PostTales From the Riverbank

Journeying from Japan through street culture, fashion school and Paris, Clarks Senior Designer Atsushi Hasegawa shares stories of collecting vintage vinyl, teaching fly fishing to the French elite and how he finally settled down with a Somerset girl.

Atsushi – can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came to work for Clarks? Was there anything in particular that brought you here?

I was born and grew up in Japan where I went to the most famous fashion school, the same school as Yohji Yamamoto and Kenzo. Before fashion school I’d worked in the Vivienne Westwood shop – the first in Japan – and had been in i-D and The Face magazine. It was a very exciting time! Vivienne Westwood re-issued a collection at the shop which included her famous bondage trousers that The Sex Pistols and others were famous for wearing.

Rather than being a good student I started DJ-ing with quite famous, iconic people in Japan. I discovered fashion myself, but not ordinary fashion – more sort of street/sub-culture.  I wasn’t necessarily inspired by art – everything the teacher said, do this, or do that – I hated it. But it was the mid to late 80s and I was completely fascinated by skateboarding, hip-hop – not necessarily Japanese culture. I was totally interested in foreign scenes. Probably London at that time was strongest.

While I was DJ-ing there were many fashion and magazine people around, so I started showing them my sketches and illustrations. I quickly started doing artwork for them, for fashion and street fashion magazines. But then in the mid-90s I had a complete ‘enough’. I’d discovered French fly fishing culture - sometimes even while I was DJ-ing I’d need to go to the countryside to go fishing. So when I stopped DJ-ing I was more interested in this real scene than fashion or trends. I started to work for the American outdoor company, L.L. Bean. I was a fishing instructor for them for four years. And whatever I do I always immerse myself in it. So that’s what happened with fly fishing

 

 

French fly fishing culture is connected with Ernest Hemingway who went to France a couple of times to fish with the French hotelier, Charles Ritz. I contacted the shop they all used to go to in Paris, a really famous shop, La Maison de la Mouche Dubos, and I had a correspondence with Jean Michel Dubos, the son of Rene Dubos, the shop’s founder.

So in the mid-90s I said, ‘OK, I should go!’ And I went to Paris and was there for 15 years. I was a fly fishing instructor for La Maison de la Mouche Dubos, but was still doing design and illustration jobs. I launched a T-shirt brand with a Japanese company and tried to launch a fishing jacket collection. I worked as a fashion stylist – basically I tried to use all my knowledge of creativity.

I had French girlfriends, but I finally met an English girl from Somerset. I liked French jazz or French vintage music, including Serge Gainsbourg who was with Jane Birkin – and I thought, ‘Oh, an English girl in Paris!’ After 15 years I wanted something more settled and she started talking about the English life. So, we had two babies, and we moved here with our children (now 8 & 6 years old) for a more healthy way of life. And I was very, very excited because for my hobby, fly fishing, this country is great.

I knew about Clarks – only because of Clarks Originals – from when I was working in fashion and was a kid in the 80s. They had Clarks Originals in very good shops. So I said, ‘Clarks – why not?!’ 

I had French girlfriends, but I finally met an English girl from Somerset. I liked French jazz or French vintage music, including Serge Gainsbourg who was with Jane Birkin – and I thought, ‘Oh, an English girl in Paris!’

Can you outline your role at Clarks and some of the projects you have worked on? Which have been your favourites so far…?

My favourite project and one of the biggest was the Clarks Originals re-branding – working on the logo with the team from mood board to execution. For Clarks Originals branding I have now also started using my drawing, so my drawing is visible on the website. I also worked on the Clarks V&A collaboration – I chose the pink and worked on how we use my specially created black and white illustrations for the logo and box design. These projects are exciting as I can put more of my personality into them. Especially after the V&A project people have started to recognise my drawing and have asked me for similar things.

Can you tell us about things in your life and in the outside world or within your job that inspire you?

I was always doing doodles and drawing as a child, and I was always a collector. The first thing I started collecting was vinyl, then when I was a skateboarder in the 80s all the skate T-shirts, like Stüssy.  I saw them before they got very famous. I always enjoyed finding something not many people have. I’m interested in very small, very niche stuff - the small trend. I still collect now. I probably have nearly 100 fishing rods. I have 3000 vinyl records, all French from the 1950s-70s. I like everything vintage. When I was DJ-ing in Paris I found all the vinyl myself from car boot sales in Paris, I was doing the flea markets every single weekend.

When we started working with the V&A we were taken behind the scenes to their archive to talk about what is iconic. I looked at the detail of the building which was all quite fascinating, so I took many pictures and finally did the drawings. I tried to mix the two things – for example, something from Clarks – a last or tools – with something from the V&A building. So it’s a mix of both.

So in your spare time would we find you on the riverbank? Tell us more about your fly fishing expertise?

I started fishing when I was five or six years old – my father would take me to the lake and leave me there then pick me up later. I taught myself to fish. I’m an auto-didact.

Now my fishing rods are always in the boot of my car with my Wellington boots and waders. So sometimes I say to my wife, ‘Oh I need to get something from the supermarket,’ and at the same time I try to go fishing, even for 15-20 minutes. Fly fishing is sort of like therapy for me. Other fishing is just waiting - if nothing happens you get bored – but fly fishing is basically you trying to understand nature all the time. Like learning the wind direction and the temperature of the water, or, if it’s a sunny day today how was it yesterday. So, it’s a very good place to learn something very fundamental.

Sometimes I’ve got problems with my job or my friendships, all sorts of stuff, and I go fishing, and you kind of learn how you work it out. Basically the river is not flat. There are so many things to understand so it is very complicated but I think it is very simple.

And it’s so funny, if you’re stressed you can’t make your knot! If you’re nervous, your fly, the eye is so tiny, you can’t even get that! So I say, ‘Calm down, calm down..I can do it!’ It’s like yoga!

When I was teaching fly-fishing in Paris I had such surprising customers, such a mix – they were from the one and only fishing shop left in Paris. I taught such a mix of people – famous actors, rich people, fashion designers, students – very cosmopolitan. I teach my children to fish sometimes. Their friends say, ‘Your dad’s teaching fly fishing, he’s famous,’ and my kids say, ‘Ooh, Daddy teaches fly fishing, Daddy’s cool!’

I have many pairs of Clarks Originals. And I’ve stopped wearing other shoes. I’ve worn only Originals for maybe the last three years – and they’ve become part of my skin!

Do you have any key looks or style notes from the Clarks AW15 collection?

I’ve grown up with Clarks Originals – Desert Boots, Desert Trek, the Wallabee, Natalie. I absorbed many famous shoes when I was young and I definitely liked Clarks Originals with their authentic, simple designs.

I went to a Clarks Originals photoshoot at Kilve beach which is on the West Somerset Coast Path, and I noticed Kilve Trek.  It has a very outdoors, authentic side with its chunky Vibram sole and felt inside and is maybe more masculine than the classic Desert Trek. Kilve Trek brings things together, it brings in the outdoors.

I have many pairs of Clarks Originals. And I’ve stopped wearing other shoes. I’ve worn only Originals for maybe the last three years – and they’ve become part of my skin!

Photography by Stuart Grimshaw of Pennleigh © Stuart Grimshaw/Pennleigh Ltd. 2015 www.pennleigh.com. Read more about Atsushi's fly fishing adventures here.

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