Wednesday 23 February 2022

Yuima Nakazato's Brave New (Fashion) World

Yuima Nakazato's vivid SS22 haute couture collection in Paris. All photographs and cover picture by Elli Iannou for DAM
Japanese designer Yuima Nakazato has always brought a sense of fantasy and the avant-garde to haute couture since he became a guest member on the official Paris schedule in 2016. For Spring-Summer 2022 he continues his exploration of an otherworldly aesthetic along with new technologies and materials. We look at his plans to make high fashion more sustainable and widely available. Jeanne-Marie Cilento reports. Photographs by Elli Ioannou 

Contemporary dancers move amid clouds 
of dry ice as a model emerges from the gloom 
in brilliant, butterfly-wing hues
THE dark and atmospheric 17th century Oratoire du Louvre in Paris is where Yuima Nakazato chose to present his new haute couture collection, the designer's first physical show after two years, due to the pandemic. 

Clouds of dry ice billowed around Rococo wooden doors with wraith-like dancers clad in white forming a moving chorus to the models emerging from the gloom. Locks of brightly- coloured hair and elfin pointed ears accompanied Nakazato's voluminous, draped creations. 

"This season was mainly about focusing on the physical fashion show," the designer said. "These two years of digital shows made me really miss Paris. It was very tough to decide to fly to France but I really wanted to present the show. " 

The designer was inspired by the chimera, a mythical creature made up of different animals. Originating in Greek mythology, the chimera was a fire-breathing hybrid creature, from Lycia in Asia Minor. Often depicted as a lion, the chimera had a goat head protruding from its back and tail ending with a snake's head. Although the designer didn't use the image of the chimera literally, he saw it as a symbol of bringing myth and legend into his latest collection.

"This season was all about the physical fashion show. These two years of digital presentations due to the pandemic made me really miss showing in Paris. " 

Nakazato's experimentation with new fabrics
make his collections a stand-out at haute-couture 
week in Paris
Called Liminal, Nakazato explained the theme of the new show was an exploration of a transitional state, an ambiguous space of limitless possibilities, on the threshold between the old and the new. 

In practical terms, this meant the designer mixed the latest technological advances in materials with traditional techniques, such as using a kimono embroiderer to embellish his creations.

"The title "liminal" means something in the middle, a very abstract and unclear area, between say man and woman, artifice and Nature or East and West," the designer said. "That was the starting point of the collection. It is philosophical but very important to me. For example, the Japanese kimono has a rectangular shape and although it is not the shape of the human body, everyone can wear it. This is an interesting concept. I have tried to mix couture with this Japanese kimono philosophy. I wanted to tie them together and express this in the collection." 

Yuima Nakazato has made it his mission to be at the forefront of experimenting with new materials and techniques. He is still developing his in-house production system, Biosmocking, which has no material waste from the production process and does not use a needle and thread to create garments. 

It is a cutting-edge technology making clothes via a digital fabrication of textiles made from artificial protein. The designer uses these natural materials including "brewed protein" which is made from using the artificial protein created by Japanese bio start-up Spiber. 

The designer likes to mix the latest technological advances in materials with traditional techniques

Brightly-hued, asymmetrical wigs and elfin ears add 
to this season's sense of fantasy 
"The brewed protein is a continuously developing technique that is a very important material and element for our creations This time, it is used for very small details like combining it with jewellery and the metal pieces worn in the ear or as necklaces. 

"Upcycling and bio-smocking are part of every collection. I call it bio-technology mixed with the kimono philosophy."

Nakazato strives to look at the big picture, he says he wants to realise "a new vision for humanity" through clothes. His designs made from the plant-derived sustainable materials, represent an important step away from the current widespread reliance on petroleum-based resources. Nakazato is one of the rare avant-garde designers who don't just experiment with style but uses his own radical manifesto for the future. The new textile created from the brewed protein is a sustainable fibre made by a fermentation process.The textiles are created by fabricating the artificial protein. 

As its production doesn't rely on petroleum, brewed protein is biodegradable and could offer a sustainable solution for the fashion industry. Ecologically-minded apparel manufacturers are moving away from micro plastics and animal-derived materials. Protein-based polymer materials are energy efficient, environmentally friendly and economic to produce. The designer believes these innovations in materials and technology are the direction in which haute couture should be moving. 

Yuima Nakazato is one of the rare avant-garde designers who don't just experiment with style but create a radical manifesto for the future

The designer used his Type-1 
technique in the new collection
that make his clothes customizable
Protein biopolymers are part of the building blocks of life, formed from different types of amino acids. Brewed protein refers to structural proteins which have been designed or selected from an almost limitless pool of possible amino acid combinations, and then produced via a microbial fermentation process. 

This is all part of Yuima Nakazato's design ethos about fashion's social responsibility: "I believe that the evolution of garments will lead to a richer human society. To fulfil our responsibility towards future generations, we conduct ongoing assessments of our material supply chains and we create garments designed for long-term use and eventual up-cycling." 

Another element in the new collection that the designer has explored in previous seasons is what Nakazato calls the Type-1 system. This enables parts of clothes to be replaceable. 

In Paris, he wore a shirt where the sleeves and collar could be changed just by undoing a series of rivets. This makes his clothes completely customizable and was incorporated into the Spring-Summer 2022 couture collection.  

The designer believes this revolutionary new technology for making digital couture will allow custom-designed clothes to be accessible to everybody and make couture clothes available to all. "I want to give the experience of having a uniquely designed piece to everyone," he said.

