Goooo….. Wabi Sabi

Goooo….. Wabi Sabi

Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transcience. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". 

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include assymetry, asperity, roughness or irregularity, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

Hand to heart, two weeks ago, if you had said 'Wabi Sabi' to me, I would have thought that was a gobblety-gook weird word play on wasabi.  That's IGNORAMUS behaviour of the highest order.  Firm hand slapping required.  I've still not gotten my head round the FULL extent of wabi-sabi but Wikipedia helped me out a great deal as even our Japanese translatorshad a hard time articulating what exactly this aesthetete description, attitude or way of life entailed.  It became the catchphrase amongst our group in Tokyo and every kampai (drink) we had was toasted to Team Wabi Sabi, consisting of myself, David and Danny of the blog Igor & Andre, our translators and our wonderful hosts.   

Not that we, as a group embodied Wabi Sabi but definitely some of the designers that I saw did.  Or at least, I *THINK* they did if I'm reading into the word correctly.  If I'm off the mark, any body who is more enlightened can most certainly correct me.  Call this the wabi sabi of Tokyo fashion seen through my 'green' and uneducated eyes… 

On an unrelated note, I also got called Sugi-San constantly owing to Japanese people unable to pronounce "Susie".  I rather like it.  I'm thinking of rejecting plain old "Susie" for a while and will only answer to "Sugi-San" if it's ok by you guys.  



I spoke a little bit about Matohu when I reviewed the Feel and Think exhibition.  The designers Horoyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekuguchi met at Bunka Fashion College  and then went on to learn their trade through pattern cutting at Comme des Garcons womenswear and Yohji Yamamoto menswear, respectively.  They then came to London to work for Bora Aksu and returned to create matohu with a strong philosophy that skews along the lines of "Creating new styles of clothing based on common threads found in Japanese aesthetics."  Like I said before, it's all too easy to label Matohu has kimonos for the 21st century.  Actually kimono is the one garment that Horihata and Sekuguchi defiantly avoids.  Japanese history and culture informs their work as their first ten collections were based around "The Beauty of Keicho Era", an art era from 1596-1615 and their current series of collections investigates the notion of "The Japanese Eye", a critical essay written by Yangai Muneyoshi in 1957 which questions the supposed 'modernity' of the Western Eye.  This is a potent bit of criticism as Asian countries have in the latter half of the 20th century forged ahead to lap up anything that is from the 'West' and equating that to being on the vanguard of culture.  Matohu therefore seeks to present their Japanese garments, not as historical replicas but as contemporary and utterly modern clothing.  

Japanese culture's appreciation for the seasons and what fruits they bear takes a hold on Matohu's design philosophy and overall aesthetic as evidenced byt he chestnuts loitering about in their flagship store… 


Customers can sit and stare outside into a small courtyard garden whilst drinking cups of tea even if they're not shopping at all… 



The textures and colours of their custom-made fabrics can often relate to some natural occurence… 



Their process for creating their own prints (this is one from their S/S 12 collection) often starts from a simple watercolours that then progresses into a texture that adds richness to a collection without shouting out too loud… 







Their S/S 12 collection was held at their store and was a small and intimate affair.  I unfortunately missed it as I landed in on the same day of their show but got a sense of Matohu's appetite for delicate colour palettes that all really reminded me of a passage of text that I read over and over again from Liza Dalby's The Tale of Murasaki where Murasaki talks about the art of creating summer robe colour combinations…

"Mother had a set of five robes made up in a combination she called Flowering Iris.  The top robe was deep blue-green.  It was worn over a layer of pale green, another of white, one of dark pink and finally, one of light pink.  I thought it was the most beautiful set of colours I'd ever seen and begged Mother to give it to me at the end of the summer."

The Nagagi robe which is a two-in-one robe with an inner and outer layer also features in the collection as a recurring 'fixed form'.  To me, it's the perfect modern version of the 'dust' coat, a loose robe that is somewhere in between a thick winter coat or a light spring jacket and in the beautiful array of fabrics that Matohu always pick out, it's definitely one for me to think about.  I like the possibilities of pairing it up with a pair of Converse trainers, a loud printed dress and a strange statement necklace, throwing the nagagi robe off balance a bit whilst trying to convince others that Matohu's clothing needn't live in a purely ZEN state.


Matohu-112 Matohu-126


Matohu-41 Matohu-194






Suzuki Takayuki

Takayuki Suzuki (he reversed his name for the name of his label)'s clothes remind me of the rubbed and worn workwear and Victorian pieces that certain Japanese vintage stores do a fantastic job of collecting such as Jeanne Valet in Daikanyama.  They seem to resonate with a certain style tribe in Japan where layers upon layers of distressed off-white are built up where any trace of historical period is etched out and replaced is a strange hybrid style that the Japanese are quite adept at coming up with.  Like many other designers in Japan, Takayuki is obsessed with upholding the values of being Made in Japan with all of his fabrics originating in the highly specific and refined factories and textile artisans of Japan.  There is an emphasis on using organic cotton as Takayuki has a more casual line that is solely made out of organic cotton but that's down to pure aesthetic preferences as opposed to wanting to tick the 'Green' box on his CV.  His clothes over a ten year period have garnered quite a significant fan base and it's the sort of Rick Owens-type consistency that keeps his fans happy.  It's therefore difficult to judge this S/S 12 collection from his other previous ones.  Blouses, loose trousers, sweet empire-line dresses, tops with loose corsetry detailing in a neutral palette is the physical summation.  These are clothes that look beautifully lived-in and never resorts to disingenuous 'derelicte' antics.  



