Tetsu Nishiyama, WTAPS & Putting Things in their Place
WTAPS, the edgy, militant brand that we know today as a paragon of Japanese streetwear was borne from the basics. From the beginning, there was high schooler Tetsu Nishiyama, silkscreening designs onto t-shirts and making collages of his inspirations using an old desktop computer and a Xerox copy machine. But where one might have seen a disadvantage from a lack of resources, Tetsu saw innate potential in abundance.
Tetsu continues to implement this mentality as a designer. The brand leans on its foundation for design, “placing things where they should be,” and refers heavily to two sets of principles: those of Taoism and those of a group of Japanese carpenters known as Miya-Daiku.
“These master artisans [Miya-Daiku] understood that trees can be imperfect. It can be curved, but the way it is curved does have the power, the origin, the beauty and the aesthetics to it too. Even if a tree is bent, it has certain aesthetics in it. I do not see it as a defect, but rather understand and make the full use of its potential and reflect it in my design.”
In a 2013 video by Obscura Magazine, Nishiyama spoke on the ways the two principles have influenced his designs over time, illuminating his desire for the brand to align itself with Taoist teachings and philosophy.
The fashion scene as it relates to streetwear is turbulent, amorphous, and often makes it difficult to source what is “in”. Brands fall prey to trends and are tossed to the side with the rest of the brands that couldn’t keep up. Where WTAPS lacks a traditional foundation in design and aesthetics, Tetsu Nishiyama has subverted the norm and used his atypical beginnings to create a brand that is fluid, current, and does not sacrifice its point of view for clout. WTAPS uses its perspective to place our world where it should be. Tetsu Nishiyama sees what is imperfect about the moment we live in, and designs a future from it that is consummate of its resources, mindful of its abundant potential, and preparatory for that which is yet to come.