Interview with Kenta Ashi
Kenta Ashi is a japanese art director, graphic designer, fashion designer and painter, A master of many disciplines he applyies his superb sense of style and artistic skills to his many projects. He is the creator of the new Kimono brand, Edge of Darkness which mixes traditional Japanese styling with the dark and gothic look he is known for. The Edge of Darkness Brand was launched at Department-H on April 7th to rave reviews.
Kenta, it is a pleasure to meet you. You have an impressive background and a great reputation in the art scene. Did you go to school to be trained as a graphic designer?
Tom, I am happy to meet you, too.
At first, I want to say that I appreciate the time you have taken to get to know me. I feel it’s a kind of destiny.
I went to music school from 19 years old to 21 years old. Until about 20 years old, I composed music on a PC and was a member of a band. I used to think I’d like to be professional musician, but I moved onto other things.
At the same time, I was very interested in the design of CD jackets and I thought I would like to be a designer. I didn’t go to graphic design school, I studied design on my own and taught myself.
As an artist, what would you describe your style as?
I think… I’m an egoist..
When I do art direction, graphic design, fashion design, and paintings, I don’t think about other people at all, I do not create for anyone but myself. I make the things which I think it are beautiful because if I make my priority other people’s views ( meaning audience or clients), I can’t express my vision.
If someone is moved by something I created which I think is beautiful, then I think there is purpose to my work. Even if it is only one person. That’s why I am a egoist and incompetent presenter.
I express by my vision, art direction, graphics, fashion design, paintings, but my world which I feel beauty is are all connected.
Many examples of your artwork are dark using bold lines and stark graphics. When you approach a project how do you come up with the concept? What is your creative process?
When I create my works, I really become nervous. I pay attention to my feelings at that time, an image view appears on my brain. My works made by following this image.
My imagination becomes form, these are my works. For example, when I create sad image things, I sometimes cry while doing it. If I were to sum up my process by one word, it is from my fantasy. My line expresses my mixture, interplaying feeling.
When I design CD jackets, at first I listen their music again and again and then an image appears on my brain and I make it to form. Recently I made a CD jacket, I listened their music more than 500 times. I told the artist and they were surprised and glad that I listened so much more than they listened to it.
What are some of the tools you use? How much do you use digital tools and software?
I can only use Illustrator and Photoshop. When I do Art direction, graphics and fashion design, I only use these two applications. I’m so unskillful.
You are also a “live’ painter. For those who do not know what this is can you describe this?
My live paintings are mainly done on stage at the live house. Performance is around 15 to 20 minutes so I prepare canvas and paint by my fingers or put paint on my mouth and draw the pictures.
Recently I haven’t been drawing only on paper but I also draw on female bodies putting tattoo sticker which I designed and paint on her body. Almost all the audiences who see my live paint first time, are surprised!
Recently you launched your own fashion brand, “The Edge of Darkness”. Can you tell us about your concept behind it?
When I was a child I used to watch Hide (X JAPAN) on the TV. I really loved his style. At that time, his style was gothic style and his main color was black. My parents worked and related only to traditional culture in Japan. (not Kimono), so I grow up with the Japanese traditional culture.
When I design, I think ‘gothic style’ and ‘Japanese historical culture and kimono’ are both are very attractive and beautiful, so I am interested in mixing them and in interpreting them with my own style.
That is how my ‘Edge of Darkness’ was born.
The concept is a mix of elegant ‘gothic style’ and ‘Japanese historical culture’ and I’d like it if young people in Japan and in other parts of the world get a closer understanding and feeling of Japanese culture. This is my hope.
Is this your first experience in fashion?
No, it isn’t. I was a designer of Shibuya-Gal style brand before. Shibuya culture is very popular in Japan, but that style is different from my favor which I feel beautiful. When I used to design and design Shibuya style, I was able to understand more about my personal style and how if differed from what I was working on,
Now I make normal traditional Kimono and not only a customized Kimono like ‘Edge of Darkness’.
