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Takayuki Kijima promises that hats will be loved all over the world

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takayuki Kijima, the designer of the Kijima Takayuki brand, in his studio in Daikanyama, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

Kijima Takayuki, a hat brand founded by the designer of the same name, is known for its practical designs. This year marks ten years since the brand made its first major foreign foray. The 58-year-old designer promises to take further steps in his quest to become a world-class hat brand.

When we visited his studio in Tokyo’s Daikanyama district in late July, Kijima and his colleagues were busy making hats for winter.

Kijima put some felt in the steam coming from a kettle to loosen the material, then stretched it by hand along a wooden hat block.

“Too much stretching damages the fabric. Only with manual work can I make fine adjustments,” says Kijima.

With these types of methods he achieves a soft, comfortable fit without glue.

Yomiuri Shimbun Photos
Above: Steam from a kettle loosens felted fabric. Below: The felt is stretched by hand along a wooden hat block.

In addition to felt hats, Kijima and five employees make spring and summer hats by hand from natural grasses and other materials.

After graduating high school, Kijima worked part-time while taking lessons for a year from designer Akio Hirata, who made hats for imperial relatives. At the age of 25, he joined Hirata’s studio.

At the time it was a boom time and fashion shows were extravagant. Hirata’s studio received orders for decorative hats.

“How can I accomplish impossible tasks? It was like an experiment and I enjoyed every day,” he recalls.

At the age of 30, Kijima founded Coeur, the predecessor to his current brand. Initially following Hirata’s elegant style, he was surprised when Hirofumi Kurino, one of the founders of United Arrows Ltd., told him, “I don’t know where to wear it.”

“Good products are useless if they don’t match your outfit,” Kijima realized.

To ensure that customers can style hats in their own way, the brims of its cotton hats are purposely not lined between the lines to give them a worn look, and can be raised or lowered as desired. Many of Kijima’s hats are designed to be rolled up so they can be carried around.

“I want my hats to be picked up by people who don’t think they look good in hats,” he said.

In 2013, Kijima changed the name of the brand to its own name. He holds exhibitions in Paris twice a year and produces hats for brands such as Undercover and Mame Kurogouchi for their Paris Fashion Week collections.

Headgear in Europe is often divided by class, such as hats for traditional clothing and caps for workers, and it is difficult to get them accepted as fashion as in Japan, Kijima finds.

“I want to become a milliner who presents modern styles and is loved all over the world,” Kijima said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
In Kijima’s studio, several hat blocks are stacked on shelves.


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