Sekiguchi says that Yamamoto, in contrast, would occasionally break the quiet at his atelier by strumming a tune on the guitar. But the one sound you’d never hear there? The sharp click-clack of a pair of towering It shoes. “He doesn’t like the sound of high heels on the office wood floor,” explains Sekiguchi. In fact, Yamamoto famously loathes heels; he has made no secret of the many “scary” stiletto-shod prostitutes who occupied his childhood environs. Contrary to Stateside fashion norms, Yamamoto employees who wore heels to work had to change into flats once they hit the studio grounds.
In 2003 Horihata and Sekiguchi decided to give up their jobs and launch a new collection, but not before Kawakubo offered them their own label under the Comme des Garçons umbrella, à la Junya Watanabe or Tao Kurihara. However, when Horihata presented Kawakubo with his idea for a line rooted in Japanese culture, she said he should start his own collection. “She wanted to be free from history or nationality or things like that,” Horihata says. “[Rei] wanted to make clothes that nobody has ever seen. She wanted extreme beauty, not so normal.” Horihata, on the other hand, had already grafted on to his new concept. “Why do we need something we’ve never seen?” he reasons. “I’m looking for something new too, but not avant-garde new.”
From Tokyo the pair briefly relocated to London, to beef up their tailoring skills with Turkish designer Bora Aksu. “He is [still] a best friend for us,” Sekiguchi says. Adds Horihata, “He’s always smiling, even the day before the show. I thought designers were always temperamental.”
Today the couple has been quietly garnering praise for Matohu, whose retail venues include Maryam Nassir Zadeh in New York and Takashimaya in Tokyo. “The collection is very intelligent,” says Maryam Nassirzadeh. “You can see the sensitivity and thought behind the clothes.” While the two would love to up their visibility with a Paris presentation, they’re not exactly champing at the bit. After all, the literal translation of Matohu is “to wear lightly,” but in Japanese it also means “Let’s wait.”