Originally hailing from Ikoma, Japan, 25-year-old Ryosuke “Rio” Kimura landed in New York less than a year ago after a roundabout route of high school in Auckland, New Zealand and then physical therapy studies at Sierra College in Rocklin, California and Boston University. He recently wrapped his first year of the associate’s degree program at Parsons with a focus on womenswear. Originally planning on a career in physical therapy, Kimura soon realized that he had more of a passion for fashion, his study of the human body, however, has proved to be an asset.
“[Fashion design] is about the silhouette on the body and how the body moves, and I think I have a good understanding of that,” says Kimura. “I usually like fitted clothes, rather than oversized garments and I think it’s helpful, when it comes to fit, that I understand the human form. I place accents in specific places to emphasize the shape of the body.”
“Clean and simple, but playful” is how Kimura describes his design aesthetic. “I love the subtlety of accents or prints that you have to pay attention to see, that make you want to examine [the garment] to see what’s going on. That’s one reason I like the designs by Paul Smith. A collar on one of the jumpsuits I designed extends all the way to the pocket. It’s a subtle line, not so in your face.”
Beyond designing clothing, Kimura’s mission is to spread a positive message through his work.
“I would like to use fashion as a means to [bring up] sensitive and important issues going on in the world,” he says. “In the big picture, I think of fashion as more than just the clothes.”
His first collection, presented in May, was called the “Bushido Collection, “inspired by the ethos of Japanese samurai warriors applied to womenswear.
“I wanted it to be a representation of who I am and where I come from—‘bushido’ is the name for a way of life for samurai warriors and mottos they live by, such as bravery, loyalty, justice and honoring death,” he says. “I tried to show that in the colors. Red is the passion. Black signifies death. Blue means loyalty. The aesthetic comes from a samurai warrior’s armor and the traditional men’s ‘hakama’ that is a bit loose-fitted and similar to a kimono. One of the pants has a pyramid-shaped piece on the side, a poncho is connected with a chain to show how some of the armor is chained together, and one of the skirts has a layering effect with big square pieces that cover the thigh and hip area like armor.”
“I thought it was good to apply the aspects of the male samurai warrior to women, as a way to say that I respect women being more strong and confident and independent,” says Kimura. “There is progress with women’s issues in the work place, but there is still the problem of a lot of women getting paid less than men. Or being treated differently than men. I really wish and hope that we can all be equal and this is my way of supporting that idea.”
Kimura is working with Designow to reproduce a layered, jogger-style pant from his collection.
“They look like black cotton jogger pants with a pleated, sheer material layered over the top and a blue cuff as an accent,” he says. “The [Designow team] needed my comments on fabrics and measurements and the patterns that I used to make the pants, so they could send it to a sample factory and start making samples. It made me realize that, in the real world, there are a lot of people involved just to make one pair of pants! They asked about the customer and in what type of environment she would wear this and why would she pay this amount of money. In my program, we don’t really focus on the business side of the fashion industry, so that’s been very exciting, as well as challenging for me. It’s a new way of thinking. And it’s very real. So it’s been a very meaningful experience for me.”
This summer, Kimura is working as an intern at Oscar de la Renta’s headquarters in New York.
“I get to see how they build a collection and communicate and run their business by involving all the factories,” he says, after day one. “Plus I can build a relationship with the people working in the company. Draping and sewing was a preferred skill for applicants, so they told me that I will be able to get some sort of hands-on experience. And I’m very happy to be able to do that with such a great brand! My supervisor said that we can get started soon on sample-making and start thinking in 3-D and sketching things. I want to be there as much as possible!”