In this interview with fashion designer Daichi Tabata, he shares with us the genesis of his ‘Cannnot Throw Away’ collection and a consumer-friendly approach to sustainable fashion.
Daichi Tabata’s ‘Cannot Throw Away’ collection is all about transferring personal experiences and memories into material mediums and sartorial expression. Inspired by the feelings of sentimental attachment people often have to their clothes, Daichi attempts to address the problems of fast fashion by advocating such sentimentality, revaluing what clothes really mean to us, and should mean to us, as consumers. His ‘Cannot Throw Away’ collection is an excellent example of how we, as individuals and consumers, may start to tackle the problems of waste and excess in the fashion industry. It all starts with changing our attitudes towards the clothes we have in our wardrobe.
Daichi Tabata’s History
You mentioned during your interview with 1Granary recently that you spent 2 years as a medic in the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force before moving to Tokyo. I feel like this background of yours has greatly influenced your current creative endeavors and inspirations. Can you share a bit more about this?
A: I had always dreamed of becoming a film director, and after graduating from high school I was going to go to a film school in Tokyo. But my parents didn’t want me to go to a film school. I was surprised and very upset by their opposition. I really wanted to go nonetheless, so I asked my father for help. He told me that I had to join the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) for at least two years or leave my family and go away. He basically asked me to choose one or the other. My father had been in the JGSDF in the past. He was a violent man who used to attack his family when he drank. I hated him more than anything in the world, so I thought I could cut him off.
But then I remembered this episode about him related to JGSDF. I was born in Okinawa, the area with the most typhoons in Japan. When I was very young, my uncle, who lived nearby, cut his arm on a piece of window glass and was badly injured. He lost a lot of blood and was dying, but my father was able to save his life by stopping the bleeding, which he learned in the JGSDF. It was the only thing I could respect about my father. Still, I was worried about joining the JGSDF. I had heard horrible stories of WW2 from older people. After much deliberation, I decided to become a medic in the JGSDF, because I wanted to do something that could help people, even if only a little.
I also wanted to join the JGSDF to get over my father, who I hated. After two years in the JGSDF, I was able to use the money I saved in the JGSDF to enter a film school in Tokyo. After graduating from the film school, I was working for a TV commercial production company when I met Coconogacco.
Other than your past experiences, what or who are your sources of inspiration?
A: Research related to past experiences and sensations, the background to the things and what I am thinking about now. This is where my inspiration comes from.
During the same interview, you mentioned that “Through making clothes, we are able to face the memories and sensations of the past.”. What do you mean by this?
A: When I make clothes, I start by reflecting on my own experiences. I think about the uncomfortable feelings I had when I was a child, my relationship with my parents, the local character of Okinawa, my time in the JGSDF, the stimulation I received at Coconogacco, the inexpressible feelings I had when I had my children. And I think about what was close to me at that time. I think of the bandages I used when I was in the JGSDF, the clothes my children used to wear…. When I hold them in my hands, what I felt then comes back to me. Then I mix them with what I feel now and recreate them as clothes. I feel that making clothes is a process of facing the past and understanding myself.
Reconstructing something as abstract as memories and sensations using material mediums sounds very tricky. How do you go about achieving this?
A: Yes, it’s difficult. I make a series of material prototypes using materials that relate to my memories and senses. And I keep prototyping until I get the texture I want.
I also do research related to the memories and sensations, in order to know the background of the event and what is related to it. I also do drawings to organize my thoughts.
As Daichi shared with me his childhood and emotional experiences, I could picture his ‘Cannot Throw Away’ collection unfold like a biographical narrative. He has successfully channeled his ‘memories and sensations’ into his collection and every single garment that he designed as a part of this project became a representative fragment of his memory. The collection itself embodies Daichi Tabata as a human being in all its sentimentality. There is something so beautiful about the designer’s history and wonderfully human experiences being visually mapped onto a collection. Through this, Daichi has truly elevated his fashion project into a work of art in the least ostentatious and pretentious way. It is simply sublime.
‘Cannot Throw Away’ Collection
Daichi’s project is a direct statement towards the wasteful excess produced by the fashion industry, especially with the emergence of fast fashion and its emphasis on consumerism. Through presenting his garments as artifacts of sentimentality that is inextricable from the sense of self, Daichi attempts to re-establish the relationship we have with the clothes we wear. Instead of thinking about clothes as mere products that are to be consumed, why don’t we treat each piece or garment as valuable debris of our past and self? Then, perhaps, we would not be able to throw them away as easily as we do now.
I would like to focus a bit more on your ‘Cannot Throw Away’ Collection. It’s breath-taking. Please tell us more about it!
