Needles’ co-creators, designer Keizo Shimizu and Daiki Suzuki are fully responsible for Nepenthes, the fashion firm giant responsible for setting off a chain reaction of vintage and Americana-inspired collections within Japan’s fashion sphere. Under Nepenthes, Needles shares the stage with other big names, namely South2 West8 and Engineered Garments--also designed by Suzuki. Shimizu’s familiarity with historical magazines as well as his time spent travelling since creating Needles in 1988 has provided him with an incredible catalog of references for his designs.
The beginnings of Needles began in the most authentic way possible: a trip to the United States. Once their legendary partnership had formed in 1982, Shimizu sent Suzuki to begin buying and sourcing garments for early collections. From the start, the two had planned to create their pieces by repurposing materials from various factories, making much of their initial creative process consist of gathering a multitude of different factories for different reasons. Upon releasing their early collections, the brand immediately seized the attention of several important figures when shown in Italy, and in turn travelling to stylists and eventually reaching top-tier clientele.
Through all of their unmistakable pieces, perhaps the most significant is the brand’s signature tracksuit, a set that comes in every color combination imaginable. Created with a 5 stripe sleeve logo and embellished with the brand’s butterfly logo inspired by Steve McQueen’s chest tattoo in the film “Papillon,” its simplicity combined with its attention to detail make it clear why so many have added it to their wardrobes. Yet, while the tracksuit makes up a fair amount of the attention Needles has garnered since their creation, the Papillon remains present much farther into the brand’s true inspiration: Americana.
Transitioning from leisurewear, Needles’ ready-to-wear line gradually increases in maturity, notably with the sustainability and quality of each garment. This couldn’t be more true for the brand’s flannels and college-inspired reworkings, both of which are made up of entirely vintage, repurposed garments. Not only is this crucial information for the environmentally-conscious customer, but it adds an entirely new element of personality to every piece. Every flannel shirt produced by the brand differs from the next, making a one-time purchase into a 1 of 1, completely unique and individual experience. Additionally, the added level of maturity opened up a new space in their market, as no brand prior had put as much attention into formal wear.
This is most evident following Needles’ Americana inspiration, especially due to the environment it becomes surrounded in as part of Nepenthes. Contrasting the logo placement on their tracksuits, the iconic Japanese label also utilizes their butterfly logo in a more formal setting, embroidered into shirts and in jewelry form. All of their different items quickly bring to mind the term “versatility,” especially when viewing the brand’s lookbooks. Styling their pieces encourages the idea that taking risks will bring reward, and that a sense of formality can be achieved in the loudest way possible.