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The Fashion of a Person , Place, and Thing

In May of 1965, Kensuke Ishizu traveled to America to observe how American Ivy League students dressed. From adolescence to early adulthood Ishizu would spend time studying American prep style advertisements or romanticizing over ivy league campus life. Ishizu had spent many years in school uniforms that would cover him in a costume of homogeneity. The student population he was accustomed to was unsatisfying to his desires for individuality. The relationship with one community fueled the desire for another. But Ishizu’s need for individuality was still dependent on acceptance.

Older asian man from Japan
Photo of Kensuke Ishizu

Acceptance in the form of communal relationships would help encourage Ishizu to pursue individuality through fashion. He would achieve individuality through his own design of American prep style clothes. But his desire for individuality would lack substance if was not supported by the acceptance of a community of people in the place he lived. As Ishizu pursued the design of prep style clothes his desires were supported by a communal experience with other Japanese men. With the help of a small community Ishizu began a fashion career. He learned how to express the feelings American prep style gave him into the clothes he made. But Ishizu’s creativity was limited by the lack of resources in Japan to fully replicate American prep style. His work was more of a reflection of Japanese life than American life.


Ishizu knew he wasn’t in the right place, but he was sure he had the right thing. Ishizu believed that if he could get in the right place and see the right people the thing he imagined would be attainable. To Ishizu’s surprise, his trip to his first Ivy league campus did not mirror his idea of Ivy league campus prep style. What he saw in advertisements was not what he was seeing in person. What Ishizu had imagined was a thing in absence of the person and the place. It is important to aware of the person, place, and thing. For Ishizu the person was the student, the place was an ivy league campus, and the thing was clothes in the design of prep style.


Fashion is a communal experience of a group of people in a place wearing a thing called clothes. Where Ishizu went wrong is when he focused on the thing more than the person and place. His mistake was also the result of him being an outsider of American culture and ivy league campus life. But while Ishizu was wrong about American prep style fashion, he was always right about Japanese fashion. The community he was looking for was with him the whole time.


For more information about Kensuke Ishizu please read "Ametora" by David Marx and "Take Ivy" by Kensuke Ishizu.



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