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Daiki Suzuki

The Engineered Garments/Nepenthes designer keeps a low-profile, but his passion for great clothes continues to inspire many a start-up label and clothing-conscious individual.

Interview By John Dugan, June 19, 2013

There's something about wearing an Engineered Garments coat or jacket that gives one a feeling of confidence—it's a bit like modern armor with a vintage feel, and it has the feeling of something you were always meant to wear but couldn't find. An EG garment has a weight and heft that's manly and built to last, yet eschews the bourgeois trappings of mid-century businessman's threads—no silk linings here. You'll find it in Barney's, but EG has never been a high profile label, neither has its brother label Nepenthes, but fashion aficianados associate it with high-standard production and design. All the EG products we've come across carry a "Made in NY" union label—and come in styles (like an incredible riff on a wool duffle coat) that outlast the trends. That EG was ahead of the curve on the new interest in high quality menswear and heritage styles, goes without saying. And yet, designer Daiki Suzuki (who also designed for Woolrich Woolen Mills) remains a somewhat elusive character—in part, that's because of his PR-eschewing attitude. But for anyone curious about great menswear, or who the real deal is when it comes to contemporary clothing (particularly menswear), he's a key figure. NoMa reached out to the Engineered Garments folks and asked photographer Ryan Plett to pay Suzuki a visit in his Hell's Kitchen studio.

Studio photos and portraits by Ryan Plett 

Can you tell us how Engineered Garments began?
EG was first started in 1999 as a way to start making our own product, product that we couldn't find. The entire business shifted when the Internet became more and more popular, things were no longer difficult to find. It has definitely been great in allowing growth in the entire clothing industry as a whole, but speciality was being killed. 

Engineered Garments, SS13

What was your background? How were you able to launch it?
I was a design school student and then went on to work retail, which allowed me to really hone my craft by being surrounded by clothing. I then was a buyer which gave me the opportunity to see so much and after years of experience I am now able to do what I do now.

For those that don't know, what is the relationship with Nepenthes and EG?
EG is an in-house brand of Nepenthes.

How did you decide to manufacture in NYC? What advantages has that given you? Challenges?
Well, I live here and its really important to be close to factories, fabric sources, cutting rooms, washer, etc... the heart/middle of it all so we can have our hand in everything.

How does the idea of American sportswear and "Made in the USA" figure into the concept for Engineered Garments?
It doesn't factor so much as to the fact that we are here, we live here. Naturally manufacturing here in the States has a certain quality and capacity that we are interested in so it works out in the end but you can never duplicate what can be manufactured in the US.

Engineered Garments, SS13

How does NYC and Japanese culture, or the Japanese view of American sportswear, influence your design?
I don't know how I was influenced specifically. EG is really personal to me, it's about clothes I have seen, worn, bought, and grown up with, for me its an amalgamation of all these things. In general, the Japanese point of view on American style is not something I relate to, I approach my work with my personal experiences only.

Who is the EG customer?
I like to believe anyone who loves clothes.

EG seems to have a great reputation but it doesn't court a lot of hype. Do you think that's helped it stay healthy in the long run?
We don't approach this idea of marketing/hype in a way that we have to be friendly to, it's all a façade and at the end of the day the product will speak for itself. It's not meant to be thought that we are not friendly but in a way we are not friendly. If anyone is interested and we are approached we are more then happy to start a dialogue and hopefully it's a good result. EG is not about being cool or making people look a certain way but it can help.

Woolrich Woolen Mills, 2010, by Daiki Suzuki

You headed up design at Woolrich Woolen Mills, what did you take away from that experience?
I learned how to work with different kinds of people and a big company.

I know you're not designing for trends, so what influences your collections?
My experiences, knowledge, and my passion.

Which pieces are you most excited about for Fall?
All of them really, I wouldn't have made them otherwise. If I had to pick, perhaps the Field Parka.

What's your all time favorite EG piece?
I don't have one but standouts are the Ghurka Short, Field Parka, and Bedford Jacket.

Any advice to young designers?
Believe in yourself.

Shop Engineered Garments or visit Nepenthes in NYC or Japan.