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  • Fragments 31.08.2019

    As Maiko Kurogouchi was slowly building the collection, she couldn’t help feeling there was a piece missing. That was when she had a chance to visit pottery artists, Yuki and Ryohei Yamamoto, in Arita, Saga.

    What drew her to Yamamotos’ work was their approach to pottery making and the aura that the work beamed. Their work, while contemporary, bears the sense of long standing existence and fleetingness at the same time.

    Fascinated by the way Shogen (early) Imari was made, Yamamotos use the local clay, burn the fire in an ancestral way, in a handmade kiln they built from scratch.

    Yamamotos took Kurogouchi to Tenjin Mori Kama-ato, the ruins of the oldest kiln site in Arita where they showed her scattered fragments of pottery from 400 years ago that were deemed failure. It felt as if the memories of those who kneaded the clay, fried pottery and broke them spoke to her.

    The idea of the collected memories linked with the theme of this collection, the second diary. To her, the diary was the documentation of her memories and a part of the large story that connects history, languages and cultures at the same time. The fading gray-blue paintings on these fragments, colored with Gosu, a paint made of mainly cobalt oxide, was the last piece of the inspiration Kurogouchi was looking for.

    Having stumbled upon these fragments of Shogen Imari, she imagined a pottery artist from another era by tracing the fading patterns and motifs. Wishing to bring their work back to life, Kurogouchi absorbed herself in drawing.

    Seeing the beauty that can be found in daily lives in the motifs of plants and flowers, water colored in blue, she traced them onto silk shirts and dresses as a tribe to unknown pottery artists.

    This is how Kurogouchi’s 99 day long journey came to an end. It started out with an ancient cloth, and encountered various shades of blue from different times, places and people’s memories.

  • Crystalised 24.08.2019

    Maiko Kurogouchi's blue journey continued to carry through by memories and serendipitous encounters. During her recent stay in London, she remembered the visit, back in 2008, to Seizure by British artist Roger Hiorns a piece the artist made by crystalising a post-war council flat with blue copper-sulfate crystals. She stumbled upon the last piece by filmmaker Derek Jarman, Blue, made in 1993, and a friend handed her Joni Mitchell's Blue as a Christmas gift.

    Kurogouchi's desire to turn these encounters with different shades of blue into garments led her to develop new textiles.

    For instance, she returned to the same threads she used in the previous collection, that was spun to mimic the laminate structure of morpho butterflies. The deadstock threads, when woven with silk, are turned into a textile that would bear the shining texture of butterflies and aurora in the refraction of light. By weaving shiny silk with the Jacquard yarns, Kurogouchi re-interpreted the idea of denim -which is quintessentially casual in nature- and it's indigo blue to create her take on the future denim.

    In an attempt to express what she saw in Hiorns' crystals in Seizure onto a textile, Kurogouchi consulted with a Bishu weaver to develop one of a kind tweed using lamé thread and wool. When she saw the sample, a scene of the blue shimmering room came back running through her head.

    This piece of tweed that only he could weave in Japan resembled the blue that Kurogouchi registered in her memory.

    For the knit top in the same series, she turned to a factory in Ashikaga, Tochigi which wove laces in the same colour as the lamé tweed, using a net weaver generally used for cured meats. That was how the crystals that Hiorns created were crystalised further in Kurogocuchi's memories, materialising in a piece of textile transcending space and time.

  • Forming memories 17.08.2019

    One of the most essential pillars of Mame Kurogouchi's production process is collaborations with craft makers that incorporate Japan's traditional crafts into their creations.

    At the birth of the brand, Maiko Kurogouchi set out to find makers of arts and crafts outside of fashion. Since then, she has maintained lively discussions with them in order to morph her visions into the actual products.

    Among many pieces of inspirations she collected and drew from are decorative Yokoku technique where patterns are scarped onto pieces before being fired to bring them up to surface and Kintsugi, a way to repair broken pottery by connected pieces with lacquer mixed with powder gold.

    In an attempt to give a form to her dream where she saw herself wrapped in a thick fog, Kurogouchi reflected her wish to hold onto, connect and perpetuate these dangerously ever changing images by expressing them into accessories based on the idea of Yokoku and Kintsugi.