But the designer said the big question is how to do this. Obviously haute couture is very expensive and mass production is very cheap. And the customer cannot communicate to the designer. So Nakazato thinks technology could provide a solution and help realize his idea. He said that "haute couture has the best design but wearing it is not possible for everyone, it is my aim to find a solution to that."

"I believe that the evolution of garments will lead to a richer human society."

Nakazato uses the latest technology and
traditional kimono embroidery to 
bring old and new together
Nakazato believes his Type-1 technique is a breakthrough discovery in fashion technology. He uses a digital system where clothes are adaptable and grow with you ~ upwards or outwards. And which can be easily repaired with another square of fabric that is riveted into place. Nakazato imagines the clothes could be passed down and even adapted to your children.  

The designer has often said he believes that couture is the future of fashion. "This type of technology is sustainable, so if your body changes you can customize the clothes. 

"If you damage some part of it you can just change it ~ so you don't just throw it away. The clothes become like another skin and you can even give it to your daughter, just changing the design and size." 

In the Type-1 system, instead of a traditional fitting where the body is measured, the wearer is scanned through a device before numbered squares of digitally cut fabrics are riveted together to form a perfectly fitting piece. Nakazato said the major discovery was finding a way to use everyday fabrics like cotton, nylons and wool which are difficult to control using digital fabrication.

"That was the most difficult part," he said. "But in the end we succeeded. We can design every type and shape of garment to be a precise fit to the wearer's figure. Digital fabrication is very useful mainly for PVC, rubber or plastic. But I wanted to use traditional fabrics and although these are hard to control using digital tools we found a way of doing it. 

"We assess our material supply chains and we create garments designed for long-term use and eventual up-cycling." 

Vivid colours made the designer's  pantsuits 
and tunicslook like the wings of exotic birds
Custom-made clothes, particularly haute couture, are out of reach for most people. But Nakazato argues his technology would change that: “We want to create a world where everyone can have tailor-made garments. Mass customization is possible because my team has removed the major constraint of have to use the thread and needle." 

The designer has developed the technique in Japan with engineers, 3D designers and sculptors so clothes can be adjusted to be a precise fit to the wearer's figure.

"With this system we are now able to build all silhouettes imaginable," Nakazato explained. "It is like creating a garment from a dress pattern but with even more flexibility." 

While the designer has admitted that his work is very much at the experimental stage, he insisted that "future mass customisation" is possible. "There is still a lot of work by hand in putting the clothes together," Nakazato explains. 

"It is like technology and craftsmanship combined." The designer says that aesthetically his digital creations still had a long way to go to reach the perfection of classic haute couture which must be made by hand.

For the Spring-Summer 2022 collection, the designer included both ready-to-wear and haute couture designs. There were long black and white tunics worn with vividly-coloured capes. The palette of electric blues and greens contrasted with glowing reds and yellows like the brilliantly-hued wings of Australian lorikeets. The asymmetrical wigs and long elf ears added too the otherworldly vibe. The long tunics were worn with cords and combined with colourful prints, tie-dyes and knits.  

For the Spring-Summer 2022 collection, the designer included both ready-to-wear and haute couture designs

Draped 3D fabrics and silky knitted materials
added to the sense of beauty and 
fantasy of the collection 

Yuima Nakazato first began to be interested in fashion as a student because at his high school in Japan they could choose to wear whatever they wanted, unlike most Japanese schools where a uniform is de rigueur. 

"I liked looking at fashion magazines ~ there was no Internet then ~ so we were reading magazines and seeing the "street snaps," a very typically Japanese part of culture with pictures of people standing on the street which I really liked." 

But he decided that fashion would be his career after seeing the first Japanese designers graduating from the Royal Academy Antwerp in 2002. 

"I saw their graduate collections in the newspaper and they looked so colourful and interesting I was shocked. Seeing these designs changed me dramatically and inspired me to go into the fashion world more deeply and immediately I decided to do Antwerp's fashion degree as well."

"I liked looking at fashion magazines and seeing the street snaps which is a very typical Japanese part of culture."

Designer Yuima Nakazato ran out to take his bow 
in Paris before racing backstage
The designer was born in Tokyo and says he learned much about the freedom of expressive art from his sculptor father and mother, a metal carver. His family home is filled with giant art objects. Nakazato's creative upbringing made a strong contrast to traditional, strict Japanese schooling. 

With artists as parents, Nakazato was surrounded by artworks from early childhood and he says that the years of watching his parents' work plus seeing performing arts, stage design, and costumes all have influenced his work. 

Nakazato was the youngest Japanese student to graduate from the Fashion Department Master’s Course at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. So ahead of their time were his shoe designs, during his degree show, that they were acquired by the Antwerp Mode Museum (MoMu) for their permanent collection. He was also awarded the Innovation Award by Ann Demeulemeester for his graduate collection and he won the International Talent Support (ITS) Fashion Competition held in Italy, one of the two largest fashion contests in the world

Today, when Nakazato is designing a new collection in his Shibuya studio, he begins with key words and a story as a starting point like this season's chimera, afterwards he begins the research. But always his ultimate aim for every collection is the search for ways of creating fashion that makes people feel happier. 

"That is why I would like the clothes of the future to all be unique and different as I think that makes everyone feel good. Right now we have to wear mass produced clothes because of the cost. But that is all changing with this new technology and it makes for a very interesting moment in fashion." 

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