Shinpei Goto is the designer of the Tokyo-based menswear brand, MASU. With one hand hot on the genesis of contemporary trends and the other firmly grasping recycled vintage materials and philosophies, it is no wonder Shinpei successfully premiered MASU’s F/W 24 collection in the brand’s first Paris runway show. In the wake of this career highlight, we spoke to Shinpei about all things pastel, sequinned and Y2K, to uncover the deeper, more essentially human experience at the core of his designs.
MASU is derived from the Japanese -masu, which is a verb ending used in polite expressions. Just as -masu is both familiar yet unceasingly valued in language, so too does MASU invoke this value of the familiar through its use of vintage clothing. The brand emphasises a sincere respect for preloved clothes that exist within an ever-expanding sphere of personal histories and stories. When upcycling these garments, MASU performs a kind of excavation of these myriad human stories between the layers of thread and fabric. Ultimately, what results are clothes that are as artistically expressive and fascinating as the human stories woven within their fabric.
Hi Shinpei, congratulations on the success of MASU’s most recent F/W 24 runway show! Am I right in believing it was your Paris debut? Could you tell us a bit about how you felt in anticipation of the show? How did you deal with the pressure of a Paris Fashion Week debut?
Lovely to meet you, METAL magazine! Thank you for this opportunity. It was my first runway show in Paris. Surprisingly, even to myself, I felt quite calm before the show. Having done shows in Tokyo several times, and working with the same team in Paris, I could focus on the creation process. Rather than feeling pressure, I was more excited about quickly introducing the presence of MASU to everyone who is in Paris.
And how has the response been since the show? How has this impacted the brand or you personally?
First off, I was blown away by the turnout – way more people showed up than we expected. I'm really grateful for everyone who came to our first show, and in that regard, I think we can definitely call it a success. That final scene we saw is going to stick with me for a while. I've been feeling pretty good about the response. Both old friends and new faces seemed pretty happy. And here, being able to have this interview with METAL magazine feels like a sign we did something right. But honestly, I don't think it was a perfect show on my end. There are still areas where MASU and I need to improve. That said, it was the collection that showed the potential for growth and what lies ahead.
How does Tokyo Fashion Week differ from London, Paris, Milan and New York? What do you think makes Japanese fashion distinct from the kind of collections we see in the West?
Tokyo Fashion Week doesn't seem to have a clear significance compared to other cities, which is a pity. If I'm being honest, most brands can participate if they want to, and naturally, that means there's less common aesthetics, pride, and pressure, both the side of the participants and the audience become slack. It also makes it harder to connect with the business side of things. In Paris, for example, the men's fashion week is held in January, but do you know when Tokyo's is? It's in mid-March. With such a gap, foreign buyers are less likely to make purchases, and it also compresses the production timeline. So for brands selling overseas, they typically hold exhibitions first and then have shows in Tokyo two months later. While this does serve as PR, it's not necessarily the best timing. European fashion weeks, where business and PR are integrated, feel much more rational. I hope that Tokyo Fashion Week will one day become a global event where buyers from all over the world visit.
As for what makes Japanese fashion different from other countries, it's the fact that many Japanese people are open-minded and proactive about fashion. Having an interest in clothing and dressing up is almost a natural sense for most Japanese people. So, it's a fertile ground where businesses can thrive domestically without necessarily needing to go abroad. I expect to see fashion and fashion weeks in Japan take advantage of this environment for development.
The collection is associated with the title falling rain said yes to the boy, could you expand on its meaning?
We humans are creatures who often feel loneliness. Loneliness is dark and desolate, leaving us feeling as if we've been caught in a downpour. However, I've come to realise that within that loneliness lies hidden luxury, beauty, and affection. Since that day, the rain pouring down on my way home began to shine. It's as if the rain (loneliness), which should feel dark and sad, is actually celebrating my existence. That's the meaning behind the collection title.
It’s seems a lot darker than your pastel-coloured S/S 24 collection, both in colour and mood, as if tracing the conventional hues of the seasons. How does your F/W 24 collection relate to and progress from the S/S 24 collection?
Tracing the conventional hues of the seasons - it’s such a romantic and lovely expression. I really like it.  I tend to change the mood drastically with each collection. Since I'm human, I change every day, and each change has meaning to me, so I enjoy embracing change. Customers also listen to and look forward to those changes.
Feeling overwhelmed with information during S/S 24, titled because I believe in myself, I created a collection that envelops people's hearts with a simple keyword: pastel-coloured flocking (texture).  In F/W 24, on the other hand, rather than expressing kindness on the surface, I created a collection that seems dark at first glance but holds kindness inside, like pastel colours. This evolution progressed from visible creations to expressions directed towards the inner selves of humans.
That being said, the F/W 24 show reaches its climax with an iridescent sequinned set, really marking a stark contrast with the monochromatic black looks that shadowed the beginning. What is the significance of this contrast? Does it reflect any juxtaposing motifs that are characteristic of the brand’s identity?
