Wild Ones: Momoko Suzuki & Coco
The Black Crane designer’s creature comforts include voluminous jumpsuits, vintage trappings, and a delightfully insouciant rescue cat.
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Momoko Suzuki’s label, Black Crane, is an extension of her personal style: subtle in hue and bold in shape. Billowy silhouettes, from cocoon dresses to boxy jumpsuits, are cut from biodegradable linens and dyed muted shades. The designer’s home in Los Angeles, which she shares with her husband and design partner Alexander Yamaguchi, and their cat Coco, is equally ethereal — inspired by their Japanese roots, California vibes, and respective backgrounds in environmental arts/architecture and silkscreen printing/patterning. Rescued from a local shelter, Coco spends her days lounging on a mid-century modern stereo console, climbing trees in the sun-dappled backyard, and taking covert cat naps in Suzuki’s gauzy fabrics.
Have you always been a cat person? And did you grow up with pets in Japan?
Yes. Cats have always been in our lives. And I grew up with a dog named Don, a German Shepherd and Shiba Inu mix — super smart and affectionate.
How did Coco come into your life?
We got her from Pasadena Humane in 2014. We had a tough time with my previous cat Lani passing and it took us two years to visit the shelter. Back then, it felt too soon to get a new cat, but I also felt our house is missing something to warm my heart. I felt she chose us when we visited the shelter in a very natural way. She was the first one to meow at us when we entered the room.
Is Coco more of an independent or affectionate cat?
She has both sides. She can be independent and sometimes super affectionate. She knows how to make people love her by unconsciously mixing those opposite characters. Most of the time, when I call her name, she comes and sits on my lap or sleeps on my shoulder. But sometimes, she completely ignores me and does her own thing.
Some artists consider their animals their muses. Has Coco or any of your pets over the years been inspirational to you in some way — even if just contributing to the vibe while you work?
She makes me happy whenever I see her face, no matter how terrible the day was. She warms my heart being in my life. She can sense my emotions and seems to know the perfect moment to give me a snuggle or some comic relief when I need it. She helps reduce my stress and anxiety just by being with me.
Cats love to curl up on piles of laundry and other fabrics. Does Coco enjoy taking naps on Black Crane clothes, and have you ever used Black Crane fabrics to fashion a bed for her?
Cats choose the best place to sleep, and Coco is an expert. Sometimes she sneaks into my closet and sleeps in my drawers, but never gets caught — I find out when I see her hair on my clothes. She loves the third drawer, where I keep my cotton, double-face gauze items. I made a blanket for Coco with my fabrics, but she prefers to pick where and what to sleep on by herself, and always contrary to my intentions.
Your background is in environmental arts. I feel that caring about animals and caring about the environment are connected causes. What is Black Crane’s approach to being environmentally conscious?
I’m still trying to find and adopt the best way of [approaching] these things for my clothing line. I have always done production locally and limited the production quantity by using natural materials — for over 10 years. Also, I use low-impact dye, which does not contain any toxic chemicals, requires toxic mordants, and uses significantly less water during the dyeing process, which reduces waste.
Pet owners often have similar personalities to their pets. Do you share any traits with Coco?
Ha! We both love a nap.
How was Coco a comfort to you during the pandemic?
Spending extra hours with her comforts me, and taking her outside to the backyard gives me a great excuse to take a break and get fresh air to relax.
Your home seems like such a serene space, which Coco must love. What is her favorite place to relax, and did you ever have to worry about her scratching your vintage furniture or breaking your artisan objects?
Currently, she loves to sleep on the stereo by the window. Luckily, she never scratched furniture or broke ceramics — maybe because I take her out to the backyard consistently, so she climbs the trees and does her little scratching on the trees.
"I have put a gold chain bracelet around her neck as a collar for some photos, but she looks so perfect in just her spotty coat that I keep her au naturel."
The environmentalist shares her sustainable product recos, from recycled catnip toys to organic cat grass to biodegradable kitty litter.
Samantha Gurrie is The Wildest’s Editor-in-Chief. She was previously the senior editor at NYLON magazine, co-publisher of Four&Sons, and director at Puerto Rican dog rescue The Sato Project. She lives in L.A. with her husband and rescued Pit Bull Midnight.