Designer Spotlight: Setsumasa Kobayashi

For over 25 years, works of Setsumasa Kobayashi, the owner of General Research (now known as Mountain Research) have been one of a kind, ranging from outdoors and military clothing to anarchism, motorcycles and literature both in footwear and clothing.
Kobayashi was born in Asakusa, where his father ran a shoe factory. After graduating high school, he picked up few jobs in the footwear industry, working in Florence and Tokyo for a few years. In the 1990’s, observing an interesting movement culminating Jun Takahashi and his many Ura-Harajuku peers, he thought to himself, why not to create his own label?

How to create a fashion label?
As it was his first venture into clothing, a question stood in front of him - where do I go from here? He had many ideas on how to pick his niche, but the final one he chose was a method of research. He decided to separate his interests into their individual research lines, and delve deeper from there. As someone with no affiliations to any tribe, collective or a fashion group, the designer chose to approach clothing from a place of personal interest.

But, what inspires Kobayashi?
It is no mystery that nature is deeply woven into Kobayashi’s DNA. Splitting his time between Tokyo and his unique, custom-built retreat in the Nagano mountains, he lives the eternally balanced lifestyle. When he was a young boy, he used to visit his grandfather every year in the summer. His grandfather would often go hunting in Suzuka mountains with his hunting group and he would sometimes join along. He also loves music. Artists like The Beatles, Talking Heads, David Byrne and, most importantly, Phish make for a great inspiration for his works. Interestingly, Phish’s four-day camping concert, taking place in a deep woodland area of maine, that Kobayashi attended in 2004 was a turning point for creating Mountain Research. The use of oversized garments, combined with bits of nylon and cotton - he was so intrigued by this alternative aesthetic, that it changed his outlook on fashion.

Birth of General Research
When the brand started, back in 1994, designer’s main inspiration was 1960’s mountaineering gear.
After the Korean War, there was an excess of military wear that had been stocked up. A lot of these pieces were then dropped off at military surplus stores for people to buy. The wide array of garments, like sailor hats and M-65 trousers worn with leather mountain boots and white button-up shirts, were extremely intriguing for Kobayashi. He was really impressed by seeing photos of the Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, wearing this clothing in the mountains. This generation of military silhouettes shaped the building blocks for General Research.
It is important to mention, that clothes that Kobayashi creates, perform more functions than being aesthetic. The technical aspect of the garment is something that he values highly. He takes all of the clothing that he samples, and test runs how they fare in the environment in his mountain cottage that is nestled deep in Ogawayama, a mountainous region of Nagano that’s often referred to as the Yosemite of Japan.

Accomplishments of the Research
From the label’s creation in 1994, it held only few traditional runways shows. It also appears, as the brand doesn’t follow the usual way of releasing two collections every year.
Through out the years of its activity, brand, and all of the diffusions lines, got international recognition and cult-like following among fashion enthusiasts.
From the year 2005, General Research mainly operates under name of Mountain Research, among with other lines researching different niches.


Written by Bartosz Orłowski

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