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Mame Kurogouchi Craft, nature, daily life; new inspirations incorporated into a modern context, forming something new.

Mame Kurogouchi Craft, nature, daily life; new inspirations incorporated into a modern context, forming something new.




 
 

How to incorporate the beauty in front of your eyes into a garment.

 
n 2020, Mame Kurogouchi celebrated its 10-year anniversary. It is still fresh in our memory that they held a retrospective exhibition in Nagano, the hometown of designer Maiko Kurogouchi. Mame’s seasonal collection has a theme which embraces something conceptual such as a dream or memory to something subjective like a craft but at the same time, it incorporates Kurogouchi’s experiences into garments. Another charm is their collection’s visual aesthetics as well as conceptual yet creative worldview which will only be understood after you slip into one of their garments. Until now, the brand has been creating collections under diverse themes, but in terms of craftsmanship, there has always been a consistent approach by Kurogouchi; how to incorporate the beauty of everyday life into a garment. This can be recognized in a jacket which was inspired by a flower basket from the 2020FW collection ‘Embracing’. Kurogouchi created the jacket with a cord embroidery technique by combining patterns of a hand-woven flower basket with a nature-surrounded feeling that she experienced whilst in Iceland. The source of inspiration came from TSUTSUMU, a book edited by art director Hideyuki Oka, which focuses on beautiful forms of traditional Japanese packaging as well as distinctive Japanese aesthetics regarding the act of wrapping. An original linen cord, which was specially produced in a shoe lace factory, is embroidered with a single stroke as if weaving a basket. Silhouettes and forms found in traditional Japanese crafts are incorporated into garments by using modern technology. It is a very iconic product which represents the brand’s modern craftsmanship. Lace, embroidery, and knit are part of the brand’s characteristic techniques, while programming technology will also be applied to create a pattern that consists of versatile knitting styles. On the other hand, there is a product handcrafted by artisans. From cutting-edge technology to the artisanal hand, you can tell that the brand has a deep connection to diverse ‘craftsmanship’.
“I grew up surrounded by many handcrafted items. Among them were also things such as folkcraft articles and farming tools which cannot be defined as antiques or art works. However, they were all truly beautiful and had a story to how they were created. The most fascinating thing about them is that they had an ultimate aesthetic even though they were created as ‘tools’ to improve people’s lives. From the beauty of those products that I saw every day, I have learned a lot. Looking at them, I imagine how sincerely people in those times paid attention to their daily lives. Mame’s clothing is also what I reconstructed and reformed from things that I found beautiful in my daily life.
A garment will finally become meaningful only when somebody wears it. Like all those things full of craftsmanship that I was truly moved by, I always ask myself if my garment can move my wearer. I wish the lives of the women who wear my clothing to be happier than before. For example, when eating a meal with beautiful tableware, it makes me happy to think of whom created it. Naturally, it must be skilful and creative, but it makes me feel content to look back on the time I spent with that person. The simpler those memories were, the more adoring I feel, even if they don’t mean anything to you. When creating things, I cherish them in such a ‘roundabout way’ that may look unimportant. These stories are very personal, and you cannot find them in any books. That’s why I wish to incorporate them into my garments with the help of modern and accurate technologies”. As you can see, Kurogouchi always raises her sensitivity to beauty in everyday life. Especially in the 2021FW collection, she explored a theme that is closer to our ordinary life. Moonlight or a fading sunset coming gently through a window blind. She expressed this state of beauty via lines of pleated fabric and subtle colour shades created by a traditional Japanese shibori dying method that uses wooden plates and created a signature dress. When looking for a factory, she visits places by herself, and discusses with artisans in detail until she becomes convinced. Subtle beauty that surrounds Kurogouchi can be transformed into a product only through an uncompromised process. “In the manufacturing process at Mame, a design generated from my personal inspiration, finds a piece of thread, and is reincarnated as a piece of garment through a combination of traditional techniques and state-of-art technology that are both combined. There is a long journey before one piece of cloth is created. The items that reach our customers after their long journey will start new voyages with our customers. I find the process as interesting as the clothes themselves. I would like to tell our customers how the garment they wear was made, and why we continue to make things. Through our manufacturing process, if people are interested in the technology behind it, the artisans who support us, and our cultural background, I will be more than happy”.
What matters is not that traditional crafts and techniques have a historical value, but how they have been rooted in people’s lives since that time. Such beautiful forms and techniques that exist in our ordinary life will bring new life to modern clothes that women will wear. A story woven by Kurogouchi’s inspiration will not end when the piece is made. As many as the numbers of women who wear Mame’s garments, the story will continue to be woven. The story which surrounds a garment could also be called craftsmanship that the brand embodies.




