Designer Spotlight: Hana Mitsui
Recycling is one of the easiest things we do every day to help the environment. We recycle clothes by giving them as hand-me-downs to younger relatives; we recycle glass, plastic and soda cans that can be made into new objects; we reuse old vegetables by tossing them into boiling water to make a quick soup for dinner. If you do any of these, you include recycling into your routine and lifestyle, almost like an instinct.
While for years this sustainable way of handling waste has been confined to households and communal garbage disposal, lately it has been lurking into people’s lives in unexpected but much appreciated ways, such as in fashion. The Zero Waste philosophy, a concept we’ve often discussed here on The Fashion Foot, is a reality: designers learn how to cut their fabric so that no material is leftover. And where there is waste, they reuse it to amplify the fabric’s texture or simply decorate their clothes. The results are fine works of art that are wearable, sustainable, and of high quality.
Hana Mitsui, an emerging Japanese textile designer, doesn’t talk about Zero Waste, but her technique is based on the same desire to avoid leftovers– or to “add value” to it, as she says on her website.“There are a huge amount of waste materials from the fashion industry every season, and I have been working with them,” she explains. “I innovate the way to utilize the waste materials and create original yarns out of it.” Her attention to sustainability, though, is not utopistic. She is convinced fashion alone cannot solve environmental problems, but its role is rather to create awareness about the issue. Thus, even if one piece of clothing cannot be a solution, its nature forces people to think about sustainability and to carry that thought around wherever they go.
As a designer, Mitsui still needs to learn how the industry really work, but she doesn’t rule out the possibility to explore the European market in the future. “I am inspired by European designer as they create things I have never seen before. It’s also interesting to see how they translate Asian culture into their design,” she says enthusiastically. Mitsui, who graduated from Tama Art University in Japan in 2012 and from the Royal College of Art this same year, has received the Visionary Process Award at the 2014 SustainRCA Show & Award for this different take on fabric recycling. The technique she employed involves the collection of fabric leftovers and yarns which are woven together to create stunning abstract patterns inspired by the ancient art of sakiori that dates back to 18th century Japan. During the Edo-era, sakiori clothing was common among peasants, who weaved the remaining threads from shredded kimonos to create durable, warm, and cheap clothes. “I would like to continue creating pieces inspired by the philosophy of Japanese traditional textiles as they include many ideas about sustainability,” she explains. “They always inspire me to create something new.”
Ultimately, Mitsui didn’t earn the prize just because of her skills and her sustainable way of thinking, but also because she was able to consider such a possibility for the future of fashion and the environment while being inspired by her past and her traditions. She borrowed from her own national identity to create a bridge that links together our hopes for the future and her personal view of the present. Call them clothes or revelations, but what they are is simply pure art.
Written by: Alice Demurtas