JAPANESE DESIGNER MAIKO KUROGOUCHI BRINGS MAME TO PARIS FASHION WEEK
To be a woman is to grow numb to the frustration of a garment never quite accommodating the body for which it was designed or be blissfully delighted on the rare occasion that one does. At the young Tokyo-based label mame, that feeling is not a novelty but the norm, with garments that perfectly balance the often-o eat proportions of the female body, celebrating its indiscretions with the snatched silhouette of a high-set waistband or the surprising curve of a shoulder seam. Having founded the label in 2010, Maiko Kurogouchi has been honing her palpably personal æsthetic for the past eight years, informed by the unparalleled artisanship of Japan, always with an ear tuned to the experiences of the women around her to render her garments as rich in narrative as they are in craft. Today, mame takes center stage as part of the Paris Fashion Week schedule, and Kurogouchi could just be the fresh face the industry needs to wean us from our predilection for fashions past.
Entering the ruthless world of work as a designer for Issey Miyake might be a baptism of fire as far as craftsmanship is concerned, but it certainly served Kurogouchi well, innovation and integrity speaking sweetly through her own designs with a self-authored lilt. “Mame is a brand filled with my life stories,” she explains. “When information is instantly accessible, I feel the strong need to make a garment as timeless and special as possible. In the modern world, where so many clothes come and go, I take the meaning of producing new garments seriously. My philosophy of highlighting the artisanal background of apparel production has remained consistent since I launched, but in recent years sharing narratives has become something close to my heart.”
Apathy towards the instant ease of the modern world seems endemic among designers these days, but Kurogouchi cites its sting as the spring of the label’s rebellion, pairing a slow gaze with contemporary technique to set a new tempo. Having grown up among the slow-paced hills and vales of the Japanese countryside, Kurogouchi naturally approaches design with the measured eye of the observer, stepping back to see how fine details can color an entire picture. She cites mingu—everyday objects like tools and hardware items—as the main source of her inspiration of late.
Treasured for their universal use across generations, falling into the hands of everyday people and wielding so much power and possibility in their humble forms, mingu are inherently beautiful, much like the mame woman, who is herself layered with ability, setbacks, confidence, and anxiety. “A woman’s daily life is filled with lots of small battles,” says Kurogouchi, remembering the initial impetus to establish the brand. “She might have an important presentation at work. She might be looking forward to a dinner date in the evening. I have come to believe what we women wear has the power to help us feel secure in various situations.” The refreshing empathy of these words is one thing, but to cut them in cloth comes close to anarchy in a world where women are so often sold short. Mame might excel at a kind of elegance that can pass as classic, but these clothes are far from cookie-cutter.
For more information, please visit MameKurogouchi.com.