The Musical Composition of Clothing: Nirvana and Number (N)ine
Fashion and music are often tied to each other, with the latter being a catalyst for a myriad of timeless collections within the realm of fashion. Whether it be through selected runway tracks, looks based off of musicians, or titles of collections, all serve as callbacks to the music that inspired the design process. This is true for a lot of designers, however I believe that nobody exemplifies this bond better than the brilliant mind behind Number (N)ine: Takahiro Miyashita. The Japanese brand ran from 1997-2009 and was always rooted in Americana, music, and an unmistakable attention to detail. For Miyashita, music is just as important as clothing, which makes sense considering he grew up enveloped by both cultures. His father was a musician and he grew up listening to American rock. Clothing was also close by, with his interest being sparked in elementary school. He has stated previously that if he didn’t have clothing, he would still have music. The two are inextricably linked.
SSAW2003 ‘TOUCHMEIMSICK - ANEWMORNING’
Number (N)ine 2003 'TOUCHMEIMSICK - A NEW MORNING' Runway Looks. Source: Number (N)ine SMART Magazine.
Takahiro Miyashita has many musical muses, but one stands out from the rest: Nirvana, more specifically the band’s frontman, Kurt Cobain. From the iconic shades to references on tees and designs, Cobain’s impact permeates Number (N)ine. His most notable influence amongst Miyashita’s work is found in the 2003 collection, aptly titled “TOUCHMEIMSICK ~ ANEWMORNING”.
Number (N)ine 2003 'TOUCHMEIMSICK - ANEWMORNING' Runway Video.
The entire collection is a faithful recreation of Cobain’s wardrobe through the eyes of Miyashita, elevated to give it that styled-up designer feel. Each piece of clothing is meticulously crafted with little references scattered throughout. Crying hearts, baby Kurts, and quotes found their way onto many of the items; Quite an impressive feat considering how Miyashita was hospitalized earlier that year.
Side-by-side comparisons of Kurt Cobain Outfits and clothing of Number (N)ine's 2003 collection.
For him to create a joint season collection spanning hundreds of items and having each with their own distinct attention to detail is remarkable. A quote by Miyashita in Fashion News Magazine Vol.87 July 2003 can begin to describe his infatuation with Cobain: "This is my favorite music from my youth, which I used to listen to every day. I empathize with Kurt's beautiful view of music and his deep sorrow. It was a way of life for me and Kurt.” Some may consider both of them as kindred souls. To top it off, Miyashita came out dressed like Kurt during the finale:
Takahiro Miyashita during the finale of Number (N)ine's 2003 Runway Show.
AW2005 ‘THE HIGH STREETS’
Number (N)ine AW05 Collection Editorial. Source: Number (N)ine SMART Magazine.
Not as direct and obvious, AW2005 “The High Streets” also has some Nirvana influence. The runway included a Nirvana soundtrack that echoed throughout the Couvent Des Cordeliers, as models flounced down the runway in hybridized outfits consisting of grunge and Native American elements. Grunge staples such as flannels, cardigans, and silver jewelry were present. Feathers, furs, and beads represented the Native American influence.
Number (N)ine AW2005 'The High Streets' Runway Video.
Number (N)ine AW05 Collection Magazine Features and Editorials.
One detail for those in the know is that Miyashita had a band at the time called “The High Streets.” It is very reminiscent of Nirvana, and at times could feel like a cover band, similar to Jun Takahashi and his now defunct band Tokyo Sex Pistols. I think this is ultimately a good thing though, as he accurately matches the raw intensity of Nirvana while doing his own thing. In his song titled “Last Days,” he uses the same chords in the chorus as “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but in a different progression.
Takahiro Miyashita and The High Streets Live Performance at LIQUIDROOM, 2009.
The High Streets 'Train' Album, 2008.
SS2007 ‘ABOUT A BOY…’
Number (N)ine SS2007 'About a Boy...' Runway Video.
There are also more lowkey references to Nirvana such as in the SS2007 and SS2008 collections. The SS2007 collection titled “About a Boy…,” was essentially if Kurt Cobain and Jhonny Cash were still alive and infused into one person, what would their style be. A unique concept, Miyashita still manages to ground it with typical Kurt items such as flannels, the iconic shades, grunge knits and distressed denim. At the time of its release, I'm sure it was a refreshing juxtaposition to the previous season “Noir,” which consisted of all black ensembles and celtic influence. This beautiful take on western wear makes me wonder if I should've been a cowboy rather than Kurt.
Artwork for Number (N)ine SS2007 collection featuring Kurt Cobain depicted as Johnny Cash.
Number (N)ine SS2008 'Birds' Runway Video.
SS2008 “Birds,” contains the most subtle Nirvana reference. Although the looks and the clothing weren’t really Cobain-inspired, Miyashita still used Nirvana’s music for the runway show. Upon watching for the first time, I sank into the familiarity of the tranquil music, only to realize that they were lullaby renditions of Nirvana songs. It gave me goosebumps, allowing me to be enthralled with the show. Although Birds is not really a fan favorite collection, the pleasant surprise of a Nirvana reference was appreciated.
Cover Art for Rockabye Baby, Lullaby Renditions of Nirvana.
Maybe it’s just the ramblings of a Miyashita fanboy, but I truly believe his connection of music and fashion is unparalleled. Even in his newest venture, TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist, he still proves that the link is still there and stronger as ever as he continues to explore it.
Writer: Zachary Patronaggio