An Op-Ed on the intersection of Culture and Sustainability in Japan
A multicultural phenomenon, the global fashion industry provides sustenance to designers from a plethora of cultural backgrounds. Exploring the lessons, traditional practises and cultural philosophies which might benefit the ethical fashion sector, I focused on two countries close to my heart; Ghana, the birthplace of my parents, and Japan, an intriguing country I studied in school (picking up an AS in Japanese). In doing so I wonder if the space where culture and fashion intersect provides progressive ground in the sustainable fashion conversation.
Japan’s Praise of Shadows
Globally fashion designers rely on culture beyond aesthetic inspiration, and now Japanese brands – from small independents to high street behemoths – are applying sustainable practises, directly influenced by ancestral tradition to innovate, tackle waste and deliver one-of-kind sustainable products. Three years after Dame Vivienne Westwood told the London crowd at her SS114 show to “Buy less, choose well, make it last…” – Japanese textile expert, designer and shop owner Reiko Sudo believes the remark, which “indicates that today’s fashion has lost relevance in new lifestyles, and that the value of treating clothes with care has been lost” tells a story of discernment and durability, and well-captures a growing zeitgeist in one of Japan’s subcultures. Fast-fashion is increasingly being challenged by more-value driven lifestyles, where culture exerts increasing influence; during the Edo period (1603-1868), a cherish, mend-and-darn philosophy was prevalent and now this Japanese spirit of “Mottainai” – which means not letting things that have value go to waste – is re-emerging.