A: It all started when I saw that my daughter’s clothes were getting out of size. When I saw her outgrown clothes, I felt that I couldn’t throw them away. Then I came across a photo book. It’s called “Happy Victims – Kyoichi TSUZUKI”. It’s about people’s sentiment for clothes. The feeling of not being able to throw away their clothes. I myself have a hard time throwing away my clothes, so I could relate to that photo book. In contrast to this theme of “love for clothes”, the world is in the age of fast fashion. With the advent of fast fashion, a lot of clothes are being thrown away. This is the reason why I decided to work on this theme.
What is your outlook on the environmental issue specifically in relation to the fashion industry?
A: With the advent of fast fashion, it is a good thing that young people with little money and those who do not spend a lot of money on clothes can now enjoy fashion easily. However, the availability of cheap and easy clothes can be a problem. The question is: “Are people losing their love for clothes?”. I think it’s important to make clothes that make people fall in love with clothes again.
One thing I noticed about your designs is that there is a conflicting co-existence of constraint and relief. The clothes look so breezy and light, but the fabric seems to wrap around the models’ bodies like bandages- Any comments on this?
A: The theme was ‘Feelings of “Unreality” and Problems of Sense of Self’. This theme is what I felt when I was a kid and when I was in the JGSDF. Unraveling it reveals external factors such as oppression from society and parents, a sense of alienation, and the frustration of restricted behavior. An unrealistic feeling that doesn’t feel real no matter what you do, a sense of security that moderate tightening gives you, a feeling that springs from within. I made them by weaving all these feelings together.
‘I made them by weaving all these feelings together.’. I think this best encapsulates what this collection is. He ‘weaved’ each strand of precious memory, emotion, and experience together to produce clothes that best represent him. Daichi attaches each garment to an invaluable meaning. This contrasts with most of our current practices as consumers of fashion. We are busy buying new clothes to stay trendy, as if we’ve accepted wastefulness as an inevitable consequence of looking fashionable. Daichi re-defines fashion as a mode of self-expression that is removed from the fleeting fads and trends. In the ‘Cannot Throw Away’ collection, ‘the look’ is not used as a vogue terminology. It is something inseparable from the person who wears it: ‘the look’ is a product of an individual’s sense of self.
Advice from Daichi Tabata
Please share with us any challenges that you often come across as a fashion designer- something that other young designers might relate to. How do you go about dealing with these setbacks?
A: To start a brand, you need initial costs. Hiring a patternmaker, buying fabrics, using exhibition space, hiring photographers, and models for photoshoots. It’s a lot of money. But it’s difficult to have a lot of money at the beginning. So, I think it’s better to make it happen little by little. I can think of a few problems I will face… How to develop the next new thing while presenting more and more collections, how I am going to be financially successful, how to get the word out. The answer is: we do what we can. We are just trying to be as creative as possible.
What are you currently working on? When is your next big project or collection? I would personally love to know!
A: I am currently working on a project to make clothes for people with physical disabilities, which will be released on the 5th of March 2021. It’s a challenge to face a body with physical characteristics that I’ve never faced before.
Would you let me interview you again when it launches? 😊
So many of our readers, I believe, feel that they are running out of inspiration and motivation to create something during this ongoing pandemic. What would be your advice to them?
A: The pandemic brought about an economic recession and changed the values of many people. It is difficult to create something that fits the new values. But I believe that this is the right time to make something that fits. Everyone has the potential to influence society. I myself have been talking to people more and more through the internet. It has become more difficult for me to meet people who used to be close to me. At first, I felt that I was getting further away from people. But now it is easier to connect with people who are physically far away. I have more opportunities to talk to people than ever before. I feel that this can be an opportunity for new inspiration.
I can’t thank you enough for participating in this interview and I look forward to your future creative endeavours and collections! 😊
A: Thank you too for your kind words. It has been an invaluable experience.
Not all of us have the talent nor the resources to do the amazing work Daichi does in this collection. However, we can counter the negative effects of fast fashion by changing our relationships with the clothes we have. Donate outfits you don’t wear anymore. Mend and fix garments that are ‘out of fashion’ to create something that suits your current taste. Sustainability has become an intimidating topic due to overwhelming media coverage and it’s easy to feel as if a sustainable lifestyle it is not within the capabilities of an average consumer. I thank Daichi Tabata for creating a collection that demonstrates a consumer-friendly approach to sustainability. The ‘Cannot Throw Away’ collection contains a humane and empowering message that aims to celebrate human existence, creativity, and selfhood- a creative endeavor I am overjoyed to encounter during these bleak and hard times.
Images: Daichi Tabata’s ‘Cannot Throw Away’ lookbook/ Pinterest_ Daichi Tabata