Shinpei Naito is known for his futuristic graphic art that he has already lent to lifestyle brands worldwide. For his latest collaboration with Jack Wolfskin, the Japanese native has created the capsule collection Jack Wolfskin x NAITO with two brightly colored prints incorporating floral and tropical elements.
This artist collaboration for a special-edition capsule collection is the first of its kind for Jack Wolfskin and part of celebrating the brand’s 40th anniversary. Back in the early 80s, when college student and outdoor enthusiast Ulrich Dausien founded the company in Frankfurt, all equipment and gear available for the great adventure were primarily gray, green, or beige. Only by chance did Ulrich Dausien meet a vendor from Taiwan, who introduced him to more colorful and technical materials and consequently led Jack Wolfskin designs into a bright and, for those times, unusually bold aesthetic direction.
Especially in the early days of the brand, the colorful looks distinguished Jack Wolfskin from its competitors in Northern Europe. But as fashions change, with the start of the new millennium, the design became very subdued. Products in muted colors or black and gray tones, in particular, had an enormous turnover.
Over the recent years, the Jack Wolfskin product range has become quite colorful once again, especially highlighting bright contrasts. However, when researching Jack Wolfskin’s archives and looking at outdoor brands in general, Naito noticed that hardly any colorful prints exist. For the future, the artist sees the outdoor industry moving more in the direction of fashion. To him, the Jack Wolfskin x NAITO capsule collection is only the beginning of that change.
How did you get into art? Please tell us a bit about your journey.
From an early age on, I really liked to draw. I started more of a serious art education at 15 years old when I attended a private art school in my hometown of Yokohama. There, I have trained in basic drawing techniques and color painting skills. Those were three very intense and good years for me.
After art school in Yokohama, I moved to Seattle, where I continued to study art for another two years. It was a really fun time and my first time living in a foreign country. That was back in 1998. I totally loved the American way of teaching art. For example, in Japan, it was forbidden to listen to music while drawing. But in America, the teacher brought in a stereo and blasted music at full volume during drawing sessions. It was a big culture shock, but I totally got into this easy-going, relaxed attitude.
When and why did you move to Germany?
I moved to Berlin in 2003, right after I graduated from art school in Seattle. I wanted to see another culture in Europe. In Tokyo, I met three German guys, and we became good friends. They came from Berlin and sparked my interest in moving to Berlin. German product design and sophisticated car design always intrigued me and eventually pushed me to move here.
How has moving to Europe had an impact on your work?
Personally, I think my art has become more European. It got more colorful and strong in contrast. Japanese art is softer and more harmonious in terms of color combination.
But my friends here say my art is still very “Japanese.” I guess it’s a mix of pop and traditional culture. The bottom line is, I have no idea how this life in Berlin really affected my art.
When was the first time you were aware of the brand Jack Wolfskin? What did you associate with the brand?
I already knew Jack Wolfskin when I moved to Germany, and I always wanted to work with them. As an innovative outdoor brand, Jack Wolfskin is very famous in Japan too. I have always been using their backpacks and really appreciate how they use new textiles and develop new products. I respect that a lot. It was a perfect collaboration for me.
How did the collaboration with Jack Wolfskin come about?
I got in touch with Daniele Grasso, the vice president product & apparel at Jack Wolfskin, who liked my art. I heard that this is the brand’s first collaboration with an artist, so I am very honored to be given this great opportunity. When looking through the Jack Wolfskin archive, or generally at outdoor brands, the collections hardly use colorful prints. I always wondered why the outdoor industry didn’t move more in the direction of fashion. So I suggested to Daniele to make a colorful capsule collection. I believe outdoor brands are going to move more and more into fashion.
What was your inspiration for your collection for Jack Wolfskin?
I chose the lotus as my main inspiration. It is my favorite flower and very loved by the Japanese people. Lotuses bloom in the early morning, so people believe they are a symbol of sun and purity. Since this will be the first bold print collection in Jack Wolfskin’s history, it would be a perfect motif to represent a new beginning. I designed a light green and a pink version for a joyful atmosphere. The dark navy version is a bit more mysterious and reminds me of midnight in summer. Butterflies and flowers are dancing together in the moonlight.
Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?
I like everything in the collection, but especially the navy blouson. I guess this is supposed to be a women’s collection, but I wear it too. Also, I will certainly use the rucksack on a daily basis.