Over the last few years, CCP.FM has quietly built a reputation worldwide with its refreshed and playful take on technical apparel, with an emphasis on cycling culture. We recently had the privilege of engaging in a special conversation with Tsutomu Kijima, the designer and founder of CCP.FM and learning more about his past, present, and future.
Our colleague Yusho ventured to their Atelier which happens to sit opposite of their storefront, separated by the Sumida River. A typhoon had drifted through Tokyo the day prior, threatening our meeting, however it left as quickly as it came. It felt like a reminder to recognize and respect the unpredictability of nature which is something we feel in CCP.FM as a brand. Each season, garments are mindfully created that blend function and style, paying homage to their storied past while building a sense of value and newness in the apparel industry.
Through our exchange, we learned that Kijima’s journey was not only shaped by his contributions to fashion but also by his deep involvement in sports and music. These experiences collectively laid the foundation for his humble and storied success as a pioneer of Japanese fashion.
From your previous interviews, we know that CCP.FM started as a means to create clothing for clubs and dancing, but evolved towards cycling gear as the team members matured and shifted their lifestyles. Can you tell us about how your upbringing led you to designing apparel? Did anything in your youth have a significant impact on your approach to fashion?
Growing up as the youngest of 5 children, I was especially influenced by my older sister of 11 years. She had a particular 7 inch vinyl by the record label Motown and would frequently play it. Even though we never understood the meaning of the lyrics at the time, I fondly remember us singing and dancing along to the song. I later learned that it was "Where Did Our Love Go" by The Supremes. My older sister would imitate the hairstyle and fashion of the members found through record and magazine covers, however our mother scolded us for being influenced by this. Eventually, when I was around 12, I realized I didn’t actually like the clothes my mother bought for me, so I began searching and buying clothes on my own to style and wear, which even influenced my friends to similarly search for an independent style. You could say this was the spark for my interest in apparel and design.
Can you share about your life before starting CCP.FM? We’re curious about your tenure at Hysteric Glamour.
While studying at a design school, I was working part-time at a condo development company. Through a senior colleague, I got referred to a sales position within the fashion industry, where I ended up working in several different roles. This provided me with a variety of experiences that helped me understand the structure of the industry across design, planning, production and marketing. By 1984, I was working at OZONE Community Corporation and was given the opportunity to start a new brand with Nobuhiko Kitamura, and that’s when we started Hysteric Glamour.
This opportunity came through a phone call from the president of OZONE Community, Nobuo Saito who proposed the inception of Hysteric Glamour, which I was very excited about. I became the director and general manager of the Hysteric Glamour Division and even began a children's sublabel Hysteric Mini. The brand grew rapidly within three and a half years at which point I left the company.
I then joined a manufacturer as a part-time employee and worked with two fashion labels, mainly dealing with dye processing, silk screening, and vintage processing. By 1996 I started Crazy Character Print aka CCP.FM and at the same time, also helped launch a few other labels as well.
In recent years, CCP.FM has expanded globally with an audience ranging from bike messengers, DJs, office workers, and more. The apparel has been mainly designed for city cyclists in Tokyo - does the awareness of a growing global audience have any influence on your recent collections?
The fundamental concept of our designs will not change and likely won't even in the future, however, without a doubt our overseas wholesalers have increased and I want to communicate with these companies more. We value the voices and opinions of all our customers and we hope that they will continue to look forward to seeing our clothes and brand evolve.
"People don't want to just buy things, but also the narrative and spirit behind them."
CCP.FM products can be used interchangeably in sports and activities outside of cycling even if that’s the main focus, thanks to the use of exceptionally functional design and technical fabrics. Can we expect the product range to venture purposely into other areas such as snow sports for example?
I started snowboarding around 30 years ago, and would go to ski resorts in Hokkaido and Niigata with my friends and members of Hysteric Glamour. I also reopened a retail space for "GlobalChillage”, an ambient and techno-centric record store within my friend’s snowscoot and BMX shop, TOOLATE SPORT in Toyama. Under his influence, that is when I started snowboarding again. I started to train once a month for three days from morning until noon each season, however my body does not move as much as I expect it to anymore. Therefore, snowboarding is an intrinsic part of my identity and influence. This fall we will in fact be launching a winter blouson as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing).
We often receive feedback and requests from companies and customers to make adjustments regarding our products, however we must respectfully decline some requests as we need to stay true to our fundamental concept and production capability. Rapid expansion does not suit CCP.FM.
As someone with extensive experience in the design and garment industry for over three decades, are there any fabrics, trends or practices that you are particularly fond of? And do you plan to maintain production in Japan as your business expands?
I'm particularly fond of themes around material and the environment, as well as being able to create products that can connect to the future and function well with the end user. Having a story behind the production of something is also important. For SS24, we will be presenting shirts utilizing Dyeenma Fabric. We’ve also prototyped Dyneema combined with stretched denim to create a new trouser style, so please look forward to it in our upcoming collections.
As for productions, we've previously tried overseas productions but the quality did not meet our standards, which is why we’ve decided to keep CCP production domestic.
With digital technology and AI on the rise in the fashion industry, does this affect your future outlook on fashion design, and how do you feel about AI technology in general for creative industries?
Iʼm not particularly knowledgeable about AI and how we may utilize it, but I believe thereʼs a fundamental part of us that canʼt be replaced or done by AI. When we create, we start with ideas that come out of conversations. These creations result from human emotions, born from within rather than something artificial that has been programmed to recreate. And above all, I canʼt seem to see any meaningful stories coming from things created by AI. People donʼt want to just buy things, but also the narrative and spirit behind them.
The brand is reaching its 30th year anniversary soon. Can you share any distinct milestones in the history of CCP.FM?
Owning a storefront has changed the way I interact with my customers. In recent years, we started seeing more people that are into high fashion, as well as international customers at the store. All of this is possible through operating a storefront, where customers can actually try on the clothes and converse with our staff to further understand what we do. Interestingly, and a little unexpected, we have tourists who happen to visit Asakusa and walk by our store - some would come in and end up purchasing a piece or two. We really like how having this physical space allows us to open up as a meeting point between us and our customers.
Music plays an imitable role in daily life and is very important to the history of the brand. If you were to select a musical album that defines CCP.FM, what would it be?
I opened GlobalChillage Tokyo back in 2000, which was named after the album Global Chillage by The Irresistible Force, produced by mixmaster Morris. So this has to be the album!