Japanese culture is known for having strong values when it comes to tradition and craftsmanship. For instance, this can be seen in the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi, which puts forward principles that can be applied in fashion. Wabi Sabi is the art of appreciating beauty in the naturally imperfect world. Wabi Sabi is an ancient aesthetic philosophy that focuses mainly on the old Japanese tradition of the tea ceremony: the pottery used for this ritual is purposely asymmetric and flawed. The crockery is meant to be visibly handcrafted, and each crack, irregular shape and fadedness is to be appreciated for its own beauty, and for the process that it symbolises.
The term “Wabi” signifies simplicity, freshness and understated elegance, whilst “Sabi” refers to beauty or serenity that comes with age, or with visible repairs.
If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be Wabi Sabi.
In design, the principles behind Wabi Sabi can also be adopted. By slowing down our design processes and embracing the incomplete and the imperfect, we can achieve entirely new levels of beauty. When the design process becomes visible in finished designs, for instance through frayed edges, basic colours, visible stitching and asymmetry, they become appealing in a completely new way. The garments carry more meaning, as they are unique and share a story, and invite customers to add to that story.
Slow fashion allows designers to slow down and revert back to fashion as an art form, a craft and a passion. Slowing down, and taking the time to ensure durability and quality through handicraft and raw materials, is at the core of slow fashion. That, and the aim to be as harmless to the environment as possible, by reducing waste and the use of chemicals, limiting transportation, sourcing locally and using organic materials.
The point of this brand is that the focus is not on the end result, but on the materials and processes and the technique.
A great example of slow fashion is the Brooklyn based brand Manonik, which puts forward purity and craft through its designs. Considering that each piece is made by hand by the owner and designer, Yoshiyuki Minami in his studio in Brooklyn, the handcrafted selection of garments grows at a gentle pace. The designer sources his materials locally, ensuring that they are sustainably produced. When weaving, Yoshiyuki uses traditional textile making techniques.
Manonik is an example of a brand that started off in a world of fast fashion, and decided to go back to basics, to the simpler and more ethical ways in which clothing can be made. Each piece is well thought through, with great precision and meticulousness and dedication. Moreover, each design is unique and celebrates the imperfect. The visibility of the design process, the hand work and the effort behind the garments translates into an imperfect beauty, and sheds light on fashion as an art form.
I want to create alternatives and share this idea that we don’t have to follow conventions. By pursuing new ways of making, we can develop processes that are underdeveloped.
Although the Wabi Sabi concept is an old one, it remains all the more relevant with time: with the increase in luxury brands big chains of clothing shops worldwide, mass producing the same items over and over again, the need for the small scale, the slow and the imperfect becomes all the more important. To restore meaning and expression in the fashion industry, we need to revert to tradition, quality, craftsmanship and appreciation.