Tuesday 24 September 2019

All Wrapped Up: Mame Kurogouchi's New Collection in Paris

The gossamer transparency of a dress in Japanese fashion designer Maiko Kurogouchi's new SS20 collection, shown in Paris. All photographs and cover picture  ~ Georges Hobeika SS19 ~ for DAM by Elli Ioannou.

Japanese fashion label Mame Kurogouchi opened Paris Fashion Week with diaphanous, layered pieces for Spring Summer 2020. Designer Maiko Kurogouchi was inspired by her country's traditions, including this season's focus on Japan's art of wrapping. Jeanne-Marie Cilento and Elli Ioannou report. Photographs by Elli Ioannou

Leafy, emerald green embroidery 
embellishes a new top in
the SS20 collection
UNDER the classical arches of the 19th century courtyard of Paris' Faculté de Pharmacie in the Avenue de l'Observatoire, near the Senate and Luxembourg Gardens, Maiko Kurogouchi held her new Spring/Summer 2020 show.

There were 36 voluminous pieces in white with dashes of colour, embroidery and mesh. Called Embrace, the collection's green details symbolise early memories as a child.

The palette of different shades of emerald were inspired by what the designer describes as "hallucinatory sunny days". The theme of the collection is based around the Japanese art of packaging, where the "art of wrapping is to wrap your heart". There are jackets and skirts made of hundreds of hand-cut, translucent sheets, designed to be like a wearable cocoon (see below). Even the dresses and knitwear have transparent panels that are like "wagashi", another form of traditional wrapping.

The theme of the collection is based on Japanese packaging, where the "art of wrapping is to wrap your heart".

 Layers of translucent sheets, hand-cut for
a voluminous jacket
Designer of the label, Maiko Kurogauchi, sees the clothes as protection for the body, created through the lens of Japanese packaging. She is inspired by found objects, the beauty of everyday things that are made special by the art of wrapping. One of her references is Hideyuki Oka’s 1972 book on the Japanese art of packing.

Another of Kurogouchi's motifs for this season's collection is the cocoon created by silkworms where she imagines looking out at the world through the pale, gauzy casing. This inspired the curving, abstract forms of the new collection and the sense of  transformation and new life being embraced she was eager to explore through her designs. Even the fringes on sleeves are described in narrative terms as representing long ago memories.

Maiko Kurogouchi dsigns very light, floating layers and soft silhouettes combined with rich fabrics and hand-made details. The collection's sandals were made to work with the different pieces and are created from mesh fabrics in green and beige while this season’s PVC bags are covered in fringes. The designer says they are like "greenery slowly overgrowing architectural structures". The shoes in black, navy suede and white were created in collaboration with Tod’s, combining Italian craftsmanship and Japanese design.

Maiko Kurogouchi is inspired by found objects, the beauty of the everyday made special.

 Fine black mesh covers a dark green blazer and
sheet skirt, worn with Tod's
Kurogouchi launched her Mame label and studio in 2010, in Tokyo. She used the word Mame because it meant "bean" like the little, green endamame you find at Japanese restaurants. Four years after she established her business, she won the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix Shiseido Sponsorship Award for Best New Designer.

By 2017, she had won the Fashion Prize of Tokyo. This was the first edition of the award and it meant she could present her future collections at the Autumn/Winter 2018/19 and Spring/Summer 2019 fashion shows at Paris Fashion Week, receiving full support.

The Fashion Prize of Tokyo was launched by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Japan Apparel Fashion Industry Council, with the Japan Fashion Week Organisation, to support Tokyo-based designers to expand into international markets.

The designer also won Vogue Japan’s First Rising Star Award, recognising her finely worked designs and her appreciation of Japanese heritage that she married to a contemporary aesthetic. Maiko Kurogouchi comes from Nagano, a country area in Japan where many artisans maintain a traditional way of life, a constant inspiration for her work today.

The designer started her career in fashion after graduating from Bunka Fashion College (where Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto had studied), and working for the Miyake Design Studio. For three years, she worked on the planning and design of Issey Miyake’s Paris collection. But she decided that she wanted to go out on her own and explore Japanese traditional textiles, kimonos and hand-worked embellishments and try and keep the artisan traditions of her country alive.

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