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Mitsuhiro Matsuda Dies in Japan


May 28th, 2008 @ 6:54 PM

Mitsuhiro Matsuda, one of the half dozen most important Japanese fashion designers, has died in Japan aged 74 from liver cancer.

Known for his soft, yet structured, architectural sense of clothing, Matsuda was a fashion forerunner whose unique, naturalistic and earthy color sense influenced many other designers who followed him.

Probably more than any other designer, Matsuda blazed a path in sunglasses with his Japanese sensibility and high tech pop aesthetic. His vintage shades remain cult collector items for connoisseurs of sunglasses.

Matsuda died May 17 in his hometown of Tokyo after a long illness. Samuel Beckett like, he was buried on May 20, before any announcement of his death.

Matsuda, whose parents owned a company that made kimonos, was born in Tokyo in 1934. An ambitious youth, he studied at Japan’s famed Bunka school of fashion where his fellow classmates included Kenzo Takada and Junko Koshino.

In the mid-eighties he was the architects’ fashion designer, admired for his sense of structured silhouette, suits memorable for their arty nuances and crisp white shirts with unique façade detailing.

“I make clothes for people who dream, yet who want to look credible,” Matsuda once told the author of this obituary.

Perhaps his lack of English hemmed him back, and his commitment to a particularly understated oeuvre prevented him from winning a larger audience among the mass public, but he will be remembered as a distinctive Eastern voice, who foretold the marriage of fashion and architecture, which is so prevalent today.

In 1964, Matsuda and Kenzo journeyed to France together on a cargo “cruise” ship, beginning a journey that would launch his career in the West. He stayed just three years in Europe, before returning to Japan, where he founded his own fashion company, Nicole Co. Ltd in 1967.

He continued to show his signature men’s collections in Europe until a decade ago, winning plaudits for his classy vision of arty chic.

Arguably his greatest clout and reach was with sunglasses, and his vintage items are cult collectibles on ebay and ecommerce sites. In 1998, The New York Times even noted that the hip-hop idol Sean (Puffy) Combs, now P. Diddy, rapped about Matsuda sunglasses in a video.

Deficit omne quod nasciture.

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