obstruction — these images were splattered and littered throughout the pieces. Morikawa, 32, has nothing but deep respect for the legendary lensman, who is 76. “I am very happy to work with him. The age gap didn’t matter to me at all,” he says.

The men’s collection showed buckles, ties and braided rope against unfinished edges and seams perked up with patches and embroidery. Morikawa’s ingenious use of Japanese techniques such as yokoburi and yuzen on modern materials including leather, denim, knit and wool melton has always given his clothes a distinctive artisanal character, but by layering multiple techniques over pieces — a double-breasted jacket came with jacquard flowers and embroidery — he demonstrated depth as a visionary.

Although the women’s collection was comparatively smaller, it was no less breathtaking. Colourful embroidery, laser-printed images, oversized buckles and crushed velvet endowed contemporary silhouettes with equal measures of nonchalance and nonconformity. 

Says Morikawa: “Womenswear requires more variety but I don’t see designing for women as more difficult. I actually derive a lot of satisfaction from working on womenswear because I get to experiment with shapes and concepts. I think it is fun and possibly more liberating because I don’t get to wear these clothes myself.  

The Christian Dada flagship here includes a Singapore-exclusive capsule collection. Morikawa, who dropped by often to prepare the flagship opening at 268 Orchard Road (formerly the Yen San Building), reveals the city is an inspiration. 

“Singapore is an interesting city,” he shares. “It reminds me of London — cosmopolitan, futuristic with people from all parts of the world. Every time I come here, I work, then I leave. I haven’t had time to see many places yet. I hope to visit Gardens by the Bay soon.”

Nature is very close to the heart of Morikawa, whose native Kagawa is home to the nation’s first national park in 1934.

As such, he worked with +ft+/Fumiko Takahama Architects to recreate a Zen garden in his 1,700-sq-ft boutique. The space was conceived as a karesansui (“dry landscape” in Japanese) garden, with “rocks” fashioned from black perforated metal and folded origami-style into quirky geometric shapes to serve multifaceted functions ranging from seating to fitting rooms.

Says Morikawa: “I was born and grew up in the countryside. I wanted to transport that element of nature to outside of Japan, so it is a way for me to remember my home town even when I’m away.”