In a previous post we looked at traditional Japanese techniques such as kasuri and sakiori reapplied to contemporary collections. It looks like such techniques may actually be turning into fashionable trends come the next Autumn/Winter season.
Indeed, during London Fashion Week, Vivienne Westwood sent out on her runway, patchworked garments that looked as if they had been casually stitched together.
Though her A/W 2016 designs were mainly inspired by Donatello (the draping) and El Greco (the colour palette), there were a few pieces made using colorful patchwork squares re-employed to create a light padded coat, a silk sheath and a blouse.
Rather than just being used to look quirky and eclectic, patchwork could be employed to upcycle clothes and radically reinvent them, if it were combined with other techniques that could emphasise the marks and scars and give fabrics a new life. There are indeed two old Japanese arts employed to fix pottery that may be very useful in fashion as well - kintsugi and kintsukuroi meaning "to patch with gold" and "to repair with gold".
These techniques are generally employed for broken ceramic pieces and were probably originated when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the late 15th century. The bowl was returned, but it didn't look that beautiful since it had been repaired with metal staples.
Japanese craftsmen therefore started looking for a new solution that would have made broken pieces more asthetically pleasing. Cracks were then repaired with a gold or silver lacquer, materials that ended up elevating the pieces to art, making them look even more beautiful than they originally were.
There are a few artists employing this technique for very unique pieces, among them Korean Sookyung Yee, who makes imposing teapot sculptures using shards and fragments of discarded pots made by master potter Lim Hang-Taek.
In the '80s, musician and costume designer Syvano Bussotti came up instead with a similar technique in one of his opera costumes, creating a patchworked tunic with squares of brocade upholstery fabrics that he then highlighted with gold sequins.
Dutch sister duo Gieke and Lotte Dekker from Humade came up a while back with a Kintsugi repair kit that can be used to become more acquainted with this technique on broken ceramic pieces, but can also be applied on materials similar to ceramics, so, with some little experimenting it could be employed for broken/damaged accessories as well.
If you fancy playing instead with kintsugi and fashion, you can also check out Humade's "Create Me" kit with more than 100 textile transfer iron-on gold or silver shapes inspired by the tangram game and ideal to repair a hole or tear, hide a stain or personalise clothes and interior textiles.
As a simpler alternative, get some scraps of fabrics and some gold or silver thread and patchwork the fabrics and textiles together: the results may be unexpected, but they will help you accepting not just the asymmetries and irregularities you may end up creating in fashion, but also the flaws in our less-than-perfect lives.
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