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Masataka Ohta has had international exposure previously in the Hyeres festival which I went to back in 2007.  His collections are rooted in ancient Japanese arts and crafts but the results are less streamlined and perhaps more relatable than say Matohu's.  Ohta looked to an ancient Japanese poem and from that eked out the basis for his print which is a delicate pencil drawn mass of machinery of yesteryear and swashes of colour that are made up into a host of separates for men and women as well as vinyl accessories and leather shoes.  This might not be the wabi sabi that die-hards will know it as, but all I know is when I stepped into the presentation, seeing lines of seasonal produce and a swarm of origami birds made me think of the general power of Japanese designers being heavily rooted and proud of their heritage and customs, Ohta included.  Fortunately, you don't need a lengthy poetry lesson to understand Ohta's clothes which are mostly relaxed shapes in quirky fabrics that work for both men and women.  My favourite piece though is the apron – it's probably not intended for outdoors wear but I like the idea of flouting the very function of the apron by NOT doing any cooking/cleaning/tidying up and wearing it for purely decorative reasons.  















Design Complicitly

Design Complicitly does have a full clothing range but I love this umbrella which I gather is a collaboration with usual design.  It's a simple thing – a PVC umbrella printed with the outline of a tree – so that the effect is that you're carrying around the feeling of being under a shady tree when the sun is beating down hard when really you're sloshing about in the rain.  The umbrella even casts the right shadows on you if you're wearing white… 



I know I'm not supposed to bung this in but given that I have so few opportunities of bringing in my love of huffing good food on to the blog for fear of subject confusion that I had to seize this wabi sabi moment and showcase what I think was one of the best meals I had in my life.  Our kind hosts took us to Takabe Sushi where we had the discreet restaurant all to ourselves and where countless courses came one after another, in total seasonal harmony.  Sadly sake was involved so I'd like to go through it course by course meticulously a la The London Eater (my sushi close-ups aren't half as good as his…food photography isn't my strong point) but I'm afraid I got rather sozzled and only hazily remember every course surpassing the one before it, building up to this raucous crescendo where I collapsed into a taxi in a messy post-food-orgasmic heap.  Team WABI SABI!!!!!!!!!!! 











Leave a comment
  1. Ophelia

    2011-11-04 at 4:09 PM

    That sushi looks delicious!

  2. Rosie

    2011-11-04 at 4:24 PM

    the clothes are soo stunning
    oh so stunning
    you lucky thing

  3. Mertxe Hernandez

    2011-11-04 at 4:27 PM

    The umbrella is marvellous.

  4. Joy

    2011-11-04 at 6:27 PM

    I love all the exposure you’re bringing to all these Japanese brands. It’s great! And OMG did you really have to include the pictures of incredible sushi? My stomach is grumbling in response.

  5. Darius Burnette

    2011-11-04 at 8:50 PM

    Lovely, the inspiration is flawless!

  6. Bogdan Cimpean

    2011-11-04 at 10:35 PM

    The reinterpretation of the classic backpack in those vintage pastel collors it’s really intresting but the umbrela ideea it’s just amazing and the way that shadows fall on the person/s who use it …nice one.

  7. Ellenor Marie

    2011-11-04 at 10:38 PM

    I love the prints, the lace and the textures of fabric at the beginning of the post- they were very nice and inspiring 🙂 Love the post!
    ellenor marie

  8. Deadly_bite

    2011-11-06 at 3:37 AM

    Extremely beautiful post 🙂
    Thank you! xx

  9. Antonia at Swedish Love Affair

    2011-11-06 at 12:33 PM

    Lovely post! And I really want some sashimi now:)

  10. angelika

    2011-11-06 at 10:29 PM

    All the colours of the clothing are so soft, I love it!

  11. Laura

    2011-11-07 at 1:56 PM

    I really enjoyed your blog ‚Äì Don’t forget to visit us at Boutique 73 for Women’s Clothing. We stock gorgeous tea dresses, vintage Levis shorts, and a variety of jewellery! We add new stock every day.
    Boutique 73 xxx

  12. natalie

    2011-11-07 at 2:18 PM

    Great GReat designers. I WISH I could afford them. I enjoyed Suzukitakayuki and ohna very much. Simple but the way they lay over the body puts them on a whole different level. I don’t know about the apron though. It is something very different…especially in Western culture, ha. But hey…Why not! I can see the apron as being very functional for cool weather. put on a hoodie and an apron a little above knee length that has spacious pockets…beats holding a bag.
    Speaking of bags…that backpack. I want so bad. mix it with american flag converse. :p
    Love your posts.

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