To learn to create kimonos, I studied under the Kimono creater Hajime Takahashi from ‘Yusuian’. http://www.yusuian.jp/
Yusuian is Kimono atelier who is making 90% of kimonos in Japan. I learned the skills and knowledge of kimonos from him.
Who would you hope would be buying your kimonos and where can you see them being worn?
Of course, I hope everyone likes my designed kimonos and I’d like to young generation wear them.
Japanese don’t wear kimonos daily like people abroad may think so kimono culture is in a decline. I’m happy if people see my brand as their first opportunity and get interested in kimono so it will spread to future generations.
Now, I did only one fashion show, so unfortunately we can’t see people wear my brand on the street nut I will start to sell them this summer. I hope Edge of Darkness will be not only for Japan but also for overseas.
What other artists inspire you and might influence your work?
I don’t view other artist’s works because if I saw their works I would be influenced by them. If I was influenced then I don’t think of my creations as 100% of my own ideas. That’s why I don’t view others.
Since I was a musician when I listen music or attend live concerts many ideas flash into my mind. So the artist which I inspired are GenwakuTeien (dazedgarden – http://dazedgarden.com/）, they serve me as a stimulus.
More than 500 times I listened to their CD and created the CD jacket. When they offered me the chance to design it I was very excited.
You are active in the underground scene and had the premiere of your “Edge of Darkness Brand” at Department-H, one of the most popular clubs. What was the audience like that night and what feedback did you get?
After my fashion show at department H I got a lot feedback. Some of the things they said were:
“that was elegant and beautiful”, “Amazing innovative design”, “ I would love to buy them” and others.
I was surprised, and at the same time, I’m glad that many people appreciate my designs. even if if it doesn’t start a fashion trend I just pursue what I feel is beautiful. However since I did the fashion show I though of some new design that I think people will like, I ‘m not satisfied presently. I really desire to produce more beautiful designs.
On the 23rd of June, I will have another fashion show and I will express more of my world which I feel more beautiful.
Do you hope to expand your brand into other areas in the future?
Yes I do! When I create my brand, I‘d like to for people to wear it to abroad, not only in Japan. I’d like to do fashion shows and sell it in other countries. If I could do the show in USA, I would love to invite you and all your readers!
Personally, what do you think of the artistic community in Japan these days?
Because of the PC becoming popular, people can create many things easily. I think these days there are lots of “self‐styled artists”. I don’t like this situation.
I think, deciding “this is the art” is not your choice. Deciding if something is art or not should be made by the people who see one’s work. That applies to the title of artist as well.
I am very sorry that now there are many self-styled artists and those that introduce themselves as an artist. I don’t think I am an artist myself. I don’t think that I make art but I m glad if people who see my works would call me an artist or say his works are art if they should choose to.
As an artist, what do you think of those that create art simply for exhibition and sale as opposed to doing it for the love of creating and following their passions.
I don’t like to create things just for selling. I only make things which I feel are beautiful It means I make them for myself. If I design just for selling, I need to make it for fitting users taste . Majority or popular taste may sometimes be different from my taste but If both are matched, it is wonderful.
I do my exhibitions irregularly. There are many customers who say that they want to buy my work but at those times I don’t indicate the price. If I felt that person really understands and loves my work, I give it to them.
Do you have any interesting projects coming up you can share with us?
I am going to have an photography exhibition. This exhibition will be still images of models wearing Edge of Darkness. I think that if I produce everything from the design to the styling it is becoming real. I am also in the early stages of planning a fashion show abroad.
Where can we find out more information about you and your work?
You can see my works and exhibition information or show schedules on my blog and on my twitter. I presently don’t have a website. In the future I will make a website where I can post my work for all to see.
Thank you so much.
twitter : https://twitter.com/#!/art_d_ashiken
Edge of Darkness : http://eod-japan.jp/
Asuka is a model, fashion and beauty writer, and works in
Public Relations for a cosmetics company located in Japan.