japaneseculture

The beauty of asymmetry, rooted in Japanese aesthetic

Understanding Japanese culture

Sakura

Here comes spring! After long gloomy weather, spring is finally here with us in Milano.
With some cherry blossoms, Milanese are having small aperitivo at the parks. I do love it.

In Japan, cherry blossoms are a national symbolic flower of the spring. We enjoy A LOT of cherry blossom viewing, called “hanami”, gathering together with family, friends, and colleagues under the trees. And we believe the best time for hanami is when the petals are fallen.

We also drink, but not as much fancy as the ones in Milano.

Japanese aesthetic


Japanese aesthetic

Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-Sabi is a traditional Japanese aesthetic worldview centred on the acceptance of imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is usually found in nature.

Japanese people find the most beauty out of the fallen cherry blossoms, not the fully-blooming flowers. Why? Because the sakura’s fleeting and its fragile nature perfectly fits our Wabi-Sabi beauty.

The cherry blossoms last only a few weeks. If it rains and breezes, they only live for a couple of days. A very short life, but this imperfection is what is significant in our aesthetic culture.

Asymmetry

Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Comme des Garçons, often expresses her Wabi-Sabi aesthetic through her sense of design.
Many of her creative garments are unfinished and asymmetrical, which is the opposite of western standard beauty. She finds emptiness in her fashion and appreciates “absent” rather than “present”.

Today, we can find many pieces of asymmetrical garments. Asymmetry is not just cool, but it is somehow deep in itself. The style is undefined and neutral. It gives freedom of expression to anyone who wears it.

If you haven’t checked the oversized denim blouson by ZUCCa, please, take a look. We are always inviting you to enjoy asymmetric beauty as we appreciate it.

Because it is very unique.

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A piece written by Kotono Sakai – a Japanese girl studying history and fashion at Cattolica university in Milan and interning for suite123

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Tabi (足袋) shoes, cool Japan?

Culture, traditions and fashion

The Tabi in today’s fashion

These days some high brands produce split-toe shoes called Tabi. Originally, Tabi are Japanese traditional socks with a separate section for the big toe and the rest. In Japanese, Tabi is written in “足袋” – literally meaning foot-pouch.

During the fashion week in Milano, I saw many Tabi boots and shoes from different brands. As a Japanese person, it was very interesting to see how Tabi shoes are becoming more and more fashion-iconic items nowadays.

Its simple, yet unique shape, is truly cool. I agree!

The history behind the Tabi

As you might picture, Tabi socks are usually worn with Zouri, footwear for Kimono. That is probably the most common image that people have of this item.

Yet, Tabi is not only for Zouri. It was used traditionally for various Japanese traditional footwear, such as Waraji (草鞋). Waraji is the rice straw rope sandals commonly worn during the Edo period.

In my 5th grade, I spent all my summer knitting 3 pairs of Waraji. My elementary school had a tradition that all the 5th graders hiked for 9 hours on “Kyu-kaido Ishidatami” – the old highway in Hakone, with their knitted Waraji. Of course, Tabi was a must with Waraji.

Tabi
Tabi and waraji hand-knitted sandals
Photo courtesy: Kotono Sakai

A mere traditional style?

It is intriguing that some high brands, such as Margiela, are inspired by the Tabi shape. Yet, Tabi has its own value and history behind it. It is culture, and it is tradition. Tabi is not just a trendy item.

So it would be disappointing if the people would consume Tabi as a mere fashion icon with simple “Japaneseness”.
Imagine if the fast fashion brands would mass-produce Tabi shaped shoes, making them even more accessible to general consumers. The value would no longer matter.

I am very pleased to see that Japanese traditional culture is being internationally appreciated and more recognized throughout different mediums. But if I saw an overuse or overconsumption of Tabi shaped shoes, I would perhaps get mixed feelings.

I encourage you to tell what is mass and what is special!

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A piece written by Kotono Sakai, a Japanese girl studying history and fashion at Cattolica university in Milan and interning for suite123

Tabi (足袋) shoes, cool Japan? Read More »