Mark Ronson and St. Vincent Jet to Japan for This Designer

BB Kyosuke Kunimoto Style Moment - H 2015
Keith Ng

BB Kyosuke Kunimoto Style Moment - H 2015

Bespoke suits by Kyosuke Kunimoto have earned him a following of cult artists, from Frank Ocean to Sean Lennon.

Kyosuke Kunimoto might just be fashion’s best-kept secret. Instagram posts on the Tokyo-based designer’s account sometimes garner a mere dozen likes, but look a little closer and you’ll realize that some of those Instagram hearts come directly from clients like Mark Ronson and Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) who covet his crisply tailored, one-of-a-kind suits and accessories crafted from rare fabrics.

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Longtime customer Sean Lennon, whose collection of suits includes a navy one with a red crushed-velvet lapel, was responsible for introducing mom Yoko Ono and Ronson to the designer’s work. Other fans include Wilco members Nels Cline and Pat Sansone, Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda, and Frank Ocean, for whom Kunimoto is next planning to craft pieces.

"I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was 8 or 9," recalls Kunimoto, 43, during a phone call from the nook of an old tailoring shop where he typically meets with clients. The obsession, he adds, began with the pages of his mother’s European Vogue magazines. She also wanted to be a designer, but, says Kunimoto, "my grandmother was strict, thinking that women should stay in the kitchen."

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While his mom never did pursue fashion as a career, she fully supported her son’s dream. After graduating from London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 1996, Kunimoto made a collection of 24 pairs of '60s-style men's Beatle boots out of rare vintage fabrics, like 200-year-old printed French cotton and 100-year-old German velvet that’s typically used for sofas. Unsure of how to connect with creative celebrities who might want to wear them, he reached out to Vincent Gallo through an email listed on the actor-musician’s website.

"I sent him a picture of my collection and said, 'If you like any of it, I’m happy to make some clothes for you,'" recalls Kunimoto. The shot in the dark worked: Gallo is now both a repeat client and friend. These days, Kunimoto will create a custom suit for any buyer (the process takes a month-and-a-half, can be done remotely and ranges from $2,000 to $5,000), but he especially loves making clothes for musicians.

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"I’m a big fan of music, from Mozart to The Beatles. I collect vinyl and love going to record stores," he says. "I don’t play an instrument or compose myself, so I adore people who do. It inspires me."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of Billboard magazine.