cfcl brand


Certain people, brands, or other life cases have emerged OUT OF THE BLUE. When taking a closer look, there’s a long journey that lets them walk the path leading to where they are now. Today: the story of YUSUKE TAKAHASHI, FOUNDER of CFCL. Cover image: courtesy of CFCL, shot by Yann Stofer


When he was 24, Yusuke Takahashi got a job at MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO. He started half a year before graduating. Assisting with the collection design for Issey Miyake and organizing the archives at THE ISSEY MIYAKE FOUNDATION, his talent didn’t go unnoticed. Mesmerized, Takahashi was in awe at Mister Miyake’s suggestion to study the brand’s history. The generous use of fabric, elegant space between the body and fabric, flat patterns, bright and bold colors and graphics, and original fabric that combines unexpected materials and techniques. Everything was free, experimental, and powerful. “I was blown away,” he fondly recalls. “I still haven’t been able to create clothes that can compete with those archives, so I now want to create clothes that will amaze Issey Miyake someday.”

Entering the fashion industry wasn’t a childhood dream, though. With an architect grandfather, he wanted to become an architect, too. His classmates fueled his interest in fashion in junior high school, though. “I started to like being fashionable and thought about pursuing fashion design as a career. At the same time, I was interested in interior design and product design, and I couldn’t decide on just one career. At university, I decided to study textile design because I thought it could be a way to work in many different categories that span from fashion to architecture.”

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What brought you into this industry?

“When I graduated from university without being able to narrow down my career in fashion, I decided that MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO was the only company I wanted to work for. Issey Miyake collaborated with many product designers, contemporary artists, and architects across various fields and was respected by them. He realized all of my interests and was someone I truly admired. To join the company, I entered Bunka Fashion Graduate University. I immersed myself in making clothes, aiming to win the Soen Award, a gateway to success for young Japanese designers. In the end, I won the Grand Prix. I passed a letter to Issey Miyake through the chief editor of a fashion magazine who came to the final judging of the contest. Before I knew it, I was interviewed directly by Issey Miyake.”

What have the years at Issey Miyake taught you?

“I was with the company for 10 years, from 2010 to 2020. During that time, I worked closely with Issey Miyake, and we exchanged opinions about design and society daily. I learned so much that it’s hard to summarize the details. However, if I were to sum it up in one sentence, it would be, “Designing clothes is confronting society, and it should be something that gives people hope.” Having learned this philosophy, I named my brand CFCL: Clothing For Contemporary Life.”

Yusuke Takahashi

What has driven you to start CFCL?

“Ever since I was a student, I’ve wanted to have my own brand someday. At first, I had a lot of respect for Issey Miyake, but gradually, I started to want to challenge myself in the fashion business with my aesthetic sense. Then, when my daughter was born, I decided to do it. Perhaps I wanted to show the image of the parent who continues to pursue their dreams. You only live once, so I didn’t want to have any regrets.”

Has Issey Miyake inspired the launch of your brand?

“Definitely. During my time there, I visited many factories in Japan. Some craftsmen were skilled in various production processes such as threading, weaving, dyeing, processing, and sewing. I increased my knowledge of various techniques by making clothes while communicating directly with them. On the other hand, I also learned much about balancing creativity and business, such as in-house quality control, the relationship between product costs and retail prices, production stability, delivery times and consumption rates, and merchandising. I also learned about communication with customers as an international collection brand representing Japan. Ten years went by in the blink of an eye, but I believe I gained the knowledge and experience necessary to launch a brand and compete internationally firmly.”

How do you generate ideas and bring them to life?

“I discovered computer programming-aided knitwear when I was a graduate student – I won the Soen Prize for a dress using this technology. Since realizing its potential, I’ve wanted to create a brand centered around computer-developed knitwear. By limiting the products we develop to knitwear, our branding becomes clear, so we are particular about designing clothes using only the knitting technique.”