    After her quest to find an artisan who can make her vision true, she eventually reached an artist who makes female dolls and medical models.

    With the skills of an artist who has inherited an ancient technique of Hitogata, which translates to a human body model, and incorporate it into modern doll making, Kurogouchi's dream, buoyed by a traditional craft making, found its way to have lives as accessories.

    These one of a kind pieces were made possible by using an old fragment of Yokoku pottery as a mold and through meticulous communications with the maker. It is a testament to Mame Kurogouchi's commitment to pursuing the marriage between traditions and banality with new ideas and skilled craftsmanship.

  • Nature 10.08.2019

    In the last 10 years of building Mame Kurogouchi collections, PVC bags have become one of the signature items. The story of the bags goes back to even before the brand's inception.

    The designer Maiko Kurogouchi grew up surrounded by rich nature of Nagano. From the young age, her life was always accompanied by seasonal changes. In winter, as she spent her time staring at ice and icicles, she grew fascinated by transparency and fixated by the prism the sun light created by piercing through them.

    One day Kurogouchi visited a hardware store to find a transparent vinyl sheet. She thought of cutting the sheet into pieces and glueing it together to create something that has a feel of glass. After many trials and errors, she was eventually able to make a soft and light bag that resembles glass and ice that used to fascinate her eyes in her childhood. The old memories are channeled into the present.

    Multiplicity, personal experience and juxtaposition of the two elements. The dialogue between the past and present. Through this transparent sculpture with beautiful and delicate decoration, Kurogouchi expresses what she thinks of every woman's secret desire "I want you to see everything of me." This also represents a pillar of her design philosophy of “finding beauty in banality.”

    PVC, a mundane material mostly used over table cloths or to cover menus at restaurants, metamorphosed into new forms and reinventing itself with new ways of expression and help from various collaborators. The flower-like sensitive details blossoming over the surface of the bag are given life by float-makers using an automated cutting machine. The original chains and studs that mimics icicles going straight down from the roof are entirely hand made and attached by artisans.

    Kurogouchi's nostalgy for icy Nagano is thus frozen into the series of bags. Further story will be told, through those who would put their everyday life in this transparent bag.

  • Dream 03.08.2019

    One element emerged in Maiko Kurogouchi's 99 day long documentation of her daily life was her dreams. From her childhood, Maiko always had strong, lucid dreams that at times felt hyper real.

    In one dream, she found herself on a dark street in the night, running into and getting swallowed by a fog of organdy curtains. Or was it really a dream, she wondered.

    That dream led her to come up with dainty drapes to cover sleeves of knitwear and dresses.

    Things happen in dreams in ways impossible in the actual world. Letters form themselves on the wall, and mirrors float in a marsh.

    Maiko would open one door to find herself in her childhood home. Disconnected places are connected in the dreams. Settings in the real world are often overruled and characters switch places. The gravity turns upside down.

    The improbable phenomenon in the dreams inspired “Dream patchwork knit”. Details from multiple styles were deconstructed and reconstructed from what it should be, collaged together and became the season's signature knit top and dress.

    Attached to the collar is a patch of jacquard rib. Asymmetrical cuts appear irregularly in the side and at the bottom. A doubled layered mesh blurs the line and space between the body and the knit. The repetition of the liking and sewing gave the forms to what Maiko took away from her dreams. Given the new way of thinking, the conventional techniques achieved new expressions. Leaving some parts blank and uncompleted added another feeling and texture.

    Looking back, the border between the dreams and the actual world was constantly blurred. Inspirations from daily life, sceneries from her travels and the world she saw in the dreams are fused together and became a collection.

  • Travel 27.07.2019

    Travel is Mame Korogouchi's heart of the creation as well as a major pillar of the brand's DNA. For the designer Maiko Kurogouchi, it is not just a process of making her collection, but also an important part of her life - and ultimately her life itself.

    She travels to find what she calls "fragments", things that are scattered around the world that inspires her to make the collection, to visit factories and artisans all over Japan, and to present her collection overseas.

    For this season, she visited Nagasaki, Gifu and Fukuoka, as well as factories in Iwate, Yamagata, and Tochigi before going to Arita, Saga to meet a ceramic artist. She found herself grown more affectionate toward Paris where she presents her collection and lost in time in constantly gray London. She also traveled to Seoul as well as going home to Nagano.

