One of Japan’s most innovative and interesting fashion labels Matohu will be on sale in Singapore at the upcoming Hello, Shibuya Tokyo pop-up shopping event to be held from February 22 to March 10, 2013, at Plaza Singapura.
Since 2005, Hiroyuki Horihata and Makiko Sekiguchi – the husband and wife design team at Matohu – have been creating softly subversive fashion that cleverly combines traditional Japanese motifs with progressively modern cuts.
Known for deceptively casual pieces like wrap dresses and slouchy tees mixed with more structured coats and lashings of texture, Matohu is a label that perfectly suits women looking for colourful and quirky but completely wearable fashion.
Some of the intelligence behind the Matohu designs obviously comes from Japan’s “three fashion gods” – Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo – Hiroyuki-San worked at Comme des Garçons for five years, while Makiko-San was at Yohji Yamamoto, also for five years.
The pair’s way of cutting, draping and layering their designs echoes similar concepts that have become known as the “Japanese style”, but the addition of colour, texture and intricate detailing via the woven fabrics gives Matohu its own creative voice.
Thanks to the team from Parco Japan, the organisers of the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo event, herworldPLUS had the chance to sit down and chat with the designers in their studio perched above the Matohu flagship store full of quirky art and warm wood.
WHAT IS THE CONCEPT BEHIND THE BRAND, MATOHU?
Hiroyuki Horihata: The name of the brand means method – there are actually two meanings; the Japanese way of wearing clothes but also of wrapping up your body close. There’s also some kind of connection to ‘afterglow’ – fast fashion is trendy and has become disposable – whereas ‘matohu’ can also mean to wait for something to mature.
Japanese fashion [now] tends to follow western styles and brands – and we want to present the Japanese sense of beauty into our product making but we’re not just trying to reflect the traditional culture we’re trying to inject some kind of freshness into it.
Makiko Sekiguchi: The cuts of the garments are simple and not too fitted; being Japanese, rather than focusing on sex appeal, we pay more attention to the atmosphere and appearance [of the garments] ... How you look when wearing a something.
When designing we wrap ourselves with the fabric, we don’t draw up designs, we pay a lot of attention to how the fabric falls and feels on the body. We start with the cuts first; we create toiles [the pattern of a garment made in fabric] – we have different weights of toile fabrics for the different fabrics we’ll be working with for the collection; we cut many times before we’re happy and then, finally, will cut the actual fabric for the finished garment.
HH: We were both pattern cutters for five years at Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons; that experience has helped us a lot. [Smiles] These two designers and Issey Miyake are the ones who created the [modern] Japanese mode and Japanese fashion – for any Japanese designer they’re the starting point.
And, maybe personally because I worked for these brands, what we’re trying to do with our designs is to make a difference so that people won’t say ‘ah, this is Yohji Yamamoto or this is Comme – our brand concept is something new … But it [the Japanese mode] is the basis [of our work], we’ve taken the knowledge and are opening a new chapter. It’s an interesting challenge.
FABRICS ARE OBVIOUSLY THE CENTRAL POINT OF YOUR DESIGNS; WHERE DO YOU SOURCE THEM?
MS: All the fabrics are made in Japan – there are many Japanese craftsmen making unique and original fabrics, they used to make kimono fabrics, so we’ve been working with many different fabrics manufacturers [to produce our fabrics]. We visit them and sometimes we draw patterns for fabric. We’re not professional fabric designers; we ask them for their advice and they help us to achieve our ideas.
HH: We tell them the concept, and then they produce various ideas – they show us their archives and then suggest what else can be done to the fabric … But it’s so unfortunate that many of the rarer and more unique manufacturers have gone bankrupt due to the influx of cheap fabric from China. I think Japan is a great country for still being able to provide such a wide variety of different kinds of textiles, despite the imports.
IS THERE SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOUR BRAND PARTICULARLY ‘JAPANESE’ OR DOES IT HAVE A MORE GLOBAL CONCEPT?
HH: Cut and colour – the colours that we use are particularly Japanese. Every season, the concept is based on the Japanese sense of beauty. This season [Spring Summer 2013], the latest collection is ‘mitate’ – it’s hard to translate into English … Mitate is ‘to bring in an attractiveness of using a tool by using it in a completely different way’.
Japanese people have always enjoyed this type of thing; for example we’ve used ropes as accessories, used lace in a different way, we have a print like auto tires and a necklace has been made with a bottle opener …
MS: Every season we come up with a concept based on Japanese beauty and the Japanese way of interpreting something.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE SINGAPORE SHOPPERS TO SEE YOUR BRAND? WHAT IS ITS CENTRAL POINT?
HH: First and foremost, when you see the collection you will have an impression of our unique cut and how our fabrics flow – so want people to know about that as well as its comfort and how wearable it is.
MS: Intuitively we want Singapore shoppers to feel that they want to wear these pieces, and at the same time, that they’d like to know about the ideas behind the collection so that they can have more of a connection to the pieces. Whether its Singapore or Japan or America or wherever – we have the same kind of approach.
HH: It is as important for people to want to wear our designs – we don’t want to force the ‘design’ on them.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE INTEREST OF THE WESTERN FASHION INDUSTY IN ASIAN DESIGNERS / ASIAN INFLUENCES? IE. SS13 COLLECTIONS – PRADA / GUCCI ETC
HH: It’s their interpretation of Japanese culture, but Japanese culture is actually different – they haven’t lived in Japan – it’s very superficial I think – for Japanese and Asian people it looks a little weird and not natural.
MS: But it’s quite interesting that they’re looking towards asia at least. Yes, they’re paying more attention to Japan in general, like after the earthquake for example.
HH: Rather, they are paying more attention to the Asian market – using Asian models etc – it’s more about the market, not so much about the design – but it’s a good thing because they [the West] will then feel closer to Asia.
The Matohu Spring Summer 2013 collection will be available at the Hello, Shibuya Tokyo Fashion & Culture Mix Show with Singapore pop-up shopping event that will run from February 22 to March 10, 2013, and will be held at the Main Atrium, Level 1, Plaza Singapura daily from 11am to 9.30pm and until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free. For more information about Matohu, go to www.matohu.com. For more information about Hello, Shibuya Tokyo, go www.helloshibuyatokyo.jp or follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/helloshibuyatokyo.