TheSoloist. is a true expression of its founder, Takahiro Miyashita. Having first come to prominence as a designer with his work at Number (N)ine, the brand became a critical and commercial success over succeeding years; earning a cult following of devotees globally. The popularity of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo in the 1980s had opened up a new platform for burgeoning Japanese designers. Alongside his friend Jun Takahashi (of Undercover) Miyashita identified with a new generation of designers whose ideas were directly influenced by what was happening on the streets Tokyo rather than the couture runway scene in Paris.
Takahiro spent the bulk of his days in Harajuku and Shibuya immersed in the vibrant streetwear subculture. He would use the money he saved to buy clothing which he’d dissect and study; in this process he learned how to design and customize items. Miyashita had no formal training as a designer, instead he learned through this unconventional process of personal experimentation and DIY trail and error. His unwavering interest in fashion lead him to a design position at Nepenthes, a company which strongly identified with vintage workwear and classic American aesthetics. Miyashita himself had long been obsessed with Americana following his first trip to the United States as a teenager. His role at Nepenthes entailed routine travels to America that were used as research trips, focusing on cities like Austin, Texas and his personal favorite Portland, Oregon.
Rock N Roll Shirt
Influences of Western wear are prevalent throughout the bulk of Miyashita’s designs. This piece celebrates his affinity for American history, country, rock and blues music.
Cotton / Silk
Placket and yoke piping
Pearl snap buttons
In addition to fashion, music and his personal travels, popular culture has been the other component which has consistently inspired Miyashita throughout his career. Miyashita drew heavily on references that ranged from punk rock, grunge to vintage photographs. He has referenced everything from Gus Van Sant’s films to musicians including Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie and Neil Young in order to communicate his own narrative on the world, even the Number (N)ine moniker alludes to the Beatles’ song “Revolution 9”.
Certainly Miyashita himself has also embodied the rebellious spirit of his rock and pop idols, as experienced musician, he has formed two bands in the past, called The High Streets and The Ivory. His music has even been used for one of Undercover’s runway shows. He’s admitted in his own words, “All my work, whether it’s in fashion or music, is about rebellion and not being conventional.”
Before TheSoloist. could begin, another chapter had to come to a close. After years designing under the Number (N)ine label, the Fall/Winter 2009 “A Closed Feeling” collection served as a curtain call for Miyashita’s involvement with the brand. The collection was inspired by a self-imposed period of isolation in which Miyashita stayed in a hotel room in remote Alaska. The collection’s embellishments were informed by the hotel room’s carpets, upholstery, fixtures and curtains. The collection also featured carefully constructed face masks which resembled those adorned by beekeepers and a somber mood by way of a Beth Gibbons directed soundtrack fitting for a final goodbye. In a public letter, Miyashita explained the shuttering of his position with the Number (N)ine brand with the statement – “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
“Like John Lennon, when he parted ways with The Beatles, I wanted to be solo.”
SS’18 Graphic T-Shirts
The Soloist. graphic tees take inspiration from vintage rock band touring merchandise. This latest series for SS’18 rework imagery from vintage pieces by the Beatles and Nirvana. “Listen to this T-Shirt” printed along the rear yoke, Miyashita creates a playlist for every season, which can be streamed on the Soloist. site.
Made in Japan
Single chest pocket
Following a year of self-reflection and relative seclusion from the fashion world, Miyashita re-emerged with a new company and concept, under the pseudonym “TheSoloist.”.
“Number (N)ine was a band, it was a big company, and often I did not get to do what I wanted. So I thought that I needed to be a completely independent designer. Like John Lennon when he parted ways with The Beatles, I wanted to be a solo”.
Certainly Miyashita has both the vision and the work ethic to be a true auteur. To this day he designs each collection largely by himself. TheSoloist. debuted in Spring/Summer 2011 and it displayed an evolution from what he had done with Number (N)ine in previous years. The lookbook was shot outdoors, giving the collection a warmer feel that fit in better with a natural environment. The pieces themselves had a soft drape and an improvisational attention to detail which still remain as part of the brand DNA today.
