ELEVEN Things to Know About John Lawrence Sullivan
Join us as we deep dive into the story of the elusive Tokyo-based brand to find out everything you need to know about its past, present and future.
You don’t need to be into fashion to know that Japan is a land of fashion geniuses. Rei, Junya, Yohji, Kenzo, Issey… The list of Japanese designers who changed the course of contemporary fashion is long, but mostly includes brands founded decades ago. One of the more recent additions is John Lawrence Sullivan, the name that seems familiar for more than one reason. Why? Read on as we bring you the complete guide to JLS (the brand, not the band).
1. While its spirit might seem emerging, John Lawrence Sullivan has been around for a while. The brand was actually launched back in 2003 in Tokyo, Japan by Arashi Yanagawa.
2. Arashi is a self-taught fashion designer whose background as a professional boxer lies at the core of the brand…
3. … so much so he even decided to name the label after the legendary 19th century American sportsman John Lawrence Sullivan aka the first ever heavyweight champion of gloved boxing.
4. The John Lawrence Sullivan fashion show debut took place in September 2007 during Tokyo Fashion Week. Held at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, it presented Arashi’s spring/summer 2007 collection which combined direct references to his favourite sport with modern suiting silhouettes.
John Lawrence Sullivan SS07
5. Ever since that first show, John Lawrence Sullivan have been all about revisiting traditional tailoring and constantly updating it by introducing new inspirations, techniques, shapes and innovative details. One season it’s about an oversized suit referencing the style of cold wave artists (spring/summer 2018), the other is about merging the 1990s post-punk subcultures (autumn/winter 2019).
6. While boxing is his first love, Arashi’s most enduring source of inspiration is actually music in its broadest interpretations, including all of the different subcultures born out of sound. And while the genres may slightly vary depending on the season, his absolute favourites are always present. If you’re looking for the sound of John Lawrence Sullivan, Arashi suggest adding the following to your playlist: Depeche Mode, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails, Sonic Youth, The Smiths, Vowws… The list goes on, but you get the gist.
7. Originally born from a place of dressing a strong and powerful man, John Lawrence Sullivan introduced womenswear in spring/summer 2010 and have been catering to all genders ever since. Because at the end of the day, a power suit has never been “just a guy’s thing.”
John Lawrence Sullivan Womenswear
8. After swapping between Tokyo, Paris and London, John Lawrence Sullivan found their show home in the catwalks of the UK capital and London Fashion Week Men’s, as part of which they’ve been continuously presenting their collections since autumn/winter 2017.
9. As it’s the case with a lot of contemporary brands, collaborations with other like-minded creatives play a big role in building the puzzle of John Lawrence Sullivan. Over the past 17 years, Arashi has worked with a range of brands, artists and designers from all over the world. For autumn/winter 2018, Paris-based design studio Ahonen and Lamberg created enchanting floral prints, while graphic designer Riccardo Ferrol created lettering that appeared embroidered across garments for both AW17 and SS18. One of the most recent ones is Andrew Blyszak, the master of shades behind the sunglasses seen at John Lawrence Sullivan autumn/winter 2020.
John Lawrence Sullivan AW20
10. Speaking of which… Shown in January during LFWM, John Lawrence Sullivan’s AW20 collection was an eclectic affair, merging together contemporary industrial punk with the works of Wim Wenders and Pina Bausch. The signature strong shoulders were joined by glitzy fabrications including glossy leather, textured metallics and an abundance of pearls. In addition to Blyszak’s sunnies, the collection also featured a collaboration with scarf makers of Montmartre New York and pearl accessories created in partnership with YOSHiKOCREATiON.
11. While no future seems too bright right now, John Lawrence Sullivan is doing his part in making a change. As part of the recent project to revive Tokyo’s area of Nakameguro, Arashi joined fellow designers including TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist., FACETASM and Yukihiro Takahashi in creating a line of printed tees in partnership with local concept store M.I.U. Titled No Use of Crying over Spilt Milk, all profits from the project will be donated for the purpose of revitalising the Nakameguro area and its cultural heritage, a place Arashi himself has called home for over 20 years. In true JLS style, his design says it all: “RAGE AGAINST THE VIRUS”. You can shop it, along with all of the other designs, here.