“There is an impression that knitwear is “casual and winterwear,” but we aim to break that impression and create a new image. For example, knitting evening dresses and tuxedos is a new initiative. You can create interesting textures by using knit to create items I had previously made with woven fabric but never thought of making with knit material, such as washable summer shirts, thin coats that don’t let the wind pass through, and bags that can hold heavy items. In addition, creating a texture and silhouette with an elegant and sophisticated atmosphere by using knitting structures that cannot be done with woven fabric creates uniqueness in the design. In other words, we design clothes from two perspectives: first, researching the history of clothing and knitting existing shapes and second, researching knitting techniques and threads to create details that have never been seen.”

“Recently, the company purchased a knitting machine and established “CFCL Knitting Lab,” our very own knitting laboratory to train artisans and experiment with the development of unique knitwear. I believe that development will continue searching for expressions that cannot be achieved with knitting.”

CFCL is B-Corp certified. When starting, was that a non-negotiable for you?

“In 2019, when I was thinking about starting CFCL, interest in ethical fashion expanded, and at the same time, it was also a year in which concerns about greenwashing grew. Around this time, new eco-friendly materials were also born, and the range of material choices increased. For example, that year, products that used imitation fur instead of real fur, claiming to be animal friendly, began to appear. At the same time, it turned out that imitation fur emits large amounts of microplastics, causing great damage to marine life. I understood that products that are called ethical are not perfect and felt that it was dangerous to claim that we were an eco-brand. When thinking about this matter, I learned about B Corp Certification and set my sights on obtaining the globally recognized gold standard for sustainability. However, using environmentally friendly materials and a supply chain that protects human rights should be the norm. B Corp was an easy-to-understand third-party organization that could prove such factors.”

Yusuke Takahashi

And what’s it like to be both creative director and CEO?

“It was shocking that a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013, killing many people. Around the same time, problems faced by various companies were brought to light in Japan, including death from overwork, unpaid overtime, subcontractor bullying, sexual harassment, and power harassment. At that time, I was a designer for ISSEY MIYAKE MEN, creating collections, presenting new products at Paris Fashion Week, and providing them to customers. However, it is not enough in this day and age to design with just this in mind. I believe that “chic clothes” are only made when the stakeholders feel a sense of fulfillment. To achieve this, I wanted to start a business with my capital and design the organization and structure as the CEO and major shareholder. It just so happened that the year I started my company was during the coronavirus pandemic, so it wasn’t difficult to introduce a new way of working. Since starting the business, I created a comfortable working environment, including remote work, flexible work arrangements, and possible side jobs.”

Is there anything or anyone that inspires you heavily?

“Looking back, I feel that I received a lot of inspiration from my parents. When I was in elementary school, my father, a doctor, became a lawyer, and my mother, a fashion journalist, became a social media writer. Ever since I was a child, we always discussed social issues at home. Even then, I was always asked to give my opinion. It was common for couples to quarrel over disagreements about the political party they supported or the government’s policies. We visited a facility for Minamata disease patients in Kumamoto Prefecture (Japan) and a family in Vietnam that we supported through UNICEF. In particular, my mother, who passed away eight years ago, interjected between large-scale national public works projects and local activists who opposed them, holding symposiums and publishing reportages during her lifetime. I think she was a person who valued paying attention to the socially disadvantaged. My parents undoubtedly influenced me to strongly desire to design for society.”

What’s currently on your mood board?

“I’m working mainly on our Spring/Summer 2025 collection designs. Nowadays, when people call out “cultural appropriation,” I think about how I, as a designer, should approach cultural exchange. For example, I’m considering extracting from folklore design and assembling such elements in a collection. Furthermore, I am worried about the social significance of incorporating these elements into contemporary life and whether it is possible to show a possibility as an expression of the next era.”

What excites you most about the near future?

“CFCL will open four new stores in Japan next year, including a roadside shop. As a child, I learned from my grandfather and drew many blueprints for houses. I’m currently working on the store plans, creating my blueprints for the interior, and enjoying communicating with architects based on those plans. Recently, I have realized again how much I love designing stores and their spaces as much as creating collections.”