International Fashion Spotlight: Japanese Label Mame Kurogouchi

Posted on July 16, 2020

Maiko Kurogouchi is a designer based in Tokyo who launched her brand Mame Kurogouchi a decade ago and has overseen its rise to international acclaim and prominence. She won the award for Best New Designer at the 2014 Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix Shiseido Sponsorship and in 2017 claimed the Tokyo Fashion Prize. After graduating from Bunka Fashion College (which oversaw the design educations of Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto), Maiko Kurogaouchi worked at the Issey Miyake studio for a few years before launching her line. In the years since, she has cultivated a brand following among fashion insiders ecstatic over her 21st Century high-fashion approach using traditional kimono textiles and embroideries rendered in modernist shapes and styles.

From the description of her spring summer 2020 collection featured below:

The family of Kurogouchi used to grow silkworms during her grandmother’s days. Silkworms were treated as a sacred being with respect as they brought business to the family. Silk is considered to be a normalised material, but back then, it would take 3000 cocoons in order to weave a piece of Kimono garment.

While, Silk has had a special place in Mame Kurogouchi’s design, she has come to think without doing it themselves, she couldn’t understand the challenge of weaving a textile using cocoons. This realisation drove her to plan growing 30 silkworms at her atelier with the team, and name them Shiro (white).

Silkworms are sensitive and delicate beings. If one gets sick, it affects others. In order to turn cocoons into yarns, it would have to be consistent which is why producing silk on commercial basis is challenging.

Newborn silkworms are so small that are almost invisible but through five molting process, they become 25 times longer and 10,000 times heavier. And before it starts to blow fibres into the air and around them, its body becomes transparent. Yarns came out of Shiro’s mouth had sparkles, reflecting lights around them. Kurogouchi wanted to make a garment that would wrap one’s body gently by breathing soft light into the body, just like how Shiro transformed itself by wrapping its body with shiny transparent yarns. She went to a weaver in Komatsu Ishikawa, the only weaver that can produce silk jacquard, and came away with a delicate sheet of textile she was looking for. Using silk and shinny flat yarn for the warp and silk yarn for the weft, weaving together, and two types of the jacquard textiles were made thanks to the idea of leaving the shiny yarn uncut. The black one provoked the image of a dark night in Amami, brightened by nocturnal insects.






[Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maiko Kurogouchi]

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