Split, weave, collect. A constant cycle. Air visualised. Body flowing.

Mame Kurogouchi 2023 Spring Summer collection finds inspiration in the extensive history and culture surrounding traditional bamboo baskets, an item which has become an intimate part of everyday Japanese living. The collection explores the varied weaving techniques developed throughout the evolution of bamboo baskets as well as the equilibrium within the bamboo itself of tranquillity, force, and tension.

Bamboo baskets have been developed through the interweaving of the material properties, decorativeness, and usefulness of the bamboo itself. Captivated by the beauty the basket itself holds, delicate weaving and the space created within or “ma” in Japanese, the designer Maiko Kurogouchi gradually discovered the harmony between the basket and flowers within can also be found in the relationship between wearer and their dress, by which an image of contemporary woman – the contradictory nature of strength and flexibility coexist in harmony – is woven.

Throughout the multitude of artists and creations discovered, Kurogouchi was strongly drawn into the life and works of Iizuka Rōkansai (1890-1958). Iizuka’s reimagining of the mingu, an item which was developed as an everyday tool, with highly sophisticated techniques rewrote the code of bamboo crafts of the era. “I marvel at Rōkansai’s ability of conceiving new forms based on tradition while at the same time pushing the boundaries of it with his individual ability and delicate attention to daily life” Kurogouchi suggests. Rōkansai’s signature techniques such as bundled-plait is reinterpreted extensively throughout the knitwear items, and the rhythm of the delicate weaving blended with the groove of daring curves and bold spacing of this style reverberate the basso continuo of the entire collection.

The brand’s signature embroidery and jacquard expressing a bamboo forest are combined with a luxurious sheerness in lightweight willow silk jacquard and silk organdy pieces to convey the dignified beauty of bamboo as if the wearer is enveloped in the wind blowing through the forest. Bamboo beads, first created in Oita, Japan prior to WWII, have been reproduced in a gradient dye specifically for the collection. The beads were then woven into unique macrame dress, vest, and skirt. Cord embroidery, an iconic staple of Mame Kurogouchi, arrives to its most delicate expression to-date; crafted in a structured silhouette with a fine cord recalling the shape of the bamboo baskets. A “Sakiori” rag-weave jacket crafted using an assortment of fabrics with a rounded, three dimensional silhouette features unique ceramic toggle buttons hand-made by Kurogouchi in collaboration with artist Ryohei Yamamoto and Yuki Hirakura, a mastermind behind Komononari Kiln in Arita. This ardent devotion to detail can be seen in each and every item within the collection. Piping finish on pockets invoke thoughts of basket rims while threads dyed uneven are woven to create a pattern reminiscent of the most classic of bamboo basket weaves, mutsume-ami, in a silk cotton jacquard pieces, elevating the pattern beyond that of the original basket weave expression.

The colour palette centres around natural tones; a mint green evoking thoughts of the freshness of the bamboo forest while the natural gradation of bamboo in the home long scorched by the smoke of the sunken earth fireplace is skilfully expressed through the traditional arimatsu-shibori dyeing technique. Tucked trousers and a vest reminiscent of kimono styling present a modern beauty through the earthly colour of undyed organic brown cotton in a dobby weave.

Both directly and indirectly, the inspiration of the bamboo baskets can be felt: bamboo is smoked and woven in the bundled-plait technique to create a feather-light necklace, earring, and earcuff; bamboo beads are woven with macrame cords embellishing a Kijima Takayuki collaborative hat – all made by hands of artisans. In addition to kitten heel pumps and sandals charmed with impactful decorative weaving, Zori, Japanese traditional sandals, are subtly updated in collaboration with Hakimono Sekizuka. A strap, handmade applying traditional techniques, combined with the lightweight sole represents the timeless strength and modernity the collection embraces.