LONDON: After making the challenging switch from boxing ring to catwalk, Japanese fashion designer and former boxer Arashi Yanagawa talked about rolling with the punches during Men’s Fashion Week in London. “Being flexible and continually learning is something that I take from both boxing and styling,” Yanagawa told AFP as he put the finishing touches to his collection in a cluttered studio space in east London. The 41-year-old heads up a fashion label he created called John Lawrence Sullivan - named after the legendary 19th century US boxer who is considered the first heavyweight champion of the modern era. After boxing for several years, “I felt I had achieved what I set out to. I was ready for a new challenge,” said a smiling Yanagawa, dressed in a camouflage shirt, dark green leather trousers and a black cap. “Another passion of mine since childhood had always been fashion, so it felt right that I take up a path in design. I wanted to take the lessons I had learnt from boxing - hard work and perseverance, and channel this into a new adventure,” he said.
‘Power and elegance’: Yanagawa’s style is a mix of classical and eccentric, fluid and virile, and displays a passion for leather as well as hints from his past - some of his bags resemble punching balls. He now has three stores in Japan and is planning to expand abroad but the journey was not always easy, especially for someone starting out with no training. “The biggest challenge when I started was discovering the right factories and fabric mills to work with,” he said. “As with any new designer it is very important to find people that you have good chemistry with, who you trust and are right for the brand.” After several years in an ultra-competitive business, Yanagawa began making a name for himself in Tokyo and was praised in a 2008 article in The Business of Fashion, a top industry publication. “Despite his non-fashion background, or perhaps because of it, Arashi is at the vanguard of a group of promising, young menswear brands that are taking Tokyo by storm,” the report said.
Boxing is never far away for him and he draws parallels with the world of fashion. “On the face of it both might seem quite simple: left, right punching, or dressing someone in clothes,” he said. “However as you delve deeper it’s a lot more complex. There are many different styles, techniques and variations.” Asked about his influences, Yanagawa cites David Bowie - the late rock legend who died a year ago on Tuesday.
“I find his generation of musicians very inspiring. They represent traits which I incorporate each season, expressing power and elegance in unison,” he said.