During our recent trip to Japan we were overwhelmed by the extraordinary shopping experience that Tokyo has to offer. From luxury stores such as Prada Aoyama designed by Herzog and de Meuron to small boutiques. However, we are not talking about the average boutique here, these stores will offer the ultimate shopping experience by introducing a space where coffee can be enjoyed or giving a chance to enjoy the smells and colours of flowers which are sold just along the clothing. It is one of the most aesthetically pleasing journeys we have ever had. Our absolute favourite was the vintage store that puts little tags on every item showing a photo of previous owner and their story of the garment. Fascinating, isn’t it?
It seems that Japanese culture somehow embodies the need for quality and simplicity. A friend of ours who also was our guide in Tokyo explained that people there don’t have a large living space, so you often have to make considerate decisions and question what you let in your life. After all, minimalism and zen inspired interior design is deeply engraved in Japanese culture. Think, designers like Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto and their uniques cuts and innovative techniques. Here we also must introduce, Marie Kondo: a writer and an expert on organising. She invented the world known question: ‘Does this sparks joy?’, which helps one to decide whether the item should stay or go. It is a wonderful way to bring more meaning in your life and get rid of the unnecessary clutter. Surely, this all has contributed to how desirable the tag ‘Made in Japan’ is.
This sparked curiosity in us. How does the next generation of Japanese designers view the growing fashion industry? We got in touch with the designer Akiko Aoki who told us her story.
Whilst having studied in both Joshi University of Art and Design in Japan and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in United Kingdom, Akiko tells that her designs are a mix of both worlds. Her latest collection is a self exploration where she plays with body shapes by emphasising hips and shoulders, creating balloon sleeves, corsets and little frills. She says that it is a mixture of opposites like exploration of the past and future.
Everything is ‘Made in Japan’ and some of the textiles are even originally made for her collection. She is very specific about her fabrics. Some of her techniques include using pleated textiles, like in her trousers or a traditional sashiko stitching made entirely by hand. The most unique method was her flower print textiles with a layer of flocked 3D pattern on top but we could have a completely separate conversation simply on that.
By creating everything in Japan designer wishes to push the industry there. She prefers local factories because they have great skills and produce supreme quality products even if that comes with higher price tag.
The designer tries to create demand because she recognises that factories have less and less young people learning to continue the craft. Akiko explains that this is mainly due to many brands outsourcing their supplies from cheaper places outside of Japan. This quality can really be seen in her garments, her designs are astonishing and this is appreciated by press and consumers. Akiko Aoki is still a very young brand but she already has managed to sell her pieces not only in Japan but also overseas.
To conclude, the one thing that really sticked with us was what Akiko said about benefits of being in London. She explained that in Japan it feels that there is an over saturation of things and as a designer you have too much to choose from whilst in London there is a withdrawal of these supplies which pushes one to innovate and helps the process of creation. We think that this thought reflects the current state that our world is in. Even if we feel that so much is changing in ways that a lot of us might not agree with, when looking at it from a different angle it might be that the new conditions will fuel innovation from us. We love this quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb book ‘Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder’.
He says: “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
And we hope that the same way as Akiko is innovative with her fabrics and designs we all can step up and create a positive change in the face of the current state of the world.
AKIKOAOKI | womenswear
ETHICS | Made in Japan
SUSTAINABILITY | High quality fabrics made in Japan using traditional methods, some of the fabrics are uniquely created for the collection