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  • Embrace Life 19.03.2020

    The family of Kurogouchi used to grow silkworms during her grandmother's days. Silkworms were treated as a sacred being with respect as they brought business to the family. Silk is considered to be a normalised material, but back then, it would take 3000 cocoons in order to weave a piece of Kimono garment.

    While, Silk has had a special place in Mame Kurogouchi's design, she has come to think without doing it themselves, she couldn't understand the challenge of weaving a textile using cocoons. This realisation drove her to plan growing 30 silkworms at her atelier with the team, and name them Shiro (white).

    Silkworms are sensitive and delicate beings. If one gets sick, it affects others. In order to turn cocoons into yarns, it would have to be consistent which is why producing silk on commercial basis is challenging.

    Newborn silkworms are so small that are almost invisible but through five molting process, they become 25 times longer and 10,000 times heavier. And before it starts to blow fibres into the air and around them, its body becomes transparent. Yarns came out of Shiro's mouth had sparkles, reflecting lights around them. Kurogouchi wanted to make a garment that would wrap one's body gently by breathing soft light into the body, just like how Shiro transformed itself by wrapping its body with shiny transparent yarns. She went to a weaver in Komatsu Ishikawa, the only weaver that can produce silk jacquard, and came away with a delicate sheet of textile she was looking for. Using silk and shinny flat yarn for the warp and silk yarn for the weft, weaving together, and two types of the jacquard textiles were made thanks to the idea of leaving the shiny yarn uncut. The black one provoked the image of a dark night in Amami, brightened by nocturnal insects.

    One of the most special pieces in this collection is a dress, made up of a transparent silk fabric, double layered silk underneath, Kiryu embroidery and prints of plants seen through them just like Kurogouchi saw them behind the glass window. Inspired by Shiros who left us and cocoons, this dress was Kurogouchi's answers to the wonders of “Embrace”.

    After presenting the collection in Paris last November, Kurogouchi and her team tackled on spinning Shiro's fibres into yarns. After boiling cocoons in hot water, soaking them, the end of yarn came out of cocoons. By spinning seven yarns into one thread. Shining yarns are so thin individually, but when spun together, it becomes surprisingly strong. This experience taught the team how much work, attention, and time and energy were put to make a silk yarn.

  • Wrapping Your Heart 11.03.2020

    There’s a particular line in Hideyuki Oka’s book “Tsutsumu” that left a lasting impression in Kurogouchi's mind. “The art of wrapping is to wrap your heart”. There was a spiritual basis of “wrapping one's heart” in Japan's gifting culture.

    The philosophy around the gifting habit, Oka's words, and various methods Oka featured in his book, made Kurogouchi walk back history to that basic idea.

    In the book, there were various way of wrapping that were strikingly beautiful. They used to weave straw into “Tsuto” form to carry eggs. Fishermen used to wrap ropes around glass balls to sink in the ocean. These methods used before they invented mass-produced chemical fibres and fabrics had simple beauty in them exactly because there was no intention to beautify them. These ideas led to the accessories of the season.

    The colour came from the moment Kurogouchi was bombarded by a rush of green. When a palette of different shads of greens seeped through the studio's window, the idea we are all surrounded by nature woke her up from the preoccupation on wrapping.

    That realisation led Kurogouchi to pick a vivid green that reminds her of early spring as the key colour for the collection. The colour, coupled with advanced techniques of embroidery, printing, dyeing and weaving, defined the collection’s global mood.

  • Beauty in Inconsistencies 04.03.2020

    One day, Maiko Kurogouchi was taken aback by a sight of flowers wrapped in a waste bag on its way to become trash. What is normally seen as waste had a sense of beauty that appealed to Kurogouchi as that was one way of “wrapping.” The blurry appearance of the details of flowers seen through semi-transparent bag and sunlight peeking through frosted glass provoked the smell of early summer. How would you represent the obscure appearance? The answer was found in Kasuri.

    Before Jacquard technique was invented, it was Kaiser weaving that weaved patterns. They developed a method to create patterns by dyeing warp or weft yarn (or both) before actually weaving them. Inspired by this, Kurogouchi printed original floral drawing onto warp yarn using heat-transfer printing. When printing inks just on the warp and weave it with white woof, the patterns become distorted. We let ourselves go with unintentional and accidental beauty.

    The irregularities used to be seen negatively as accuracy was considered important. Kurogouchi finds beauty in inconsistencies.

    For the patterns, she chose the sketch she did at her grandmother's place. Updating tradition from the days of hand-weaving and dying, and interweaving personal memories into patterns, the unique textile was born, which provoke the indistinct silhouettes of flowers emerging through a plastic bag and window glass.

  • In praise of ambiguity 12.02.2020

    When Kurogouchi saw an orange tree covered in a bird net in Odawara, the memory of sleeping in a mosquito net - or kaya suddenly came back to her. In a trip to Arita, Saga, from the previous year, she was offered a chance to sleep in an antique indigo-die mosquito net hanged from the ceiling. The world outside was blurred, seemingly more beautiful and gentler.

