Alexander Yamaguchi and Momoko Suzuki
In the midst of L.A.’s humming fashion district, up a reluctant elevator and down the hallway of a large concrete building, the Black Crane showroom is a space of serenity. Designers Alexander Yamaguchi and Momoko Suzuki have beautifully carved out a dedicated space of their own, filled with everything they need to cultivate their creative processes: happy plants, a collection of vintage furniture and ample natural light. A soothing, earthy colour palette in soft, malleable fabrics fall from industrial clothing racks that line the showroom’s edges.
— How did your label come about?
M: Alex moved to LA for the surf, I was working in environmental art and architecture, so we have pretty different backgrounds. Alex started his own line about fifteen years ago, and one day he said, we should do a womenswear collection. I wasn’t sure, we didn’t know that market, but he convinced me and I thought, ok; let’s just make something I would like to wear, that was seven years ago. Since then people seem to like what we do which makes us happy.
— What does a typical day look like for you?
M: Our weekdays are hectic, some mornings we drive more than 100 miles to just to check that all the contractors are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. We get to the office right before noon, and start correspondence and sampling. We try not to over work, we think it’s important to make a balance, we are happier this way. California has a pretty good pace; we normally go home at 6pm.
— That’s so nice that you have such a hand in your production and that you can communicate everything you’re after face-to-face.
A: We’ve always been very involved, right from the beginning.
— Do you make your own fabrics?
M: Mostly we do, however we use a mill, we’re not picking the yarn ourselves. We used to knit the jersey in the US, but for the women’s collection we dye the yarn overseas. All of our jersey knit is made in LA.
A: Sometimes we use Japanese fabrics too. Every time is an experiment as each garment is very different. We wash all of the garments here too, so variables like temperature and timing are all very important to experiment with.
M: We like to keep production as local as we can.
— I can imagine because your fabrics are so soft that they’d feel so nice on your skin too
M: When we’re designing we try to keep in mind that we like to have easy maintenance; we want our garments to last, and to be made from natural fibers. I made a mistake one season of using a cotton-poly, and I wasn’t happy at all. So from then on, we strictly use only natural fibers. I think that’s what the mothers really appreciate. We also do a low-impact garment dye. We try to do what we can.
— What would be your focus for your collections? Is there a motivation behind each one, or do they run together seamlessly under one over-arching concept?
M: I think we like to keep it basic, and for our garments to be something people would like to wear every season, maybe in a different fabrication. But of course, we always like to make something new too.
A: You can make crazy clothes, but they’re difficult to wear.
M: Anything light, super comfortable, maybe a piece you can go to sleep in, or perhaps a piece that still sits in ‘casual’ wear but you feel like you’re dressed up a little bit.
— Is there an overall ethos to your brand?
M: It’s very personal, I used to include some things that I maybe wouldn’t wear but thought perhaps somebody else would, after a while I decided I shouldn’t make something I wouldn’t wear, so I just make what I love. It’s very selfish, but I’m making it for myself. I’m a very easy dresser, super casual and relaxed, which aligns with many other people’s lifestyle too.
— Do you have any daily practices?
M: We do lunch together; there are only four of us in the studio so we like to do this together and just talk.
A: That’s very Japanese-style.
M: We also have a thing called ‘sweet time’ which is actually a snack time around mid-afternoon. We go out for some sweets and bring them back to share. We also like to open the windows when we arrive at the office, but nothing too special.
— And, do you have any favourite places to hang out in LA?
A: Southern beaches, to go surfing, anywhere near San Diego. It’s lovely and quiet.
M: there is a cute little restaurant, Little Beast. They are set in a bungalow house, three minutes from our home, very cosy, very Californian. I always like to sit on the patio outside, we always have a good time there, and the food is so good.