The ongoing revival of the streetwear movement is taking place in the hands of a group of young designers across the globe, and Glaswegian Christopher Byrne is yet another noteworthy addition to this thriving artistic and cultural scene. Although his first custom fashion design label Keizoku Apparel is set to launch in the coming months, his designs bear no mark of a newcomer, but a perceptive creative committed to imbuing the increasingly intertwined worlds of fashion and streetwear with more innovation. Just prior to the release of his label’s first menswear pieces, the aspiring fashion designer reveals his inside connection to the world of comic books, as well as his special affinity to Japanese culture, architecture and fashion.
Before the idea for Keizoku Apparel was born, where did you pick up your drawing and design skills?
I’ve always had a skill at drawing and art, but I would also say it runs in the family; my uncle being the renowned comic book writer and artist John Byrne. However, my designs skills have also slowly developed through constant work, especially through the help of art and graphic design classes I’ve taken, so hopefully they continue to evolve.
At what point did you decide to bring the idea for Keizoku Apparel to life?
I’m currently in my last year at school, and through the portfolio I’m building for art school I decided to focus on design. I uploaded my first design concept to Instagram and I received so much positive feedback it made me realize that people do appreciate and care about what I design, which spawned Keizoku Apparel.
And what exactly does “Keizoku” mean?
"Keizoku" translates from Japanese as "continuance". To me, Keizoku Apparel represents the continuance of my ideas, thoughts and imagination about fashion, allowing my ideas to flow continuously though apparel and textile design.
Your initial design concepts show a strong Japanese influence: sleeve cutouts representing Japanese temple silhouettes, sewn kimonos reminiscent of traditional Japanese garments, and screen print numbering and lettering symbolic of the 1995 Kobe Earthquake. Where does your special affinity to Japanese culture, and subsequent design inspiration, stem from?
It stems from my mum’s visit to Japan in 1995. Even though I wasn’t born yet, she eventually told me about the time she spent there growing up, which had a great impact on me. While she was there, she helped out and gave aid to those who where affected by the Kobe Earthquake, which the reference for my designs also stem from. My mum also collected post cards, fabrics and took photographs of all the places she visited in Japan, which gave me insight into Japanese culture, including architecture and fashion, from a young age and ultimately spawned my love and inspiration for Keizoku Apparel.
Beyond Japanese culture, where else do you find creative and design inspiration?
I find inspiration in everything and anything. If I see anything I like, such as a photograph or an advert on TV, I take the concept in and attempt to recontextualize it by incorporating it in to my designs. Life itself is inspirational.
Keizoku Apparel marks your first foray into fashion and streetwear. How has this process been so far?
So far, the process has been grueling. It has been hard to find the resources and funds to get Keizoku Apparel fully underway.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Finding the right production company has been the hardest challenge so far. Trying to find the right company to make my garments the way I imagine them is difficult. I’ve also faced the rather ugly side of fashion and design as a fellow fashion label attempted to harass me on Instagram and through email, claiming I stole their design ideas because I incorporated knee pads into my jean design. It was ridiculous! When did incorporating knee pads become copyrighted?! If it did I think most fashion houses would have some explaining to do.
Although your imaginative designs are already telling of a sharp distinction between Keizoku Apparel and the numerous streetwear brands available today, how would you best describe what sets the label apart?
Keizoku Apparel’s unique selling proposition is the concept of bringing the details of high fashion to streetwear at a very affordable price. I would even go as far as saying there are no designs, or very little out there, similar to what Keizoku Apparel has to offer. Keizoku Apparel is an attempt to tie couture with ready-to-wear in a fashionable and affordable manner, creating a garment like no other.
What is your long-term vision for Keizoku Apparel?
To push the boundaries and limits of streetwear and fashion, and to be recognized as a contemporary design label renowned for it’s garments and concepts… To have its name up there with the biggest and best in the industry.