    These two memories became a piece of knitwear. As if the nets blurs borders between inside and outside, the knitwear, her take on the experience applied to two different knittings in a single garment invites you to see what normally stays invisible inside.

    Layering tulle and knit, due to the nature of difference in intensity, requires a meticulous method. With the factories in Nagano and Niigata, Kurogouchi tested applying two different techniques; Inlay and Jacquard which first resulted in many unexpected cut threads and holes. But in order to materialise the feeling of being inside of kaya, helped her distinguish the existence of inside and outside, it would have to be a knitwear delicate as thin as skin.

    Eventually, it was the weavers' experiences, knowledge and imagination that made the knit possible, fully materialising Kurogouchi's vision. When worn, the skin you could see through behind the woven net highlights the beauty of the garment as well as herself.

  • A Study in Green 05.02.2020

    Spring came with a rush of green, reminding Kurogouchi, who was previously preoccupied by silkworms and wrapping papers, that “I myself am wrapped by my surroundings.”

    It was during this time, she visited Kakeroma-jima, in Amami Okinawa where the traditional mochi (rice cake) is served with shell ginger leaves wrapping. This was the most primitive “wrapping” she could experience. The moment, she bit into a piece of mochi, as if the rich nature of Amami surrounding Kurogouchi penetrated into her body.

    Back in Tokyo, she found herself gazing vacantly at greens in the garden through a glass window, pondering “Do I look like I am wrapped in the building from plants?”.

    This self-discourse was reflected onto the jacket and dress with the prints of plants that she culled and sketched in Amami. Kurogouchi attempted to peel away filters that exist in our daily life, such as windows, curtains and frosted glasses, and there appears obscure appearances of plants. She wanted to project the process onto a textile. A weaver in Kiryu helped her develop a sheet of textile that juxtaposes different elements of transparent, gloss and matte by weaving silk and nylon. Tactile interaction was achieved as a result; the textile brims both sensitive organdy feel and tangible touch similar to a swelling of leaves. By tucking and twisting a generous amount of textiles, Kurogouchi wanted to give the dress experience that mimics being wrapped in a cocoon.

  • The Art of Wrapping 29.01.2020

    There is a photo from the 1972 book, “Tsutsumu” by Hideyuki Oka, that caught Maiko Kurogouchi's eyes. It was a close up shot of Rakugan, a type of traditional Japanese sweet, twist-wrapped in a white washi paper. That simple twist gave the piece of sweets a strong posture which stirred her desire to design equally elegant dress using a refreshing summery fabric with just the right amount of excellent tension and stiffness. She specially developed woven Jacquard textile for the shirts which looks plain on first glance, but has subtle floral embroideries.

    The book also allowed Kurogouchi to revisit her childhood memories. She recalled her heart beat with delight she felt every time she opened a small box of sweets tidily filled with even smaller candies. She pictured an imaginary wrapping paper. In order to print small water-coloured flowers onto dully gloss Habutae silk woven in Komatsu, she chose to introduce a particular ink-jet that has a higher penetration rate. Working closely with a factory in Kyoto to find the right colour that speaks to both old memory and current sentiment, Kurogouchi finally reached the deep colour which seeped through the backside of the silk as if settling invisible memories on the skin permanently, quietly.

    The vest paired with a silk dress incorporates the image of wrapping ribbons with the piping on the edges, as if the two garments cover the body gently just like thin paper that wraps around fragile sweets.

  • Prologue:Embrace 21.01.2020

    It was a series of serendipitous occurrences that led Maiko Kurogouchi to the theme for Spring/Summer 2020, Embrace.

    The first step was an idea she had for a while, to grow silkworms in their atelier in an attempt to have deeper understanding of the silk; the material that has high importance for Mame Kurogouchi. Through this experience, Kurogouchi witnessed the transformation process of silkworms morph into cocoons by gradually blowing fibres around them which made her fancy how silkworms see the world through the thin white spherical wall. A life being embraced - that’s how the concept took shape.

    Another hint came through a book she picked up. “Tsutsumu” by Hideyuki Oka, published in 1972, was a catalogue of traditional Japanese packaging and wrapping ingrained with deeply rooted Japanese spiritual philosophy. There was a phrase that left quite an impression in Kurogouchi's mind; “Art of wrapping is to wrap your heart.”

    Inspired by these two findings, she turned attention to her surroundings and found many “wrapping” in different form and concept. From a net wrapped around an Orange tree she saw in Odawara, to discarded flowers in semi-transparent garbage bag, or tissue papers wrapping sweets a friend brought, our daily life was full of beautiful wrapped objects. In some ways, she herself was even wrapped by her surroundings.

    The idea of wrapping came as a way of carrying or gifting objects and was never the purpose. But wrapping protects contents, gives extra value and appeal, and provokes imagination. By turning “wrapped” inspirations from sceneries and objects into garments, Kurogouchi expressed her take on “The art of wrapping”

    THE STORY by Mame Kurogouchi invites you to revisit her journey and walks you through the process of the collection building as well as stories behind production and craftsmanship.