the sacai century: an exclusive interview with chitose abe

​In a rare and exclusive interview with Tiffany Godoy for SSENSE, Sacai designer Chitose Abe speaks about the growth of her label, the importance of balance and “the multidimensionality of women”.

by i-D Staff
29 November 2016, 3:00pm

sacai autumn/winter 16

Chitose Abe's world is one of intuitive balance, and this outlook has served her well. Over the last few years, her Sacai shows have become Paris Fashion Week must-sees, with her clothing a staple of striking, off-beat, 21st century femininity. Her design language is complex and sophisticated, reflecting, as she puts it, "the multidimensionality of modern women." She has just launched a new line of bags, and earlier this year her menswear line made its runway debut. Her list of collaborators is large and ever-growing, from established names like Nike and Birkenstock to budding cult labels like Ambush and Hender Scheme. Abe welcomed Tiffany Godoy into her Aoyama offices and shared her formula for balancing art and commerce.

Read excerpts from their conversation below and visit for the full interview.

I first discovered Sacai right at the beginning, about 18 years ago. They were knits that just looked interesting, even if you folded them up.
Wow, so nostalgic! Something interesting about our pieces is that they're difficult to fold, right? I really enjoy that. I don't think those kinds of knits existed at the time. Now, there's a ton of hybrid knits and other clothes, but at that time, knits were nothing more than knits. I was really only thinking about creating unique pieces, even when I first went overseas.

In 2011.
That's right. You've done your research. Even at that time, I was able to get my pieces into some of the stores that I wanted, so the next step was a nebulous interest in expanding the distribution routes. I wasn't hellbent on getting my line to Paris Fashion Week or anything like that. From the beginning, I wanted to break away from the cliché, from the preconceived notions in fashion. I wanted my brand to make people think, "Oh, there's a different approach!" I was very small. Typically when you have a little traction you make a store, then a bag, then a fragrance, or go to Paris. I wanted to reject that progression and instead do things my own unique way. Well, I still feel that way today. I hate that kind of "everyone else is doing it so I'll do it, too" kind of mentality. I only do what I do because it's truly necessary.

Speaking of hybridity, I think that Sacai is feminine but strong enough that you can wear one look from morning to night without having to go home to change. I think that you were able to capture women's hearts because you have a profound understanding of the lives of women today.
Yes, but I think that's because I might be the same. I'm not making these clothes because I am a psychic and understand how everyone feels, but rather because I am the same way, and there are people who connect and can share in what I make. Fundamentally, I make the clothes that I want to wear. No matter how fresh and innovative a design may be, I ask myself whether I would wear it when going about my day in the city, and if the answer is no, then I won't make the piece. As a result, Sacai's clothes might seem unrealistic to someone uninvolved in fashion, yet the clothes are very realistic for me. I've always thought that a collection is a balance of betrayal and stability. Stability is adhering to the Sacai style, and betrayal is an element of surprise. 


Text Tiffany Godoy