Interview with Satoshi Suzuki – Owner, Loopwheeler
Produced by: Dan Hwang (DAN H.)
Loopwheeler is a brand built on a foundation of quality craftsmanship that has earned them a partnership with NIKE. Nike Sportswear has seen the illustrious heritage of Nike come alive with vigor and excitement, thanks in no small part to Loopwheeler. The partnership sought to use the elegance of Loopwheeler’s design process to both revive and reinvent some of Nike’s most historic pieces. For further insight into the Loopwheeler X Nike project read the interview.
Feature continue after the jump…
Nike and Loopwheeler sharing the obsession for quality and craftsmanship.
It’s the obsession of quality and craftsmanship that drives Nike designers to create the most premium products. It was that obsession that drove Nike Design Director, Jarett Reynolds, to seek out Mr. Suzuki of Loopwheeler during a stay at Nike’s Tokyo Design Studio (TDS). Fleece is a part of sportswear DNA and as a Nike designer, Mr. Reynold’s has been obsessed with the material since day one. Loopwheeler, a brand based in Japan, is a company revered for their high-grade fleece. And so it happened that during Reynold’s stay in Japan, he began working together with Mr. Suzuki to create some of Nike’s most premium and iconic Nike Sportswear products.
A marriage of obsession, the Nike Sportswear products resulting from this relationship embody all Nike and Loopwheeler stand for – supreme quality and meticulous craftsmanship. Working closely with Loopwheeler, one of the only manufacturers in the world that still makes their cotton fabric on the original loop wheel machines, Nike has crafted iconic Nike Sportswear products that are practically handmade. Created though an incredibly detailed process, the Nike Sportswear products created with Loowheeler are extremely limited in quantity with an unsurpassed quality.
When did you first develop your passion for clothing and materials?
It was with a sweatshirt that my mom bought me. It was made using a loopwheel machine. I still remember the sensation of the lining when I wore it which was soft and comfortable. It was that sweatshirt that started my passion for materials and clothing.
What was your motivation to create Loopwheeler?
The loopwheel fabric has the best texture and it makes perfectly original sweatshirts. Japan is the only country that still has the technology to knit loopwheel fabric for sweatshirts and there are only 200 loopwheel machines left in the world.
When did you first become interested in clothing and materials?
It was when I was going to a grade school (in late “60’s). Nowadays I recollect that the lining material of a sweat shirt that my mom bought me was made using loopwheel machine. I still remember the sensation when I wore it within my brain and with all my body, which was soft and snug. I think it was when I started to grow special attachment to materials and clothing.
Is this the first time you have worked with another company, tell us about some of the other works?
Products for Studio Ghibli, the most renowned animation studio represented by Hayao Miyazaki. We are designing and producing limited products to be sold exclusively at the shop in the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. Collaboration product with Beams Plus: We design and produce exclusive special make-ups to be sold at Beams Plus shops around the country. Product design and production for Ships Woman’s. Product design and production for kids, titled “Kodomo (=Kids’) Beams Project.” Project to support Takuma Dan, top mountain bike rider in Japan. We design and produce bicycle parka inspired by him every year, and give a part of the revenue to support him.
Creating Loopwheeler products is a timely process, what makes this process so unique?
A machine weaves 24 loops a minute, which is slow enough that you can track the movement with your eyes. Experienced craftsmen have to attend the machine constantly. Slowly and gently, without putting excessive tension on threads by only leveraging gravity, the machine knits the fabric to enhance the natural texture of the thread. It feels as if air was knitted into the material. Whenever possible we use a flat seam sewing machine that was used heavily back in the 1950s. Machines today require around 10mm allowance, but this machine requires only a couple of millimeters. A small allowance reduces overlays of materials and bulk creating a more comfortable finished product. In addition the flat seam machines use six threads at a time; more threads in the seam increase strength and durability to the product. It’s slow, takes more attention, but the natural skill of the engineers truly affects the quality. I believe it is made with mysterious skill unique to Japan, which no one can duplicate.
How did Nike and Loopwheeler work together with the Loopwheeler philosophy being about traditional quality and Nike’s about innovation.
We have one thing in common, important heritage. Similar to Nike, Loopwheeler’s vision is to stick to traditional quality while creating contemporary products at the same time. We call it “future heritage.”
How closely did you work with Jarrett Reynolds and the Nike design team?
Jarrett contacted me about two years ago which was the beginning of the relationship. At first, we made various samples, and talked with each other to share our ideas and visions for the future. After working together for over a year, we have really come to understand each other and have learned to compliment one another’s talents.
What makes Loopwheeler products so special?
At the core of Loopwheeler are the people. After producing a sample, I wash it 10 to 20 times at home using a regular washing machine and I always personally wear and test the product. However, what is the most important for Loopwheeler is the mindset of our staff. They are actually seeing every stitch of every Loopwheeler product as it is made and are obsessed with fine-tuning the formula for the thickness of the thread, gauge and mesh count. Each piece of Loopwheeler product is made by hand and finished with their affection.