Kazumi Sakamoto

Jaesa Acton
Andy Polanco
Jo Rosenthal

For Kazumi Sakamoto, designing clothes comes naturally. The half-Japanese half-Chinese New York based designer is inspired by kindness from the world around her, but her education at FIT only pushed her imagination and her ability to create even more. When she’s not designing, she’s exploring the city. Fashion is her true love, and something she always keeps in mind. Sakamoto is someone who is consistently bridging the gap between fashion and art, making stunning pieces accessible for all walks of life. Puss Puss recently caught up with the designer to see what she’s been up to, what she’s currently working on and what she hopes to accomplish in the future.

Talk to us a little bit about your brand and your design process…
I design femme clothes that are meant for all genders. The philosophies behind my collections and designs are very personal and intimate—they’re almost a form of therapy for me. My new collection, Present SS22, is a reflection of an exploration of self-love through isolation during the Covid-19 lockdown. The title “Present SS22 ” is a double entendre—it represents both “the present time” and “a gift.” I often think about the mood and feelings that I want to evoke and the sensations that would arise when you put on the clothes. With that in mind, I then find materials that speak or stand out to me and do a preliminary sketch of the collection. I then drape and fit the fabrics on my own body to ensure it feels and fits correctly. I want the garments to feel thoughtful and cared for.
How did you get into fashion in the first place?
For as long as I could remember, I had a strong opinion about clothing styles and always wanted to dress myself.  I’ve always felt like my infatuation with fashion was just an innate thing, which makes sense, because my mother also took fashion classes when she was younger. She has always been a sharp and classy dresser. With her influence and encouragement, I decided to chase my dream of becoming a fashion designer and began my education at FIT. I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else with an equal amount of passion.
Who are some artists, designers, people who inspire you?
There are many artists and designers whom I adore and am inspired by: Christina Quarles, Michaela Stark, Gauntlett Cheng and others.But what inspires me the most is my group of friends who are passionately living, creating and growing. They align their creative pursuits with their spiritual growth and stay true to themselves without losing integrity and kindness.
How did the pandemic affect you and your brand?
Aside from all the pain and chaos that came with the pandemic, the sudden excess of time gave me an opportunity to reimagine my life. I quit my old full-time job and  used this newfound time to start a new collection for my brand. This collection would not have been made if it weren’t for the pandemic, and it led me to feel more creatively fulfilled than I have felt in a long time.
Covid also opened me up to more nuances of life. It has taught me to make intuitive decisions and find a balance between  social and work lives. The lack of the physical presence of my friends also continues to help me see and hear them more loudly and clearly when we meet both online and offline. I am grateful for that.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on a couple of projects including a short film for Present SS22 directed by my friend Joyce Keokham, who is also an artist. We are planning on releasing it soon. I’m also doing research for my next collection.
How does where you come from affect your designs and design process?
I am half Chinese and half Japanese. I come from a family and culture that prioritizes a strong sense of responsibility for  our community and ourselves. This has influenced how I approach life in general, but what inspires my current creative oeuvre the most are the people whom I’ve met after leaving home. My community has always been transformative. Having conversations with activists and artists about environmentalism, consumerism and so on, truly inspire and reinforce the way I want to operate. Present SS22 is a collection made with up-cycled, thrifted, vintage or gifted materials. It is easier to decrease waste during the sample making stage. I haven’t put my garments into production yet, because I have yet to find a way to source and manufacture the pieces in a way that aligns with my beliefs. I aim to design clothes that are special and high quality so that the wearers can wear them for a long time or even pass them down to younger generations.
What do you hope to accomplish with your brand now and in the future?
I hope to empower and uplift people through my clothes while raising  awareness of sustainable living. I know I can be very idealistic sometimes, but I’m trying to manifest a kinder future.
Photography: Jaesa Acton
Styling: Andy Polanco
Designer: Kazumi Sakamoto
Model: Laurel Taylor @ Next Models Worldwide
Hair: Matthew Sosnowski
Makeup: Yui Sakamoto
Production: Allegra J Lee
Casting: Lydia Gasha
1st Photo Assistant: John Griffith
2nd Photo Assistant: Rachel Uhlir
Production Assistants: Austin Cassel and Eric Wulc