Conceptual leather designer Tetsuya Ando of T.A.S and celebrated gothic ceramicist Kazumichi Maruoka teamed up for an exhibition and long awaited collaboration in Rocket Harajuku last week. It is a continuation of a dark Tokyo undercurrent that was brought to the fore by the fashion and sculpture of Julius’ Tatsuro Horikawa in the 00s, but has since retreated back into the underground and is starting to feel all the more refined because of it. The industrial and grunge influences are still there, but between the pair of designers more Japanese design sensibilities are starting to creep in, Maruoka reaching back to the gothic imagery and macabre beloved of pre-Meiji merchant culture, and T.A.S focusing on a simplification of leather work with a minimum of seams that goes right back to the idea of wrapping and folding a material over cutting it at the core of Japanese construction.
Together their work is looking as strong as ever and it is great to see them moving beyond lifestyle items and on to the accessories and clothes you are going to see below.
First we are going to look at Maruoka’s side of the exhibition that begins with a continuation of his wonderful series of flowerpots – the florals spouting from the skull being a key image of reincarnation used in Buddhist art.
A new addition to the line-up are these 4 eyed skulls which again turn up frequently in working class art from the Edo period – in particular prostitutes were known to carry ceramic netsuke of skulls and snakes as symbols of good luck.
Another new addition is this series of sake cups which together make a spinal column when not in use.
This Tibetan skull is a collaboration with Fangophilia who I recently commissioned a piece from.
And on a lighter note, a split skull turned bowl!
Moving on to T.A.S:
As someone who take the reins of leather at Julius T.A.S knows how to make a boot that will last a lifetime, but also offers them in rusted and worn finishes that look like they have already seen decades of use.
These are produced with Japanese brand (and favorite of mine) Siva.
On to his lifestyle items we find lampshades,
and even leather fragrance diffusers as well as more practical items.
I have to confess that my pictures of some of the textiles completely failed to do them justice, this fabric above actually has rolled leather strands running through the weave and below is leather covered with floral lace. I guess you will have to see it yourself to see how special these are.
The main event for me was their joint collaboration items that climaxed in this all leather haori. The sheer lengths of unblemished leather that have gone into this beauty are remarkable and the family crests are skulls as designed by Maruoka. Leather haori are actually quite common in Japanese fashion history and even turn up in fur on occasion, so it is wonderful to see this tradition kept alive and the quintessentially Japanese masculine shape it gives the wearer a pleasure I would give myself if I can handle the price tag.
Stand by for more underground fashion this week and hopefully more from this two fantastic creators in the future.