This is Yoshi, Japan's "coolest kid" (he's 14) and my new spirit animal. So...why am I in front of a logo wall with him doing my best Mary Katherine Gallagher? To be honest, I was probably a little jet-lagged and delirious. And had a couple glasses of champagne by this point.
This is a snapshot from a dizzying six days in Tokyo. I was there to launch my collection of hand-embroidered jeans, jackets, t-shirts, totes and embroidery patterns with AGOLDE (Los Angeles) exclusively for Rose Bud boutique in Tokyo. At the same time, the store held an exhibition of my artwork in their new salon with a media preview and party. This was quite the to-do.
We hear about "collabs" and "new clothing collections" all the time. We also hear the discouraging tales about clothing companies blatantly ripping off artists' work.
How about an awesome story where that DIDN'T happen? Here you go...
Earlier this year, I took my most recent artwork to Citizen's of Humanity / AGOLDE's showroom in Los Angeles. They'd invited me to discuss doing something with my embroidery, their clothes, and a very influential store they worked with in Tokyo. I didn't know whose idea it was at the time. Why me? I don't really do embroidery on clothing. I get asked all the time (and I say no all the time). I'm not an embroiderer-for-hire, and I was a little hesitant...
What became clear, and made this project special to me, is that it would be the first time I'd put my artwork on clothing for a legitimate brand. I found AGOLDE very exciting, and there would be no commercial direction. They simply wanted my work. Specifically: Yuki, the Senior Buyer of Rose Bud wanted my work because she'd recently discovered it. But I wouldn't fully understand that until later. For now, I was working only with AGOLDE in Los Angeles, and they couldn't have been better.
So...a fashion project with no telling me what to do? No tinkering with my work? With a house that makes all of its clothes in Los Angeles? For a Japanese store exclusive?
YES. Yes to all of that.
My current artwork heavily features these "floating ribbons" of silk threads (from historic Au Ver à Soie)
The entrance display at Rose Bud's Shibuya flagship store.
I'd never done a project like this before, and a lot of the challenges were unknown to me. The amount of work it took, even with talented embroiderers Shannon and Nina doing the actual pieces from my samples, was daunting. The shepherding of this project took months. The results are precious and few.
There are only ten pairs of hand-embroidered jeans, ten "I'm the Only One I Trust" hand-embroidered denim jackets, thirty screen-printed t-shirts (with tiny, hand-embroidered x's in silk here and there), 100 screen-printed tote bags (also with silk x's stitched on them) and embroidery patterns of the skull and floating ribbon. The clothes are only available from Rose Bud in Japan. (The patterns are coming here soon.)
None of this would have been possible without a key person at AGOLDE and a team of wonderful people in Japan I was just about to meet...
They arranged for me to teach Japanese model Mei Nagasawa to embroider for SHE magazine:
Preparations for the press event and exhibition began...
And once the party started it became kind of a blur...
They asked me to sit and embroider for a while as a demonstration. Being immediately surrounded with cameras, like paparazzi circling for hand embroidery, is something I won't forget.
There was a panel discussion to explain the project: the renaissance of Rose Bud via this collaboration and the significance of the Au Ver à Soie silk threads used for the embroidery:
Working with AGOLDE and Rose Bud's team couldn't have been better or easier. Everyone was kind, supportive and ready to make something special happen. It's not often you can say that. It's rare.
Two key people made this project happen. Yuki Ohtsubo (the Senior Buyer of Rose Bud who discovered my work) and Alicia Joines of Citizens of Humanity / AGOLDE:
(Maybe I could get used to posing in front of a logo wall. Maybe we should erect one here at Sublime Stitching.)
Here are the wonderful people at Rose Bud who made this all come together!
Japan: I love you. This was my second trip Tokyo, and the hospitality and kindness we were shown meant we left a chunk of our hearts there. (That's my long-time boyfriend and fiancé next to me.) I can't wait to see these faces again. Special thanks to: Shiho, Rika, Akemi, Nao, Ms. Hanzawa and Ms. Kumagai.
So, don't despair. I hope you can see from this example what it looks like when clothing companies work with artists to make a little magic happen.
As Yuki said during the panel discussion: The goal wasn't to sell a lot of clothes, it was to put artwork on a few pieces of clothing that she hoped would be understood, valued and still be around in 100 years.