By Chere Di Boscio
Born in Tokyo, Michiyo Hayes Kuramochi grew up around exquisite fashion. Her grandmother was a kimono maker who taught her how to sew by hand on the off-cuts of . Her first creations were clothes for dolls, which she fashioned from kimono materials when she was around eight years old.
Her fascination with fashion only grew. She attended the Setsu Mode Seminar art school in Tokyo, and upon graduating, her love of vintage fashion was channeled into buying 1960’s ~ 1970’s U.S vintage clothing for a store in Shimokitazawa, one of Tokyo’s vintage clothing meccas.
During her time as a fashion buyer, her consciousness regarding the use of vintage and deadstock clothing sources was honed, and she encountered many young people immersed in various underground movements and subcultures. Hungry for more, she moved to London, New York and Holland, picking up various skills, languages and bits of cultural information along the way.
Today, the budding designer lives in London where she manages to catch the eyes of even the most hardened fashionistas, thanks to her quirky creations that display a bit of ‘Illuminati Style’. Style mavens like Sass Brown are paying attention to Michiyo, and so are we!
Why is eco fashion important to you?
I love fashion. That’s why I felt so sad and angry when I discovered the dark side of the industry. The beauty of the surface hides the ugly sides of modern greedy production. Business success is very important for sure, yet, when you realise that what you are wearing represents the sacrificing of other’s lives, both now and in the future, the joy of fashion becomes corrupted. I’d like to see more positive changes there. That’s why I’m doing this; it’s my tiny revolution.
How is your collection eco friendly?
I’m concerned about created products with less-waste. My focus is to use up the things which are once forgotten, ignored, or unneeded. I try not to consume new materials at all, unless I can’t find from my preferred sources as vintage, second hand, deadstock, or roll-end fabrics.. I also use some recycled materials such as PET bottle felt and I’d really love to discover more about both high-tech and traditional eco-materials.
I use embroidery salvages as an important part of my design by deliberately showing it to state the origins, not waste such beautiful things. My appliques are often made out from my own off-cuts and damaged vintage clothes; I have a few boxes of small remnants.
At the moment, I occasionally use non-eco-materials, like the reflective fabrics I used in my recent collection, when I can’t find a better solution. It’s a little spice to make my collection individual. It’s quite striking to see when my graphical appliques in the fabric react to the lights, giving an extra function as well as being visually interesting. I admire people who do totally eco-designs, but I’m still in my process to attain this level.
Which other designers most inspire you?
Rei Kawakubo is one of my most admired figures. I had an opportunity to see her MET exhibition, I felt like seeing her inner universe through the exhibited garments. Basically, they are totally wearable art pieces. Her new collection featured one of my favorite Japanese artists, Makoto Takahashi. I admired what a cool choice she made!
I also love Cristóbal Balenciaga, since I visited his museum near San Sebastian, Basque. He did very detailed designs as well as super minimal. I think he was the real zero-waste designer, using almost Origami techniques, folding a square piece of fabric to create the desired shape.
From one-eyed pyramids and Saturn imagery to Mickey Mouse, there seems to be a lot of Illuminati symbolism in your work. Why?
I can’t stop my interest in modern myths and conspiracy theories; I see them as the adult versions of storybooks. These sorts of dark fantasies are one of my strong inspirations. I don’t say I believe (in the Illuminati) as 100% total truth, of course not! But I do think it makes sense if there are secretly powerful group(s) of people existing in this world, just as they do in children’s storybooks or comic books. I’d like to remind people of this through my designs, in my pop way!
How are you eco-friendly in your daily life?
To be honest, I do consume non-organic, non-vegan food. However, I create a lot of things myself, especially skincare. My toner is infused with 10 or more different sorts of herbs in white liqueur. I use the leftover herbs in a recycled muslin bag for the bath. My facial and body care items are similarly made. One of my favourite recipes is rosemary Vaseline. I have a few friends who love it as a gift in a reused container. I also use baking soda and citric acid for cleaning, washing and bathing, even shampooing.
What are your greatest ‘eco sins’?
I buy my souvenirs from 100 yen shops when I visit my family in Tokyo. I still use non-eco sewing notions, i.e, my signature as neon-coloured threads. I can list much more but I’m careful and aware to be less sinful as possible.
What’s your ultimate goal with the brand?
I’d like to have chances to showcase and stockists internationally, but beyond that, I’d love to make places with retail and work studio environment where I can collaborate with local creators and sell mine and their creations. Also, showing movies, serving nice foods, exhibiting arts and fitting garments for the customers and so on. Such a multi-functional space in wherever I’m inspired to be would be so amazing!
I also have a strong passion to discover and develop high-tech/traditional Eco-friendly/ethical productions. My dreams are huge!
Stylist: Modoka Marshall Okuda
Photo: Satoe Onizuka