“Are you okay?” That’s not a question that’s not likely to appear on a garment, much less encased in resin-moulded buttons. In a twee-filled, jolly-ridden, ultra-polite Selvedge Fair, held at Bath’s American Museum, these buttons stood out. In fact, Minus Sun’s entire stall stood out. Then coincidences of coincidences, turns out designer Yuka Maeda worked for a little while for my cousin Elizabeth Lau, when she was still based in London.
Minus Sun is character-driven label, where clothes are there to further a narrative rather than be the sole focal point. That’s not to say they’re not lovely. Maeda injects the daintiest of handcrafted details – so minute – that pictures almost certainly don’t do them justice. But at the centre of Minus Sun is the “girl”. She hates the sun. She seduces onlookers with her innocence as beneath all that crochet, cross-stitching and kawaii cute detailing, there’s something darker and more fetishistic. lurking. Facets of Minus Sun remind me of Japanese cult label Keisuke Kanda with his proccupation with Japanese adolescence and the sartorial accoutrements, which go with Japanese teendom.
Here is Maeda’s assistan wearing a Minus Sun tabard uniform.
It started with Maeda’s MA project for her fashion degree at Kingston where she handmade a story book which told the tale of ten girls. One is controlling. Another is suicidal. Then one appears to be passive, self-conscious or sensuous. They’re of course all facets of one girl. But Maeda picks out outfits for each characteristic, dressing them up with a uniform of sorts. The clothes themselves are storied too playing off something innocent against something decidedly sexy. For ever peter pan collar, A-line shift shape, there are open-back dresses revealing frilled knickers or pleated skirts that are meant to be hiked up. The overall message though is to seduce, not by overpowering you with silhouette, print or colour but to ask viewers to see something up close and fall that little bit in love.
Maeda carried on her Minus Sun project as she plunged her next book into the dark. It’s a prequel as it were with the same characters embroiled in a sun-fearing episode where they all get up to no good at night. The clothes are similarly dark as Maeda plunges her linens and cottons in black, adding details like lunar eclipse embroideries and yellow stitches that resemble stars.
Maeda is currently showcasing her work by regularly taking Minus Sun on the craft fair circuit and you can contact her through her website for custom orders of her pieces (she will take measurements and adjust colours to your liking). It’s true that her work fits into that world with her penchant for handcrafted detailing but at the same time, there’s something intriguing about her work as an art form. She’s using clothing and craft as a dialogue to draw out a fantasy world inhabited by these “girls” of her dreams. She’s also investigating the relationship between clothing and personality traits and a more nuanced side to what it means to be seductive. There’s a lot to be read into but for most onlookers, they’re also likely to fall hard for a crochet-trimmed matching bra and panty set or indeed the buttons that read “Are you okay?” Actually come to think of it, in a self-centred society, that question in itself is a calling card for Minus Sun’s thoughtful and thought-provoking work.