Each look from 1 to 29 may seem like a different character, but they actually all represent the same character. If I were to put it into words, they're all dark heroes with kindness hidden within. Even the looks covered in black have sparkling elements hidden throughout (studs, fabrics, rhinestones, keychains) if you look closely. I built the styling around a story where kindness and sparkle, once hidden, are gradually released towards the latter part. As a side note, the 24th look wearing a half-jacket is imagined as a guide encouraging the liberation of the heart. From there, the usual MASU BOYS suddenly appear like angels, sparkling, and it ends grandly with a simple white, long-haired knit sweater look. That's the story I created.
Your S/S 24, inspired in part by Japanese Thumb Dolls, seemed to predict the latest doll-inspired collections we’ve seen from Marc Jacobs and Maison Margiella. Why were you drawn to the doll aesthetic for your collection, and did you foresee that trend emerging across the fashion industry?
I believe dolls have a charm akin to a universal language that transcends generations and countries. With dolls and pastel colours as my language, I wanted to speak to many people. Things we held in our hands during childhood or adolescence often evoke unconditional loveliness. I frequently use such language. Vintage wear is one example, and so is Michael Jackson; it's just that for S/S 24, it was dolls. Right now, people are tired of manufactured trends. In that context, dolls, which evoke pure childhood feelings, could become a sanctuary for the heart. Perhaps that might be the new trend.
While it's unpredictable, I think there's a high chance that what I create becomes a trend. That's because I always have a consciousness of being part of the masses and look at things from the same perspective as consumers. So the future I desire would be close to what everyone wants.
Growing up in the noughties, did this era of fashion, or culture more generally, have a lasting influence on your work as a designer? How do you feel about the Y2K resurgence?
I think it's our pride as people growing up in this era to have experienced the intersection between analogue and digital. Thanks to that, I can instinctively understand both the aesthetics of inconvenience and the aesthetics of efficiency. We can appreciate the pleasure of leisurely reading a magazine and the convenience of mindlessly scrolling for information on X. We have a sense of not being confined to either.
Y2K is an interesting phenomenon, in my opinion. Feeling nostalgia for an unfinished era. It's intriguing how feeling new comes from being unrefined. Though I don't think it will last long.
What are some of your biggest fashion influences?
Gyaru-o culture. I used to read a Japanese magazine called Men's Egg. The unique Japanese take on American vintage fashion, Amekaji, often referred to as Japan's unique Americana. Do you know Takuya Kimura?
Martin Margiela.
Yohji Yamamoto.
What are some of your biggest non-fashion influences?
Toy Story.
My grandmother, who was a painter.
MASU as a brand, and yourself as a designer, emphasise a deep respect and fascination with vintage clothing. What kind of inspiration does the brand derive from the philosophy of vintage clothing? Are the pieces often made from vintage or recycled materials?
We utilise vintage as a common language, as I mentioned earlier. For instance, military wear often carries a masculine and robust image in everyone's mind. By incorporating lace or rhinestones, or tailoring it softly, it can feel new, thanks to the language of vintage. It's something that can be understood by anyone who has seen a fair share of clothes, even without much explanation. Vintage inherently carries that functionality as its base. It's an ideal means for someone like me who only speaks Japanese.   I often use vintage items. One of the emblematic pieces representing our brand is the galaxy jeans, where we decorate vintage jeans with rhinestones and studs.
The fashion industry is often targeted as an excessive contributor to material waste. I think this much is clear on the high street, but I’m wondering how sustainable you think the high fashion industry is? Do you think recycling and reinventing already existing garments is becoming common artistic practice these days?
I think it's full of contradictions when high fashion promotes sustainability. Because they have to keep creating new trends and make people buy new clothes one after another. Without revolutionising that cycle, a sustainable high fashion industry might not be achievable. For example, announcing new collections once a year, offering lifetime guarantees for products, and disclosing their cost and origin (area of production). But they can't do that because some people would lose their vast wealth they've worked so hard to accumulate.  Perhaps it might be quicker if consumer awareness changes rather than the industry itself. Recycling and reinventing existing clothes have become more common, I think. But I'm still not sure what actions would truly lead to a better future.
I wholeheartedly trust your ability to spot trends in their infancy! So, finally, what can we expect on the runways next season – from MASU and beyond?
It was a truly fascinating interview. Thank you for the fun time. As we move into the next season, I'm personally interested in classic and traditional styles. People who are tired of the pop, street, hoodie, oversized shoes, and Y2K trends might find it refreshing to wear watches or tighten their ties, or they might feel like wearing leather shoes again. We might see an increase in styles that allow for personal enjoyment of fashion rather than flaunting it. We hinted at this in F/W 23, but S/S 24 might bring a big game-change. Please stay tuned!