The Japanese couture designer Yuima Nakazato has long been fascinated by technology and innovation, which, not incidentally, are the cornerstones for fashion if it wants to move towards a better future. From circular patterns of fabric you can zip into a pair of boots, to digital fabrications and 3D printers, Nakazato is always in pursuit of forward-facing clothes unique to the individual wearer. Now, he's launching a new knitwear based line, TYPE-1, which uses the sensibilities of couture to propose a circular fashion system.
A graduate of the esteemed Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, in 2016 Nakazato was inaugurated by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode as a guest member on the official haute couture calendar, becoming to second Japanese designer to do so. His most recent S/S 21 collection was held together by plastic staples in place of thread and seams, allowing for alterations to be made more easily. He also presented a 3D scanner which Nakazato plans to use to take his clients' measurements, which then get sent to a machine which laser cuts the fabric to dress them with.
It was during a trip to the British Museum a few years ago that the designer came across an animal bone sewing needle - a relevant prototype for garment making how it stands today. Nakazato began thinking about how, when you take things back to the basics of needle and thread, garment making processes have changed little across the history of fashion. Over the next six years, he set upon developing a new technology which would allow for an approachable and adaptable way of dressing; enter TYPE-1.
TYPE-1 is Nakazato's first venture into ready-to-wear, and embodies the innovation, craftsmanship and individuality at the heart of couture by offering up a new proposition for dressing. The building blocks of the collection are your wardrobe staples; dresses, t-shirts and skirts, here created using a 3D computational knitting machine. This technology serves the primary function of reducing excess waste material; there's no needle or thread in sight. But here comes the most exciting part. Hems, collars and sleeves are detachable, fastened by hand using 'dots' made using moulds cast by a 3D printer. Each garment features these removable and customisable additions, nodding to the philosophy of the Japanese kimono, whereby taking care of these traditional items of dress has always involved disassembling them on a daily basis in order to wash or adjust them.
With fast fashion only on the rise, the need to make do and mend is not what it once was. The concept of repairing garments once they become damaged or out of fashion, has largely been replaced by the precedent of being able to order something new. TYPE-1 proposes garments for life, by making the process of repairing, reusing and updating clothes approachable and accessible; no tailoring skills are required, the fastening 'dot' rivets are easily secured by hand. Maintaining the human element of touch was important for Nakazato, he tells me over Zoom. It's an important interaction with customers that the designer wants to nurture. 'Even after wearing it, you're able to customise. Our relationship [with the consumer] keeps going' he says. TYPE-1 renews an intimacy between designers and consumers, that can be traced back across the history of fashion.
Working on a one-to-one basis with the consumer is important for any couture designer, but its a relationship which Nakazato has dedicated himself to outside of the traditional atelier. Last year, the designer launched 'Face-to-Face', an online made-to-order program where clients could ship a white shirt of their own to Nakazato's Tokyo atelier, where the designer would give it his own spin, then send it back. The TYPE-1 line works in a similarly intimate way, however this time the wearer takes an even more active role in the creative process.
TYPE-1 cements Nakazato's motto to 'Wear the Individual'. Effectively, the wearer is able to customise their wardrobe, entering into a more creative and active dialogue with the designer - more aligned with the world of couture, where clients have a minimum of three fittings in the atelier to craft clothes specifically to their bodies. In TYPE-1, garment parts in need of repair or which are no longer wanted, may be sent back to Nakazato's atelier in Japan, where the design team will undo them, thread by thread, repurposing them for another customer. The concept of made-to-order, so exclusive to couture, here enters into a circular and sustainable dialogue in the realms of ready-to-wear. After placing an order, customers can expect to receive their garment in under two weeks, something largely unheard of in couture ateliers.
Sustainability is a driving force for Nakazato, and within the circular system TYPE-1 proposes comes an attention to fabric. The line is knitwear based because this process produced less waste than by employing woven techniques. The interchangeable hems, collars and sleeves are available in lace, cotton and silk; upycled silk has been pulled from unused kimono production sources, organic cotton sourced from Uzbekistan, and natural French silk lace has been woven on traditional weaving machines (most laces you'll come across today are synthetic).
For the campaign, Nakazato's muse Lauren Wasser returns, after fronting the S/S 21 haute couture collection in January. The model and activist is also known as 'The Girl With The Golden Legs', due to her prosthetic gold legs, (Wasser developed toxic shock syndrome (TSS) in 2012), resulting in both her legs being amputated. She's an empowering role model to represent the Yuima Nakazato brand, and the designer tells me that he was instantly drawn to Wasser's tenacity and future-facing attitude.
Looking ahead, Nakazato's ultimate goal is the circular city. It raises the age-long questions of modernity: What makes the city modern? How much of the city is imagined, and how much of it is real? Binding together traditional craftsmanship and technology, Nakazato's future city is one where the individual can live on their own terms whilst being a working part of a community - a sustainable and circular one at that. But as Nakazato highlights, we're currently stuck in an old system. If the past year of digital fashion weeks has shown us anything, it's that we cannot be afraid to innovate, to move forwards. Come July, the brand is set to celebrate their 10th anniversary. For Nakazato and team, it's full steam ahead.
Shop the collection here.