The name Ken Ijima is not unheard of in fashion. While his introduction into the industry stemmed from posting fashion content on YouTube—where he showcased his personal style and daily life in Tokyo—Ijima has now amassed a sizeable following of close to 80,000 subscribers on his channel and 100,000 on Instagram. His latest brainchild, Vuja Dé, is a conscious fashion label that reimagines vintage silhouettes with contemporary details that builds on design sensibility.
Shares Ijima of the motivation behind starting his brand: “There was the innate drive to create something that is not typically considered fashion. My aim was to create an anti-fashion label with no excess waste to promote sustainable fashion and reduce overconsumption.”Attributing his root of inspiration to be his affinity with those close to him, Ijima remarks: “My inspiration behind Vuja Dé was birthed from relationships. Real-life experiences and finding a meaning behind clothing.”
A quick glance at the label’s autumn/winter 2022 collection—titled Postdecayism—and the prevalent luxury and streetwear influences are evident to all. Crushed nylon tracksuits, French terry hoodies and denim jackets feature the slouchy silhouette made popular by Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga, sporting a cropped body with accommodating shoulders and sleeves. Intentional distressing done by hand, hardware streaked with marks of patina and understated sun-fading throughout the garments proved the devil was in the details. “We follow the Japanese ethos of mono no aware, which is the beauty of impermanence and empathy towards transient life,” elaborates Ijima.
“My inspiration behind Vuja Dé was birthed from real-life experiences and relationships.”
Dating back to its beginnings in 2019, the brand has seen multiple remodellings and change in its creative direction. Ijima prioritises adapting to change and switching things up, which prevents stagnation. “I believe sticking to one formula leads to a lazy design language. I guess if people ask me what Vuja Dé’s current direction is, my answer would be ‘a reflection of you’.”
Speaking on the inspiration behind the label’s latest collection, Ijima looks to the allure and sense of tranquillity that flora invokes. “We used flowers as a visual metaphor for the natural wear-and-tear of garments over time. Originally inspired by the movie Annihilation—where plants and flowers are portrayed as foreign and distorted—our team explored multiple plant dyes and related dye-processing techniques to accurately depict the narrative of the collection.”
“I guess if people ask me what Vuja Dé’s current direction is, my answer would be ‘a reflection of you’.”
The ideation and creative process for the latest collection was not an effortless one, however, and saw many ideas being bounced off one another as a basis for the collection was steadily birthed. With Vuja Dé being helmed by a core team of five members—Ijima(creative director), a business manager, logistics manager and two designers—external help in the form of experts from related fields was required. Ijima lauds the conscientiousness of everyone who was involved in the project. “Botanists helped with set design and colour theory, florists worked tirelessly on the set arrangement, and master artisans were the backbone of many of our production processes.”
Sustainability has always been at the forefront as well. “We utilise a combination of organic and renewed/sustainable fabrics; two of our past collections feature hoodies constructed of a fabric knitted entirely out of recycled plastic bottles.” There is also strong emphasis on supporting local businesses as ongoing partnerships with ethical Japanese tanning factories and denim mills prove. In addition to sustainable manufacturing processes, the brand does not follow the fashion week cycle nor fixed release dates. “We like to have a close-knit community. Our products are intended for customers who are eager to purchase the very few drops we do every year,” Ijima explains.
“We want to shift towards a wider market, while not deterring from the mission which is to simply create.”
As for what’s next, Ijima aims to push the sustainability aspect of Vuja Dé further, through exclusive projects and unhackneyed collaborations. He is concurrently looking to expand the reach of his label organically. “We want to shift towards a wider market both domestically and internationally, while not deterring from the mission which is to simply create.” The future for Vuja Dé seems bright, and its everlasting pursuit to challenge consumer norms within fashion should enrapture everyone.
The May/June ‘Guardians’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in bookstores now.