With over a dozen collections to date, TheSoloist. has drawn from some varied influences and covered a lot of new ground as a result. Right from the start, Miyashita showed that he was open to expanding his range to include accessories and collectibles. Rarely seen without adorning glasses himself, Takahiro Miyashita is as particular about eyewear as he is about apparel.
Each season, a new capsule of optical accessories is offered and informed by the personal styles of his favourite artists, musicians and writers. For his first eyewear project, created in tandem with LA based brand Oliver Peoples, it was important to Miyashita that nothing new was produced unnecessarily, and that when possible, stock parts from vintage eyewear be incorporated into the designs. As a result, the finished products were a meticulous blend of original and new – vintage and vintage inspired.
Inspired by the Clout frames adorned by Kurt Cobain during the early ’90s, these oval white sunglasses are perhaps the most recognized totem of his persona. Miyashita updates them with a premium build by Japanese craftsmen with polarized lenses.
Handcrafted in Japan
Organic acetate construction
Wire frame temple arms
Signature “left eye” lens etching
After almost two decades spent designing, Takahiro Miyashita has undergone a journey from a young and novice designer to an industry veteran with cult following. Not one to rest on his laurels, Miyashita is still breaking new ground as he further builds on his current label; a brand which he feels is closer to what is in his heart and mind rather than what his past endeavors had allowed. He’s delved into some visionary themes for these collections; “Femme Fatale Fellow” was a forward compilation designed with intentions to entice the woman of his dreams.
Femme Fatale Ring
Highly collectable, Miyashita’s custom designed jewelry are produced in very low numbers, feature dark and occult subject matter and typically appreciate in value.
As a fan and admirer of David Bowie, the icon’s untimely death left a significant impact on Miyashita. For his SS’17 collection he wanted to exude a different persona, just as David Bowie had when he became Ziggy Stardust.
To offer a different take on apparel that he has worked on in the past, Miyashita has consulted with eccentric artists and musicians to help conceptualize a concise portion of each collection. The ability to take on different personas in fashion is important and designing in tandem with creatives in different disciplines helped Miyashita channel a unique energy and offer a sense of much-needed escapism.
“Taka is one of a few designers who constantly thinks about clothes and what originality means. His clothes have this originality, which can only be expressed uniquely by him.” – Jun Takahashi
While experimentation and authenticity continues to be the driving forces behind TheSoloist., Takahiro’s designs do not necessarily forgo practicality. Over the years, Miyashita has become more adept at adding functionality to his pieces; working with durable water-resistant textiles and modern insulating layers such as PrimaLoft®. Resulting in stand out pieces with blended elements of utility and expressive visual appeal.
PrimaLoft® Denim Capsule
2 silhouettes are included in this latest season, one as a homage piece to the American industrial revolution and the other a contemporary update to the traditional Japanese Haori. Both made from a custom PrimaLoft® denim developed in part with The Soloist. and aid in moisture wicking while staying exceptionally lightweight and breathable.
Innovative PrimaLoft® denim
As one of the creatives that knows Miyashita best, Jun Takahashi summed up what makes Takahiro Miyashita a one of a kind talent. “Taka is one of a few designers who always has music underlying his work, and he constantly thinks about clothes and what originality means. His clothes have this originality, which can only be expressed uniquely by him.”
The rock stars that Miyashita idolized in his younger years still inspire him today, but his work has not become redundant. As the years progress, he’s gained perspective and found new ways to express themes of nostalgia, rebellion and freedom which underpin the bulk of his work. TheSoloist. is perhaps a perfect name for Miyashita’s brand, as it stands apart from other menswear labels by valuing authenticity and self-expression over mainstream acceptance.
Rough Out Anorak
Further adding an element of mortality to the collection, this homage patchwork anorak features intricate embroidery “We will always love you Kurt” along the back panel. Smooth leather lines the interior, while sterling hardware and adjustable drawcords finish the piece.
Lambskin in patchwork construction
Half zip placket with .925 silver hardware
Rear panel embroidery
Handmade in Japan
Photography: Paolo Azarraga | Words: Rocky Li | Assistant: Jefford Lam | Direction: Nguyen Le