Japanese designer Maiko Kurogouchi on minimalism in fashion and her collaboration with Uniqlo
The new Mame Kurogouchi X Uniqlo collection is all about timeless silhouettes and re-imagined innerwear.
Japan-based global fashion brand Uniqlo has launched the Spring/Summer 2023 collection as part of its collaboration with Japanese designer Maiko Kurogouchi, who is behind the popular womenswear label Mame Kurogouchi. The label is known for incorporating traditional crafts and techniques and making it relevant for the contemporary woman.
The latest collection is the fifth edition in a series of collaborations between the brand and the designer and has the underlying elements that all the past editions have been known for—think delicate cuts, unique fabrics, and simple colours. Expect a capsule of items that marries innerwear with outerwear, in a summer-ready palette of various shades of blue. New additions include 3D knit mesh sweaters that can be worn even in warm weather, and dresses with classic, flowy silhouettes.
In conversation with Cosmopolitan India, Maiko Kurogouchi talks about the latest collection, finding inspiration in everyday Japanese crafts, and building a minimalist wardrobe.
Cosmopolitan India: Tell us about your collaboration with Uniqlo and your inspiration behind the same. What is your favourite piece from the collection and why?
Maiko Kurogouchi: The essence of this collaboration centres on the fact that it can be worn on an everyday basis. We made minor sizing adjustments to long-running items such as plunge bras and panties to enhance the fit, while also adding exciting new items. This is possible precisely because it’s an ongoing collaboration. This season we also brought the sheerness from last season front and centre. We incorporated items that when worn alone show the beauty of skin, and can be enjoyed layered too.
I like the bra slip. I find that I often wear innerwear like bra tops that are more relaxing. And this one item does it all—it’s a masterpiece.
CI: Your clothes are all about minimalist silhouettes and palettes. Do you see the concept of minimalism growing in fashion, especially with the increased conversation around consumption and sustainability in the industry?
MK: Since the health crisis, everyone has become more sensitive to the way things feel on the skin. Women increasingly want timeless items that are comfortable and can be worn for long periods, and that trend dovetails with the minimalist concept. It’s also about knowing yourself, which is very natural.
CI: If someone was building a minimalist wardrobe, which must-have pieces would you recommend?
MK: Beyond specific items, it’s important to treasure your body and treat it well. Clothing, and especially innerwear, is something you choose for yourself, not for others. You should wear pieces that lift you up, that surprise and delight you when you look in the mirror. If there’s an aspect of your body that you feel uneasy about, I recommend trying things at home first. Clothing provides the spark to recognize your own beauty, which I think is wonderful. I would be delighted if this collection allows more women to share the excitement of being even more beautiful by wearing innerwear and clothing.
CI: How do you strike a balance between taking inspiration from Japanese traditions and craft and at the same time making it relevant for today’s audience?
MK: As you have highlighted, my collection draws inspiration from Japanese traditions, folk art, and everyday items. However, I’m not trying to use these items as is. Rather, I am trying to learn from the past—the stories that led to the creation of such items, and understand the hearts and minds of the people who made them.
What fascinates me about folk crafts is that these are tools created for everyday life, meaning every tiny detail has been thoroughly thought out. It causes me to reflect on how the people from that time who created these items would use them and this continues to influence my own creations. I learn from the ideas of those who came before me, embrace them to benefit the lives of modern people, and approach clothing creation in a way that celebrates small, everyday joys.
At the same time, my collection was born from personal aspects of my memories and experiences, and as such they are very much autobiographical.
CI: What trends do you see coming up in the womenswear segment this year?
MK: I’m generally not conscious of trends, even in Japan, so I honestly don’t know. I continue to focus on offering timeless, beautiful clothing.