    During the 99 days of experimentation through documenting her daily life, she was at the same time back and forth between the reality and illusion. It was Maiko's inner travel; an attempt to see what couldn't be seen and to give forms to the formless. To make the ordinary extraordinary.

    She documented the sound of an oil heater in Yamagata and immersed herself in a hot bath in a mountain of Tochigi.

    In the deep mountain of Iwate, she witnessed Hayachine Kagura, a traditional and sacred dance ceremony performed at the Hayachine Shirine to celebrate the mountain deity. The masked dancers wore a layer of cloths that gave a look of patchwork but close inspection revealed that it was just tied by a string, changing its appearance every step of their dance moves. That complicated and unexpected layer inspired a dress. The sketches of flowers from her diary turned into flower woven jacquard. Another floral motifs inspired by the drawings on the old Imari ware were embroidered onto the sleeves at a factory in Kiryu, traditionally known for its Kimono embroidery. The silhouette of the 500 year old tradition was updated through her eyes into modern design.

    The fragments Maiko collected from her travels were reflected onto her knitwear and details of dresses.

    “Fudo is determined by climate and topographical conditions of the land and history is the record of people,” Maiko wrote in her diary on October 21st, 2018, without the mention of where she saw the phrase. The entry abruptly ended with another phrase, “Blue sunset.”

  • Blue Obsession 20.07.2019

    The key colour for this collection is blue.
    Maiko Kurogouchi's journey to find different shades of blue accidentally started when she found herself fascinated by the way blue bath salt dissolved into water, though it was something she used daily.
    Which reminded her of an old piece of Ai, natural indigo, textile made in Edo era she found in Nara that summer. While it must have been fading gradually over 400 years, the indigo blue was illuminant. To Maiko, that indigo represented countless fragments of memories of those who acquired and used it.
    In the dream, she saw herself climbing a blue, icy mountain and falling into winter ocean. During her travel, she was taken aback by her own skin seemingly coloured blue in a hot spring, shone by the moon and stars.
    Toward the end of the designing process, Maiko stumbled upon faded pale blue found on fragments of early Imari pottery she discovered from dirt at an old kiln site in Saga. She also remembered that the last movie Derek Jarman made was Blue.
    That is how the palette of blue was gradually made, with one blue at a time, one textile at a time, using various techniques.
    The dissolving bath salt was turned into a Jacquard woven silk, leaving some strings unwoven to mimic the blue lines in water and the worn out ancient textile. The pattern made in Kyoto was brought to Hiroshima where it was woven. The silk dress fabric with Komon pattern was woven using a barely existing loom in Ishikawa and embroidered in Gunma. While every step of the production ran into a few hurdles, Kurogouchi and skilled artisans spent countless hours going back and forth in order to achieve what she envisioned.
    This process was a journey on its own which led to the completion of palette of blues.

  • The Second Diary 13.07.2019

    For the 2019 FW collection, designer Maiko Kurogouchi, for the second time after the previous collection, documented her daily life with notes, photos and drawing in an attempt to once again gaze into her daily life as well as to bring in more experimental approaches to the collection making.

    Life is a repetition of every day living. Life does not offer you something spectacle out of nowhere. But if you gaze into the daily life that exists in front of you like it should, it reminds you of particles of beauty that might have not caught your attention before.

    The inspirations for the latest collection were found in between reality and fiction, scattered all over different cultures, times and language zones Kurogouchi traveled through.

    During these 99 days she documented her life, the blue colour pallet emerged from a series of chance encounters: the way blue bath salt dissolved into bath water, shades of indigo blue in fabrics from Edo era, and faded blue in fragments of early Imari pottery. Traditional matsuri (or festival) cloths inspired her to develop a new textile and odd and unrealistic occurrences in her dreams were turned into collaged knitwears. She reexamined traditions, redefined universal ideas, and updated existing materials by her own manner.

    The collection titled the Second Diary started out from Kurogouchi's personal and intimate perspectives, travelled through various destinations both in Japan and abroad, and was completed through her design.

    THE STORY by Mame Kurogouchi will trace her steps of looking for inspirations as well as stories around Japanese craftsmanship that brings her collection into life.