Fashion and empathy: a message from Japan| World Hope Forum 2021

ph: trendunionjp

I had the greatest Sunday morning virtually attending the World Hope Forum Japan 2021. Organized by Trend Union (Edelkoort Inc.) , the forum shed light on fashion, education and creativity in their interdependence with the Japanese social and geographic environment.

Here the main takeaways of the event:

Empathy in fashion means to reconnect with local communities  

It means to scale the focus down on SMEs, craftsmen and citizens’ groups. Small is not only beautiful, it has value potential also. Both private corporations like MUJI and governmental institutions like the Yamanashi prefecture are successfully exploring ways to support and develop the local talents and savoir faire. The long-term view is to reconfigure the unbalanced relationship between the centres and the peripheries of creative production.

Fashion is not a product. It is not structured knowledge either. It is people. 

As Hirofumi Kurino (Creative Director of UNITED ARROWS) put it, fashion is to be found in people’s daily lives. Fashion lives in our most mundane decisions, from the housewife hanging her laundry according to the items’ colours to the man buttoning his shirt’s collar (or leaving it unbuttoned). From this perspective nobody is “out of fashion,” Yoshikazu Yamagata (Fashion Designer and Founder) powerfully states. Yoshikazu’s unconventional fashion school (Coconogacco) welcomes individuals of all age ranges and walks of life to explore fashion as an expressive act through clothes and textiles, rather than a subject area to learn.

Circularity needs producers, consumers and decomposers. And a collaborative network between them

Our capitalistic understanding of production has overemphasized the role of producers and consumers neglecting that of the “decomposers”. From the study of food decomposition by Dr Tatsushi Fujiwara (Kyoto University) comes an invite to reconsider up-cycling as a fashion practice in its own right. One great case is NUNO, textile brand focussed on the creative re-use of kibiso (the outer layer of the silk cocoon, usually considered “waste”). And through NUNO’s manifold projects we learn that real up-cycle happens only when producers and consumers – other fashion and furniture design companies, museums and art institutions, the communities at large – are involved in a collaborative network.