When you see intriguing designs incorporating some kind of technology on a ready-to-wear runway you often wonder if and how they will make that crucial transition to shops. This may be a recurring question when you see collections by Anrealage's Kunihiko Morinaga that often incorporate well-researched effects on high-tech textiles.
As you may remember, the designer worked a lot on the light Vs darkness dichotomy, playing with light reactive fabrics in his A/W 2015, S/S 2015, and S/S 2016 collections, designing intriguing garments that react in different ways according to the angle and intensity of the light hitting them.
But is it possible to imagine applying such products in other and more practical contexts that may not have much to do with the glamorous runways? Apparently yes, at least according to Morinaga.
Moving from his past collections, Morinaga has indeed designed in collaboration with Cotton USA a series of uniforms inspired by the theme of traditional Japanese crafts.
Though Japan is known for its artisans, their numbers have significantly decreased in the past 30 years, so this project was conceived as a way to stop the trend of dying Japanese traditions, attact a new generation of craftspeople and provide them with a "new look" that may project them into the future.
Developed in collaboration with Vogue Japan, Anrealage's "Power of Cotton" project is divided in two parts: the designer has created a series of ready-to wear garments (a jacket, a pair of trousers, a shirt, two tops, a skirt and a limited edition T-shirt) based on ordinary uniforms but reinvented via clever pattern cutting techniques as avant-garde and conceptual pieces, and he has also developed uniforms (a jacket and a pair of trousers) for the workers at the Momentum Factory Orii.
The latter is a traditional copperware colouring workshop also developing interior and exterior building materials located in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.
Takaoka copperware is coloured with several processes and at Momentum they make various shades employing traditional techniques and chemical reactions that include (among the others) soaking copperware to a solution of copper sulfate and basic copper carbonate and then heating it up gradually to generate colours on oxidized copper (for vases and tea ceremony tools), or soaking burnt scrap iron in Japanese sake and vinegar for a couple of months and then burning or dyeing it to make it bright red and dark brown.
There is a twist in the tail of Anrealage's designs: when light hits the garments they reveal a colourful print, a constellation of paint splatters inspired by the stained clothes of artists and the floors of their studios.
Yet, rather than casually reinventing the stains, Morinaga met and collaborated with Momentum owner Koji Orii and tried to emulate the copper stains at the factory or the splatters ingrained over the years on the worn out clothes of the Momentum artisans.
The stains represent therefore a sort of badge of honour, a medal for the unsung heroes of modern times - the artisans - while they also ironically refer to fashion and to the fact that, in this glamorous and glittery world, stains are not allowed.
Anrealage then employed the splattered images he came up with to develop in a Kyoto-based factory retro reflective prints on white garments.
The project proves that a great idea can be applied to both designer ready-to-wear and innovative and futuristic workwear that may boost employee morale while breaking stereotypes about clever designs being exclusively made for fashionistas who can afford them.
Available in Japanese department stores and featured on the April issue of Vogue Japan, the "Power of Cotton" products could be conceived as the results of a process revolving around the concept of balancing opposites.
Apart from playing with shadows and lights, Morinaga looked indeed at further dichotomies, including practical and fashion aspects, the past and the future, traditions and technology, older and younger artisans. As new and real stains will splatter the design uniforms of the Momentum workers, they will symbolically hint at the traditions of the country and hopefully inspire younger people to join in.
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