japan / from concept to concrete / those things that “quicken the heart”

“I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?” ~ chris marker, sans soleil

how do we remember a space, a place, an experience? BOTH after we return “home” but also before we even make it there? this past week I met with my anthropology mentor (as in the professor who got me to come out to UC Berkeley from London) Dr Nelson Graburn, and we talked about the tourist gaze and what we are in search of when we go somewhere ~ how our  minds are already partially sculpted in what we hope to find, juxtaposed with the actual REAL experience of our journey, especially when these days much of it is about showing we are “ there” at that precise moment. Travel is a liminal space, many times a sacred space ~ a place away from home, and our ways of documenting it and then posting those images that convey where we are, are ways of communicating with “home” and letting others experience our trip with us, and through us. That is one way of reading it. Of course there are others… But this week Japan kept rearing its head, in my readings on Apple, Steve Jobs and his reverence for many things Japanese (including his Issey Miyake-designed black turtleneck), in discussions with a couple friends going there soon, and with Nelson, whose research on the anthropology of tourism, specifically in Japan ~ made me re-remember and re-think our trip to Tokyo and Kyoto 3 years ago… [Above, an image of Lloyd and I with Eiko after her SFMOMA talk; me wearing my very first kimono I made circa 2000, inspired by a John Galliano kimono I found in Sicily. I spent a week as her travel assistant (because of Tom Luddy!), just as I was completing my doctorate and beginning to make clothes…]

