Cute isn't all it's cracked up to be—and it's certainly of no interest to Yasuko Furuta, the mind behind super-cool Japanese labels Toga and Toga Pulla.
"Japanese culture and fashion is about cuteness, especially for women, and so Toga is very distinctly not going for that cute angle," explains the designer, who has been turning out quirky, '50s-inspired pieces for the past two decades.
Furuta, who got her start as a costume designer, scooped up the prestigious industry ANDAM award in 2007, and was a finalist for the Swiss Textiles Award in 2008, but Toga and Toga Pulla flew mostly under the radar until she joined the London Fashion Week schedule a few seasons ago. "Toga intends to provide support for the woman who lives in this complex and contemporary situation," Furuta says.
When we meet the designer, she's sitting on a couch at Matches Fashion's HQ in London, dressed in one of her blue-and-white striped, Western-style shirts. Her hair is pulled back, her lipstick is red, and she's polished but not clinically so—a formula that feels fresh in a fashion landscape where Japanese labels can often be pigeonholed as "cute," as she told us earlier, or "avant-garde."
"My aim for the clothes is to create a slight change of perspective to benefit the woman," Furuta says. To do this, she thinks about how her designs feel and how they could feel, what should change and why; metalwork is used to add interest to basic shirts, and texture peppers coat hems, knits, and dresses. "The world is not just full of beauty and fun," she elaborates. "There is ambiguity, complexity, and ugliness, and I just try to take that into account as well."
Furuta's commitment to complexity has attracted some notable fans, like Chloe Sevigny and Rihanna. "I'm like how do they even know my brand?!" she laughs. "It's actually been a long process, there are no huge highlights, but an accumulation of ongoing things—Toga is an independent brand and we've had to do everything to get here."
Now that you've met the designer, see some of the best pieces from her collection.