AW18 was a breakout season for Ninomiya. The 33-year-old Japanese designer took Paris by storm, much like his predecessors did in the 1980s, when radical Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe brought avant-garde dressing to Paris ateliers. Ninomiya’s decision to drop out of the Royal Academy in Antwerp to join Comme des Garçons as a pattern-maker was the inception of it all.
“Comme des Garçons only has two-three designers: Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe,” Ninomiya says to WWD. “If I wanted to do something with this company, my only choice was to become a pattern-maker. I really wanted to work with Rei, so that’s why I quit Antwerp immediately and joined.”
After four years as a pattern-maker, Ninomiya impressed Kawakubo (who founded Comme des Garçons in 1969) so much that Kawakubo financed his label, Noir Kei Ninomiya, within the Comme des Garçons group.
“At Comme des Garçons, ‘pattern-maker’ is a kind of ‘pattern-designer’ function,” Ninomiya continues. “They will make a pattern, also for production, but they will contribute to the design also by finding solutions, not just executing a design.”
Such a distinction characterizes the designer’s AW18 aesthetic as well as his “no sewing” technique, as Ninomiya made the move from Comme des Garçons protege to master of Noir Kei Ninomiya.
Indeed, what distinguishes Noir Kei Ninomiya as a label is innovation in craftsmanship that feels very akin to the Comme des Garçons look of avant-garde fashion. However, unlike Comme des Garçons, which touted gowns in pastel colors and jewel tones for AW18, Ninomiya always stays to a black palate, occasionally adding pops of red or white as accents. This technique focuses attention to the textile design, which Ninomiya will fit on a body before he renders it as a realized garment. He is known for his “no sewing” technique when it comes to his avant-garde garments. Rather than sewing, Ninomiya folds layers of fabric around grids that create a dynamic silhouette, which moves with the wearer.
For AW18, the designer favored faux leather, tulle, faux fur, knitting, and floral masks by Makoto Azuma. Since 2016, Ninomiya has shown at the Comme des Garçons headquarters for a few in-the-know guests. Increased interest in his work, which included participation in Moncler’s Genius project which debuted at Milan Fashion Week, has cast the young designer into the spotlight as one of Paris’ most exciting designers on the rise. This full show at Paris Fashion Week introduces his work to a wider audience.
Like Kawakubo, Ninomiya is unconcerned with the fashion cycle, trends, and commercial success. In fact, he told WWD that he often gives his clothes away. His interest in fashion lies in its artistry. As he says in a recent Vogue interview, “I use the contrasting elements and things to make a new power. … I want to make a new atmosphere, a new feeling.”