Towards the end of last year, the world mourned a modest great in Toshio Saeke, the Japanese illustrator and artist who passed away aged 74. Supreme are now honouring Saeke’s legacy with a capsule collection, featuring the artist’s world renowned works of erotica for a new generation to enjoy.
Saeke’s emergence in 1970s Tokyo coincided with the height of the city’s sex industry, when Japan’s post-war youth were presented with the opportunity for social reinvention. During this period, an underground network of red light districts, nudity booths, pleasure stalls and seedy bars proliferated. Saeke tapped straight into the scene without any sense of filter, bringing a unique interpretation of erotica to mainstream audiences for the first time.
By adopting the style and aesthetic of western comics (Saeke preferred western styles of art, believing traditional Japanese art to be too stringently bound by rules), Saeke’s work reflects the wider history of Japan’s post-war rebellion, when western cultural influences abounded and complete social reinvention was within reach.
Influenced by jidaigeki samurai films and Yakuza B-movies which he consumed avidly as a child, Saeke’s explicit and masochistic vision also came from vivid dreams and recollections he claimed came to him in the night. With his signature transgressive approach and unflinching ability to shock, Saeke pioneered his own brand of underground erotica and in 1970 was invited to Paris for his first international solo show.
Despite producing 21 monographs of his art since then (as well as magazine and album covers, see: Lennon and Yoko’s Some Time in New York City), Saeke never broke into the mainstream, opting instead for a quieter life in solitude, spent in a rural mountain village of Japan’s Chibo prefecture. This sense of separation is arguably at the heart of Saeke’s visual potency and satirical bite as an artist, neither of which were dimmed by corporate obligations and remained vigorous throughout his life.
Supreme’s collection pays homage with a worker’s jacket, trousers and a hoodie, each available in two colour ways and adorned with a patchwork mosaic of Saeke’s work and references. The collection is available to purchase online from November 5.