- What kind of feedback did you receive when you exhibited samples at the “Nipponista” pop-up held in New York this February?

I wasn’t able to go to the event personally as I had to prepare for the men’s collection, but I heard that people showed interest in my designs. Some of them said that they wanted to purchase the items, which is always happy to hear. I think it was a good idea to focus on just shoes. I designed a pair of geta (Japanese clogs, usually wooden) using leather and dyed them using indigo. This color reaches out to the psychological aspects of people, and it seemed that people overseas were interested. I hope that the use of indigo dyes will become more common through events like these.

- How do you perceive the future of Japanese craftsmanship?

The situation is different for each, and I see both extremes. There are those that continue to do what they do, even when they are perceived as an endangered business from society. And then there are those that make the most of what they have learnt from the past to involve themselves in new projects in search of new business opportunities.

- When you say new markets, do you mean overseas?

Yes. There are many overseas companies interested in doing business with Japanese crafts. Nishijin weaves for example, are very popular among big maison brands. So it’s really important for artisans to communicate the charms of Japanese crafts overseas including indigo dyes. Those who make this effort will be able to find new business opportunities.

- What are your thoughts on the Japan Senses project?

I began my career as a shoes wholesaler in Asakusa, Tokyo, and now, I have a career as a fashion designer and even present shows in Paris. What I make today leads to the future. I found this project very rewarding as I was able to work with the producers and create a new future for the industry. Indigo dyes from Aomori prefecture, the theme of the Isetan Mitsukoshi campaign, have the potential of becoming something even bigger. It’d be great if the producers in Aomori are able to find new business opportunities through this initiative. Having had the opportunity to show the samples in New York was a big gain.

- What are your thoughts on tradition and innovation regarding Japanese crafts?

When I was studying textiles as a student at Tama Art University, I was able to go visit an atelier making Kaga Yuzen (dyed silk fabrics) textiles. I was surprised to see that the textiles were being designed using state-of-the-art tools rather than traditional ones. I remember an artisan saying to me, “Tradition is the spirit of creating beautiful things, not necessarily about reproducing the past.” This made me realize that tradition is about using the latest skills and tools to make a progressive version of the past. Tradition and innovation is not about old and new things.

■Industries and Education

- What prompted you to create collections using Nishijin weaves and aizome (indigo dyes)?

I incorporate Japanese craftsmanship as a spice for my designs. It’s difficult to gain worldwide recognition by designing tailored items and dresses in Japan. COMME des GARCONS, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto have made a name for themselves as Japanese designers by challenging stereotypical concepts and creating something truly unique. As a designer of the next generation, I design collections that challenge the norm, but also want to gain recognition by creating authentic designs. I think that by introducing Japanese craftsmanship on European-based styles, innovative designs that speak out to both cultures can be born.

- Are there any Japanese techniques or materials which interest you now?

I don’t want to reveal this…, but I’m looking to fuse technologies with traditional crafts. With the latest technology, it is possible to create high quality fabrics beyond people’s imaginations. This creates a wide range of new possibilities.

- What other types of efforts need to be made in order to preserve Japanese crafts?

I think it is important to educate the younger generations to carry on the traditions. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan is supporting methods to increase the consumption of traditional crafts, but it’s just as significant to enlighten the students that will eventually become the producers of the crafts. It’s important to recognize that the industry is closely linked to education. Providing opportunities to overseas students who are keen to learn about Japanese crafts is one way to create more producers in the industry.

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