Robin Roberts, the creator of Clarence House, was looking for fabrics, but he couldn’t find any he liked. So Robin started making his own and with the help of an eccentric new friend, his vision was fulfilled.
It’s fitting that the namesake of Clarence House all started with a joke, because Kazumi Yoshida has that spark of humor that radiates throughout his playful designs. The duo used to tell Americans that they purchased their wares at ‘Clarence House’ in London, but were glad word didn’t get back to the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Kazumi Yoshida is the Executive Vice President of Design at the world-famous fabric company, Clarence House, but the man you will meet in person is much less stuffy than the title implies. We think the term ‘visionary’ would suffice, and ‘artist’ is most accurate.
Kazumi, a man wearing circular ‘hipster’ glasses, who bought them before ‘hipster’ was a conceived slang word, greets me at the front of the Clarence House’s DDB Showroom. A white knit cap tops an understated and very, “Rocky-esque” grey sweatshirt and light pants, highlighted by rosy, oriental slip-on shoes.
Passing through the awe-inspiring showroom, I stop to shake hands with the fabulous Nancy Corzine, who is back in the building with her new furniture line, which is Clarence House’s first furniture line.
In his office, littered with scraps of textile designs and paintings of his own creation, Kazumi tells us he was born in Japan, in an undisclosed locale between Kyoto and Kobe, but in adulthood went to London to study Landscape Architecture at the Royal College of Art. “I dropped out after a year because there wasn’t much fun going on!” Kazumi laughs.
However, it wasn’t formal training that gave Kazumi his ‘start,’ instead it was friendships. He met Tina Chow, befriended Zandra Rhodes and Christopher Gibb and the head of the British Fashion Council. Keeping up with his new friends’ lifestyles was made easier because Kazumi was “sort of getting money from my parents because they thought I was in school . . .”
Later, Kazumi traveled to New York, where he befriended esteemed fashion designer Mary McFadden, of Mary McFadden Inc. home furnishings, and worked for her by creating renderings and lavish floorplans for various penthouses. During one project, he met Robin Roberts and they clicked “like this” [snaps fingers]. The eccentric duo became friends first and work buddies second, after Robin saw a few sketches. Kazumi, who had never worked with textiles prior, was taught how to put patterns in a repeat, and saw the “best of the best.”
“He brought me to the sources to learn from scratch, all the old European houses in Lyons. I blossomed and I observed everything,” Kazumi said with a smile.
Kazumi never had to really learn ‘if at first you don’t succeed,’ mantra – his first design, the timeless, Papier Paponais took off right away. But, Kazumi did say sometimes his paintings and sculpture work don’t work quite right for textiles or lighting. Sometimes when the powers that be don’t quite ‘get it,’ he must go back to the drawing board and stir up fresh inspiration.
Kazumi’s tip: If it ain’t working, it’s probably broke, so don’t fix it.
Travel has had a huge impact on Kazumi’s inspiration for his constantly evolving prints for Clarence House and artwork featured in his Tribeca gallery. He urges himself to “be in it” when he travels to Copenhagen, London, Antwerp and Japan, but interestingly, less so Paris. Kazumi says he takes the “energy of a city,” like New York City and channels it into his pieces.
However, much of his designs display his renderings of nature’s art such as sun, water and mountains found when he visits Japan and its hot springs three to four times annually.
Everything from the chair fabric in Prague’s Smetana Concert Hall to artworks from Picasso and Matisse is engrained into his mind. Did we mention he only takes mental photographs, no I-Phone X required?
“It’s in my head. It’s in the memory,” Kazumi said.
Kazumi Yoshida marries his creative lively designs and avante guard, “street market mixed with classical things” personality, with the reputation and aesthetic of the Clarence House company.
To see Kazumi’s new works and Clarence House’s fabrics, join the DDB showroom, Suite 205, for its “Tuesday’s With Clarence House.” On November 14th, from 2 to 4 p.m. meet the director of design, Katie Matushak as she serves fresh apple cider and donuts.
Clarence House showrooms are located within the DDB, Suite 205 and within the DCH, Suite 4018.
For a chance to shake hands with living legend Nancy Corzine, and to see her stunning furniture collections visit the DDB showroom tonight!