Redefining the Classics

Winner of the 2017 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers and a finalist of the 2023 Vogue Fashion Fund, Kozaburo Akasaka founded his label after earning degrees from Parsons School of Design and Central Saint Martins and working with Thom Browne. Blending sophisticated tailoring with Tokyo street style, his Japanese brand, KOZABURO, approaches menswear with precise technical understanding. Trousers, shirts, and jackets boast confident constructions and original textures achieved through artisanal hand-stitching and treatments. At once traditional and grunge, KOZABURO yields an alluring interpretation of contemporary ready-to-wear attire.

Iroha: Please tell us about your past work, projects or initiatives.

Kozaburo: I operate two brands, KOZABURO and Wave of Sand (WOS). Both are designed in New York and produced in Japan.

KOZABURO features a style influenced by 90's music, subculture, and street style with the universal design of classical men's apparel at its core. The result is a poetic and contemporary collection juxtaposing high fashion and street culture. The brand aims to bridge East and West by redefining classic garments and blending philosophical values. Signature pieces include 3D flared denim, sashiko workwear jackets, tailored blazers, and Japanese monk jackets. KOZABURO has also collaborated with brands such as Snow Peak, Wrangler, and Suicoke.

Wave of Sand is a new concept brand based in New York that seeks to create new classics for casual daily and leisure wear. The brand is inspired by contemporary youth culture in America infused with Japanese spirituality. It is rooted in Bushwick's rave and workwear culture with a zen touch. Signature pieces include wide-legged cargo pants, sand-patterned graphic tees, and Judo-inspired sweatpants.

My previous collections are all published on Vogue Runway

Iroha: What are you currently working on? 

Kozaburo: Currently, we are working on production for the Autumn-Winter 2024 (AW24) season and sample design for the Spring-Summer 2025 (SS25) season, along with other collaboration projects.

Iroha: Do you have any future projects planned?

Kozaburo: As we are working on the design perspective of the new collection, we are also preparing events and pop-ups in New York City during the summer for its launch.

Iroha: What are your thoughts regarding Asian hate and Asian glass ceiling issues? In the rise of Asian hate crimes, is your community (local, artist, business, etc.) affected in any way?

Kozaburo: I believe Asian hate  and the Asian glass ceiling exist; however, I also believe the experiences of these things vary from case to case. I was part of the TOMODACHI Initiative in the past. As stated on their website:

The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership, born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs.

We seek to foster a “TOMODACHI generation” of young American and Japanese leaders who are committed to and engaged in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations, appreciate each other’s countries and cultures, and possess the global skills and mindsets needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous, and secure world (Tomodachi, About Us).

As an immigrant, moving to New York has exposed me to the various challenges of building a life and a business here. My best advice is to learn where you come from and decide where you want to go.

Iroha: Based on your background, do you have any advice or a message for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Kozaburo: Believe in universal love and consciousness. Also, there is always more to learn.

Iroha: Outside of work, what are you most interested in right now?

Kozaburo: Recently, I have been interested in learning Traditional Chinese/Oriental Martial Arts, listening to jazz, and experiencing a Japanese tea ceremony.

written by Jessica Woolsey | Instagram 

Wave of Sand