by Sarah Lee
A group of Japanese fashion designers visited The New School’s Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan hall to give both students and visitors of the school a presentation of their most recent designs and collections. The talk was a result of the efforts of the Kahehashi Project in collaboration with Parsons the New School for Design, to stimulate conversation and collaboration between emerging American and Japanese designers, and to foster international exposure. They were flown in to New York last week, where they spent time learning about American culture and its divergences with the Japanese fashion industry. Parsons plans to send several of its own students to Japan to do the same – to learn about the many practices that they can apply to their own careers as young innovators of the design world.
The designers’ works portrayed an immensely detail-oriented style of craftsmanship that not only applies to Japanese art and design, but to their way of life in general. The focus on process, the development of new technologies and the attention to the lifecycle of a garment was ubiquitous in all of their designs – a quality that is rare in today’s fast-fashion dominated industry. Designs ranged from the quirky and graphic to minimalistic and modern, though all retained a specific commitment to workmanship and precision.
Mayuko Ban studied at Bunka Fashio College and Bunka Fashion Graduate University in Japan, later working under Amina Collection Co., Ltd. She worked as a clothing designer for several years before launching her own brand entitled “Ban San”. She has won awards including the 85th So-en Awards and 2011 Rooms Award, and was honorably mentioned at the 2008 Tokyo New Designer Fashion Grand Prix.
Her clothes inspire laughter and light-hearted fun in both the wearer and on-lookers alike. With comical portraits of her own family members printed onto impeccably tailored silhouettes and playful shapes, Mayuko captures the relatable disposition to “not-take-life-too-seriously”. She mentions her innate ability to draw from the quirks of daily life – from everyday scenes of school life and home life to pop-like graphics of shopping advertisements and vending machines. She also mentioned a desire to embody the spirit of Japanese anime youth culture in her clothing.
Shinsuke Morishita graduated from the Buka Fashion College and Bunka Fashion Graduate University the top of his class. While at school, he presented a runway show in Prêt à Porter Paris. Morishita also participated in showroom presentations and runway shows outside Japan, and designs costumes for artists. In 2011, he launched his own brand entitled “LAMARCK”.
Morishita draws intriguing inspiration from the biological discoveries of Jean Baptiste Lamarck, thus the name of his brand. His fascination with the ideas of “catagenesis” and retrogressive evolution lead him to create pieces that embody timelessness and the tradition of passing on garments from generation to generation. His simple and clean style is exhibited through plain shapes and silhouettes, though recreated with innovative techniques and discovered materials (including cable knits made from very fine linen, woven metallic threads, synthetic yarn and thin weaves of corduroy and tweed). He notes that certain weaving techniques are individual to the Japanese knitting industry and are thus not easily imitated or re-created, making Japanese fashion unique and unparalleled.
Morikawa joined Issey Miyake after graduating from Bunka Fashion College, planning and designing for the Issey Miyake and Issey Miyake Men brands. After which, he became an independent designer, establishing Morikawa Design office in 2012. He was selected as the supporting designer in the professional category of Tokyo New Designer Fashion Grand Prix in 2013.
Morikawa has had long-term experience in the industry, learning from his colleagues and mentors at the renowned Issey Miyake studios for 7 years. His dedication to the innovation of new textile technologies has led to his unique combination of skills. In his work, he proposes a new check-inspired pattern made by the double process of melting fabric onto the top layer of a garment through synthetic bonding. In addition to that, he also creates remarkable garments of gradating fabrics (denim slowly changing into corduroy fabric) through the pioneering use of the ‘needle-punch technique’.
Iwata graduated from the Bunka Fashion College and Bunka School of Fashion Business before joining Yohji Yamamoto, launching her career as a pattern cutter. She later established her womenswear brand entitled Saisir in 2008. She also works with several other apparel firms, designing, cutting and producing wedding dresses.
Iwata’s work embodies the traditional Japanese beauty ideal of less is more. Inspired by the simplicity of the Ikebana flower arrangement and the Karesansui Japanese rock gardens, Iwaka’s clothes express the modern women’s desire for comfort and ease with loose-fitting shapes and silhouettes. Her designs are easy-to-wear, feminine and accessible to all kinds of women. What differentiates her work from that of the fashion of today is her appreciation for time-consuming workmanship and process in the creation of detailed and intricate garments. As in her process of cutting chiffon into strips and hand-sewing them on piece-by-piece, Iwata aims to communicate a return to focus on the techniques of craft as opposed to pure aesthetics. She also works with traditional Japanese craftsmen, incorporating old dyeing methods into her own modern apparel.
Ezumi graduated from the University of Arts Central Saint Martin College of Art & Design in London with a BA in Fashion and Textiles. He worked as an assistant designer in Alexander McQueen and as a knitwear designer in Aquascutum London before launching his self-titled label in 2010. He was chosen for the SHINMAI Creator’s project and debuted in Japan Fashion Week in 2011. He also established Ri Design Ltd in 2012. Since then, he has collaborated with ANTERPRIMA to produce “ANTERPRIMA + YE” which launched in 2013 at Milan Fashion Week.
Ezumi’s inspiration comes from the linear shapes and lines of modern architecture (in particular, the Earnes house landmark) and the rectangular cutting patterns of traditional kimono garments. Modern and minimal are two ways of describing his structure-inspired pieces, as he noticed a shift of demand to elegant simplicity as opposed to decorative and ornate fashion. His color palette is preferably monotonous, although he introduces muted shades of browns and blues. Piet Mondrian comes to mind when you inspect his check-inspired details and prints. Ezumi has also experimented with the forefront technologies of whole- garment knitting to create seamless one-piece garments. His designs are also recognized by the combination of leather trim, cable knits and gunflap details, as well as his distinctive combination of patterns and layers that was featured in a recent cover for the WWD.