Below are a few musings and images from a place that I very much already had an idea of before I arrived, but simultaneously allowed the space and place to tell me where to look, how to see, what to feel… Arriving with the soundtrack of Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, the beauty of Wim Wender’s documentary on my favorite designer Yohji Yamamoto ~ Notebook on Cities and Clothes, the intimacy of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, Royal and August’s obsession with all things Miyazaki; the taste of Berkeley’s Ippuku, Oakland’s Ramen Shop, and Sylvan Brackett’s Peko-Peko / Rintaro, and the clothes of Yohji bought in Paris, Issey Miyake found at INA NYC, Tsumori Chisato from MAC in SF and my memories of spending the most inspiring week with costume designer/artist/icon Eiko Ishioka as her assistant just as I was starting to make clothes ~ I brought all of these moments with me as Lloyd and I boarded the plane for 12 days in Tokyo and Kyoto… below is a bit of what we found, how we saw ~

~~~~~ BEFORE / images from chris marker’s sans soleil ~~~~~


”living is like tearing through a museum. not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering ~ because you can’t take it in all at once.” ~ audrey hepburn


yohji yamamoto / the man, the influence


“start copying what you love. copy copy copy copy. at the end of the copy you will find yourself.” ~ yohji yamamoto


above / 2 portraits of and a black and white look from yohji yamamoto; 3 looks from my My Fair Lady collection final 2005 (also, inspired by a mix of commas des garcons and vivienne westwood).


eiko ishioka / the woman, the inspiration / “i’m not genius. i’m disciplined…”



above / eiko at work, and between two of her kimonos, one from Bram Stoker/Coppola’s Dracula; bottom, 3 looks from a “fabric on fabric” shoot / brocades, silks; Gary Oldman in an Eiko kimono, from Dracula; and 2 red brocade/silk/tulle looks from my Dracula-inspired collection.


issey miyake / from there to here




above / issey ~ on the runway, as himself, shot by irving penn, as a museum exhibition for an advertisement of his Pleats Please fragrance; my cari borja / around the world with Oscar installation at the De Young Museum in SF 2016. 


tsumori chisato / from woman, to girl…



above / iconic collections by tsumori, that always inspired my baby royal line, with the colors juxtaposed and cut-put collages…


junya watanabe / experimenting, experimental / the cult of commes des garcons / rei kawakubo


“Fashion is something that you can attach to yourself, put on, and through that interaction, the meaning of it is born.”
~rei kawakubo



above / different interpretations of volume, weight and silhouette from the more radical junya and commas des garcons collection to my translations of them into our “4th street collection/berkeley” (shot by heike liss), My Fair Lady runway show, and chez panisse collection (shot by gabrielle harber)


“I think perfection is ugly, somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.”  ~ yohji yamamoto

“If you have total freedom to design, you won’t get anything interesting. So I give myself restraints in order to kind of push myself through, to create something new. It’s the torture that I give myself, the pain and the struggle that I go through. So it’s self-given, but that’s the only way, I think, to make a strong, good new creation.” ~ rei kawakubo


these were my inspirations above ~ over the 15 years of making my clothing line; so I entered into the Japanese aesthetic landscape knowing much about its aesthetic in design, style and fashion…and to some extent film, food and space… below, is what we saw, or rather ~ what became immortalized through the still image, what stood out today as I went back in my mind to 2013… (Park Hyatt / Eatrip / Isetan / cignale enoteca / kiln, kyoto / jamrock / la jette / mori art museum / tsukiji market / studio ghibli / opening ceremony / 10 corso como / verve / shibuya 109 / ragtag)



“arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.” – italo calvino..    





Thought for the day: “happiness is the longing for repetition.” – Milan Kundera… ” it’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” – Muhammad Ali 




(thought of the day… as we head out to KYOTO – what are the “things that quicken your heart?”): “He spoke to me of Sei Shonagon, a lady in waiting to Princess Sadako at the beginning of the 11th century, in the Heian period. Do we ever know where history is really made? Rulers ruled and used complicated strategies to fight one another. Real power was in the hands of a family of hereditary regents; the emperor’s court had become nothing more than a place of intrigues and intellectual games. But by learning to draw a sort of melancholy comfort from the contemplation of the tiniest things this small group of idlers left a mark on Japanese sensibility much deeper than the mediocre thundering of the politicians. Shonagon had a passion for lists: the list of ‘elegant things,’ ‘distressing things,’ or even of ‘things not worth doing.’ One day she got the idea of drawing up a list of ‘things that quicken the heart.’ Not a bad criterion I realize when I’m filming; I bow to the economic miracle, but what I want to show you are the neighborhood celebrations. He wrote me: coming back through the Chiba coast I thought of Shonagon’s list, of all those signs one has only to name to quicken the heart, just name. To us, a sun is not quite a sun unless it’s radiant, and a spring not quite a spring unless it is limpid. Here to place adjectives would be so rude as leaving price tags on purchases. Japanese poetry never modifies. There is a way of saying boat, rock, mist, frog, crow, hail, heron, chrysanthemum, that includes them all. Newspapers have been filled recently with the story of a man from Nagoya. The woman he loved died last year and he drowned himself in work—Japanese style—like a madman. It seems he even made an important discovery in electronics. And then in the month of May he killed himself. They say he could not stand hearing the word ‘Spring.'” ~ chris marker, sans soleil






“But what gives the street its color in January, what makes it suddenly different is the appearance of kimono. In the street, in stores, in offices, even at the stock exchange on opening day, the girls take out their fur collared winter kimono…And when all the celebrations are over it remains only to pick up all the ornaments—all the accessories of the celebration—and by burning them, make a celebration. This is dondo-yaki, a Shinto blessing of the debris that have a right to immortality—like the dolls at Ueno. The last state—before their disappearance—of the poignancy of things. Daruma—the one eyed spirit—reigns supreme at the summit of the bonfire. Abandonment must be a feast; laceration must be a feast. And the farewell to all that one has lost, broken, used, must be ennobled by a ceremony…And then in its turn the journey entered the ‘zone,’ and Hayao showed me my images already affected by the moss of time, freed of the lie that had prolonged the existence of those moments swallowed by the spiral. When spring came, when every crow announced its arrival by raising his cry half a tone, I took the green train of the Yamanote line and got off at Tokyo station, near the central post office. Even if the street was empty I waited at the red light—Japanese style—so as to leave space for the spirits of the broken cars. Even if I was expecting no letter I stopped at the general delivery window, for one must honor the spirits of torn up letters, and at the airmail counter to salute the spirits of unmailed letters. I took the measure of the unbearable vanity of the West, that has never ceased to privilege being over non-being, what is spoken to what is left unsaid…A piece of chalk to follow the contours of what is not, or is no longer, or is not yet; the handwriting each one of us will use to compose his own list of ‘things that quicken the heart,’ to offer, or to erase. In that moment poetry will be made by everyone, and there will be emus in the ‘zone.’ He writes me from Japan. He writes me from Africa. He writes that he can now summon up the look on the face of the market lady of Praia that had lasted only the length of a film frame. Will there be a last letter?” ~ chris marker, sans soleil






Thought of the Day, October 6, 2013: the way you do one thing, is the way you do everything (tom waits)… from sushi at IKKYU in Ginza, coffee at Daibo in Omotesando to being served at the Japanese whiskey bar K6 in Kyoto…”Later he told me he had eaten at the restaurant in Nishi-nippori where Mr. Yamada practices the difficult art of ‘action cooking.’ He said that by watching carefully Mr. Yamada’s gestures and his way of mixing the ingredients one could meditate usefully on certain fundamental concepts common to painting, philosophy, and karate. He claimed that Mr. Yamada possessed in his humble way the essence of style, and consequently that it was up to him to use his invisible brush to write upon this first day in Tokyo the words ‘the end.'” ~ chris marker, Sans Soleil



“this time he is close to her, he speaks to her. she welcomes him without surprise. they are without memories, without plans. time builds itself painlessly around them. their only landmarks are the flavour of the moment they are living and the markings on the walls.” – chris marker, la jetee, 1962



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