A campaign visual of the 2021SS collection, ‘Window’ which focuses more on inspiration from our daily lives. A window blind is the first thing to think of when moving into a new place, but it will also probably be the first thing to be forgotten after you have settled in. The collection was created based on the idea that ‘a window blind might absorb the time of the dweller’. This idea is very unique, but it will only be possible to be realized by the hands of craftsmen.

Fine mesh that can be woven only by a Jacquard loom is twisted with warps and wefts that are different in strength. This will be transformed into a fabric that was inspired by a window blind. A story that speaks from inspiration till the final garment can be read in THESTORY on the official website.

 
 

Be sincere to beauty.
Be sensitive to change.

 
Now, where does Mame find inspiration from, and how do their collection themes develop? In 2019, there was a season where Kurogouchi focused on her personal diary. In a Moleskin notebook, she wrote a diary with polaroid pictures she took, and on the opposite pages, she drew clothing designs. As I imagined, she seems to take inspiration from everyday life and bring it into a theme. “I often find beauty in something that is transitory. To me, beauty changes in the course of aging, seasons, and environments, and it seems to have no clear definition. Change is not a subject of fear, but something transitory, yet doesn’t decay. We should realize there is a thing that is still beautiful even as time goes by. That’s why inspiration always lies in everyday life. First, it feels like walking in the darkness without a map. But I fumble my way by picking up small stones. And at one point, I will notice that these small stones have transformed into a big rock. At that moment, I can learn what I am curious about. Then eventually, a seasonal theme will emerge”. And, ‘traveling’ is an important brand keyword as well as another necessary element when the brand is developing inspiration. Through ‘traveling’, Kurogouchi cultivates an experience and meets artisans, and scenery that she sees will unintentionally become sustenance for her design. “Traveling is part of my life. Most of it is to visit regional factories or artisans as well as to learn different cultures. At the same time, I believe that traveling for a woman means more than just physical movement”.

 
Now, where does Mame find inspiration from, and how do their collection themes develop? In 2019, there was a season where Kurogouchi focused on her personal diary. In a Moleskin notebook, she wrote a diary with polaroid pictures she took, and on the opposite pages, she drew clothing designs. As I imagined, she seems to take inspiration from everyday life and bring it into a theme. “I often find beauty in something that is transitory. To me, beauty changes in the course of aging, seasons, and environments, and it seems to have no clear definition. Change is not a subject of fear, but something transitory, yet doesn’t decay. We should realize there is a thing that is still beautiful even as time goes by. That’s why inspiration always lies in everyday life. First, it feels like walking in the darkness without a map. But I fumble my way by picking up small stones. And at one point, I will notice that these small stones have transformed into a big rock. At that moment, I can learn what I am curious about. Then eventually, a seasonal theme will emerge”. And, ‘traveling’ is an important brand keyword as well as another necessary element when the brand is developing inspiration. Through ‘traveling’, Kurogouchi cultivates an experience and meets artisans, and scenery that she sees will unintentionally become sustenance for her design. “Traveling is part of my life. Most of it is to visit regional factories or artisans as well as to learn different cultures. At the same time, I believe that traveling for a woman means more than just physical movement”.

A fishing net, a plastic sheet, and scenery of Iceland that she found while visiting a fishing port. The source of inspiration is not necessarily a material object. It can be scenery which is unintentionally seen, or you might happen to find a thing of beauty from everyday life that is familiar to you. All of these elements that have accumulated over the years will one day be transformed into the design of clothes.

 
 
◯Mame Kurogouchi
https://www.mamekurogouchi.com
 
 
 

Photo Yuichiro Noda
Ichiro Mishima
Toru Oshima
Edit & Text Shohei Kawamura

 

This article is included in

Silver N°13 Autumn 2021

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