There have been some tremendous opportunities on my tour of Japan, including face time with artist Takashi Murakami, Isamu Noguchi's protege Masatoshi Izumi, architect Tadao Ando and several "national living treasures" that include an indigo dyer, kimono artist and ceramicist. While this may not seem like NB material (I wasn't too sure about some of these visits, but let me tell you, traveling with important international curators will expand your horizons), they all had a common thread across the board.
Overall, the Japanese want to preserve their crafts by taking the time to teach apprentices, whether an art student in Murakami's "factory" or a young kimono artist, as they were taught by their predecesors. Moreso, regardless of practice, all of these artists believe that innovation is key to preserving their craft. This is absolutely something that strikes home, down to the core of what New Brahmin stands for.
Here are two prime examples of how fashion as a craft is being innovated in Japan:
First up, textile house Nuno. They work with a large handful of the traditional weavers across Japan, mixing traditional aesthetics with major technological advances in not only weaving but fabric. They've worked with some of the best Japanese designers (Miyake, Yamamoto, etc) and have a growing interest in reuse and recycling of their fabrics. After this experience, I've rediscovered a love for textiles that was crushed somewhere in my sophmore year of college thanks to an asshole textile science professor.
Director Reiko; bolts on bolts on bolts of Nuno fabrics
Double-faced silk with feathers hand inserted; double-faced silk with washi paper weft with stainless steel threading
Heat-exposed metallic thread fabrics; stainless steel fabric (which I purchased immediately)
Next, was easily one of the major highlights of this trip for me. After visiting the 2121 Gallery (created/curated by Issey Miyake and designed by Ando), we were escorted over the the Miyake Design Studios with the company's American rep, Jun. While I was expecting something like Pleats Please or the main line [ed. note: Miyake has retired from design but focuses on creating opportunities for young, emerging designers with several of his namesake lines], the studio offered up their 132 5 Issey Miyake line (1 piece of fabric turns 3 dimensional, folds 2 dimensional and takes you to a 5th, esoteric dimension), which has been out for only 4 seasons. The designer, whose name escapes me, came into the retail space to show up the line works.
Basically, the designer and his team worked with a mathematician from University of Tokyo who focuses in ergonomic origami. The mathematician created 10 different origami forms from which the team manipulated into a variety of clothing and bag designs with completely breathtaking and mind-boggling results. I kinda went nuts shopping and scored some incredible pieces, but what I really need is one of the adorable salesgirls to come home with me to refold everything after I wear them.
2 dimensions; Jun and the lead designer showing the origami inspiration behind the holographic piece
Changing dimensions; the final product (the skirt)
The foil process; left over foil, as geometrically artistic as the pieces themselves