When you hear the word “makers,” it is easily associated with digital equipment and industrial arts, but in the Silicon Valley, there exists a festival named “Maker Faire” where handicrafts, agricultural products and many other types of items are created by passionate “makers.” This new trend known as the “Makers Movement” is partly due to the arrival of 3D printers, opening of ateliers furnished with the latest equipment and the popularity of e-commerce. This advancement of digital technology has made it vastly easier for individuals to make something and sell it. The same goes for fashion. People are now attracted to non-mass produced forms of distribution, almost like the days prior to the industrial revolution. In order to better understand the direction of this new movement, the article focuses on the trend of “makers.”

Creating New Infrastructures

One focal point is a working space open for anyone to create their own clothes. The space dubbed “coromoza” is the first co-working space dedicated to fashion which opened in Harajuku, Tokyo last June. The space is an atelier with digital sewing machines, irons, laser cutters, a digital textile printer and a photo studio. To become a member, a monthly fee of at least 21,000 yen is required. For non-members, fees are charged in units of 15 min at 250 yen. There are currently fifty to sixty members, mainly students and those in their twenties.

The space was created by Takuji Nishida, a former director of an e-commerce site.

“I was introduced to the world of fashion through the Internet and was able to see both the advantages and disadvantages of the role of the Internet in fashion. It’s very difficult to bring out the charms of products with just an online shop. I even asked students of fashion to distinguish a 300,000 yen item from a 7,000 yen item with the photo images of an online shop. They couldn’t tell the difference. With the popularity of online shops, actual stores located in regional areas with unique lineups started to go out of business. I began to question this status quo and wanted to start something more real,” explains Mr. Nishida.

Mr. Nishida, who made a transition from digital business to the art of craftsmanship, says that he found the structure of the fashion world to be archaic, especially when compared to the world of the Internet. There are many barriers one must overcome to enter the fashion business as a young creator.

“If you are talented with technology, you can start an Internet business with just 100,000 yen. This is why there is so much young energy in the industry. Whereas in fashion, the infrastructure is over 50-years old and needs updating. Makers of fashion need to order textiles at exhibits held six months prior to the actual season. The current system urges the makers to take this type of risk. In the past, buyers from wholesalers were supposed to pay for the textiles in advance. However, buyers just look after the stock now and the system itself should have been changed. ”

“I have an acquaintance that operates a fashion brand like a bakery. The brand has its atelier and store space together to be able to design different items on the spot. The designer can make things based on the inspiration of the moment and sell them when completed. It may not be efficient but it is more real than creating designs based on a system of mass production where everything is based on a pre-defined schedule.”

What Fashion Today Lacks

With his mission to change the current structure of the fashion industry, Mr. Nishida became most interested in “making.”

“I was influenced by the project ‘THEATRE, yours’ by THEATRE PRODUCTS. The project sells textiles and paper patterns and demonstrates the process of designing clothes through workshops. One of its designers Akira Takeuchi says, ‘when it comes to food, you can choose many things from fast foods to gourmet restaurants. If you cook for yourself, you come to know the value of what is being served at restaurants. Fashion today is all about consuming. If people don’t make the effort to make clothes themselves, how will they understand the quality of what is being sold at stores? If you take the time to make something yourself, you begin to find new joys and discoveries.’ I completely identified with Mr. Takeuchi’s ways of thinking.”

Fab labs or tech shops with an array of the latest machines and equipment are systems supporting the trend of making clothes from scratch. Amateur creators would often gather at online markets such as “Etsy” to attract customers. On the other hand, coromoza is passive when it comes to online business. It seeks to bring together people face to face. To initiate this, the exhibition “WORKS” was held last fall. Regular seminars to demonstrate the process of designing clothes using patterns is also held by coromoza.

“If we maintain the status quo, I feel that we will not be able to make any fashion items in Japan. Regional factories are suffering from many problems including short staff. I want to be able to bring young creators and such factories together to diversify the possibilities of fashion.”

Mr. Nishida is highly determined to create new values for fashion with coromoza as a starting point.

The second half of the article will cover the joint exhibit “WORKS.”