Julius: An Industrial Feeling

Designer Tatsuro Horikawa’s Anti-Nostalgic Outlook

  • Interview: Adam Wray
  • Photography: Monika Mogi

Tatsuro Horikawa is bobbing his head to an austere techno beat—this is his wordless response to the question, “How do you hope people feel when they wear your clothing?” He ends his miniature dance routine with a laugh and says, “I want them to feel like that. And I want people to feel protected.” It is a brief but comprehensive answer, broadly describing what Horikawa has built with his label Julius: a rugged, expressive military-goth aesthetic constantly refreshed by his musical influences. His Spring/Summer 2017 collection was shaped by the output of English record label Downwards, particularly the work of its co-founder Regis—references to his work appear throughout the collection, and the runway show at Paris Fashion Week featured performances by Downwards artists. 16 years after Julius was founded and 13 since it was reshaped it into a fashion label—it was originally more of an audio/visual art project—it continues to evolve like a techno track, its patterns slowly shifting while its atmosphere remains consistent.

Adam Wray spoke with Horikawa in the Julius studio, a densely-packed basement warren on a quiet street in Tokyo’s Sendagaya neighborhood.

Adam Wray

Tatsuro Horikawa

Do you have any very strong memories of clothing from when you were a child?

I actually started producing clothing a little bit later in my life. So, around 23, 24. Before that it was always more graphic-based work for me. I always viewed fashion as a separate thing, and to be honest never really had an interest in clothing before then. I was always more focused on music and graphics. I look at that as a plus for us now. It creates my mind frame.

I guess fewer preconceptions towards how it should be done.

Because we don’t have those preconceptions we have more freedom in expressing ourselves. I think even now, we don’t really view it as being fashion. For us it’s almost like sculpture. With our clothing, more so than color and more so than graphics, it’s the pattern and it’s the shape. I think that sculptural mindset is still behind it.

Can you tell me more about your transition into making clothing? What made you turn your focus towards it? Do you remember the first piece you made?

I remember the first pieces very well. It was around 1994, and I had created a collection, based on the science fiction anime Genma Taisen. Up until then it was mostly techno scene t-shirts. But I wanted to create uniforms for the crew I was with, the artists I admired, and t-shirts weren’t enough to be able to express the world I wanted to build. Another one of the earlier collections was made for a drum & bass crew. They were very organic and acid-y, and I wanted to create something more for them as well. This was all before Julius, back in the mid-90s with my first label, Nuke.

How did your Spring/Summer 2017 collaboration with Downwards Records came about?

Regis is an artist that I’ve been familiar with since my 20s. He’s always been someone that I’ve respected a lot, whether on his own or with Surgeon in British Murder Boys. I used to be a VJ and I’ve done work with their music before, so it’s always been something I’ve related to, and he is definitely one of the artists I’ve always had an interest in collaborating with. Also, thematically for that collection, we really wanted to focus on youth culture, specifically Birmingham youth culture. It was something we thought was interesting to pinpoint, and what better fit than Regis for that?

Could you explain a little more about your work as a VJ?

VJing is quite simply providing the imagery and visual component accompanying and working with the music. Although my work was more in line with art direction—creating flyer art, forming the image and feeling of the parties. I recall an event where the only lights were provided from flickering analog TVs. I avoided using lasers and strobes, and used to always get in arguments with the club’s lighting technicians. British Murder Boys had an event at Liquid Room here in Tokyo, and at the time I had cut up and mixed their imagery, to create the flyers and live visuals.

Something I admire about Regis’ music is it has a rigid techno beat but the vocals always feel very human, very organic.

The way we handle clothing is with sort of a similar approach. We want to balance those two sides because they’re both a part of us. Balance is very important for us, so when we choose artists or people to collaborate with, we want it to be someone coming from a similar kind of environment. So, we felt that with Regis for sure, but we also felt it with Lotic, who played at our most recent show.

How did you develop a relationship with Lotic?

Cabaret Voltaire was such a big part of the influence behind the collection, and we really wanted to recapture that in a modern way. We were looking for another artist that would be sort of in a similar vein, but obviously not exactly the same thing, and we found that with Lotic. He struck that balance between pop, sexy, industrial, and noisy, and we realized there was no one else who could do it. Of course we drew influence from the past, but it was never a goal for us to make something that was nostalgic. We still wanted it to be facing towards the future, which is why we wanted to work with an artist we felt was on the cutting edge now. We looked at it sort of taking from the past to go towards the future.

That Fall/Winter 2017 collection that Lotic provided the soundtrack for, it’s a very colorful collection by your standards. What changed for you to make you want to experiment with color?

It wasn’t a matter of us getting tired of working with black, I think that will always be there. This time I wanted to focus the direction of the collection more thematically, which I don’t think we’d done so much before. When we were doing research for it, I was listening to a lot of Swans, Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode, and sort of picking up from that. We really wanted to express that through the collection. Its color palette was based on the cover of Cabaret Voltaire’s Sensoria single.

It’s an exciting change of pace.

Maybe it’s too much.

No, I like it! Though I was surprised when I first looked at pictures from the show. Techno music has obviously been a big influence on your work. Can you explain what it means to you?

It’s not just a term for music. For us, the techno spirit represents being on the cutting edge, not having any sense of nostalgia, and being something that wants to move the world forward. So, we feel like that spirit can lend itself not only just to music, but also fashion and art. It’s more like an approach. It’s not one singular thing, but it’s one idea.

I think one thing that appeals to many people about techno, even if they don’t consciously realize it, is that its repetition and slowly evolving patterns can be very meditative. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

No, I’m not a spiritual person. I believe in strong people more than anything.

Do you think nostalgia is dangerous?

Yeah. I don’t like it. It’s house.

Can you explain why you don’t like it?

I don’t want to be caught up with the past. I look forward to the new, to pushing things forward. That’s more exciting. We feel like there’s a change happening right now, and we have to move forward as well.

Do you still draw inspiration from Tokyo?

Do you know Akira or Neuromancer? The reason I bring them up is because they match a certain feeling I get from being in the city. The best way to describe it would be that it’s like a pop feeling. I only really feel that in Tokyo and in Hong Kong. For example, I’ve never been to Dubai, but I don’t think we’d get that same type of feeling being in Dubai. Living here, it has a bit of a science fiction feeling, and that definitely influences me.

Neuromancer in particular now seems frighteningly accurate.

My bible.

Its author William Gibson writes and speaks often about fashion, and I remember he once wrote that all clothing contains information. What information do you think your clothes contain?

It’s like social and cultural resistance, and also an industrial feeling.

  • Interview: Adam Wray
  • Photography: Monika Mogi