An Interview with Japanese Fashion Designer Hatsumi Yoshida

Photography By Studio Suna

Hatsumi Yoshida is Japanese fashion designer whose incredible pieces of clothing made out of unconventional materials has caught the eye of creative fashion enthusiasts from all over the world. In 1999, she decided to move her studio from Japan to Bali, and has been designing and creating her collections there ever since. Indonesia Design had the privilege to visit Hatsumi at her atelier in Bali at Panorama Cottages, and we spoke to her about her vision and her inspiration behind these one-of-a-kind creations.

What is your background in fashion? Have you always wanted to be a fashion designer?
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved playing around in nature and with things such as leaves, sticks and straw. My mother told a story about me when I was in kindergarten, and she said that I loved to play with garbage, and I loved going outside and taking things from the bush, and created things out of them. It’s funny because my mother said she asked if I made it for her or my aunt, and I always said no, I made it for myself (laughs) and I never looked back. I’ve never done anything else besides creating things and designing clothes out of nature. My simple background in fashion is this story and that I went to Bunka Fashion College (Bunka Fukuso Gakuin) in Tokyo to study.

What inspires you every day?
Wind, sunshine, my dog, food... (laughs) everything inspires me. Everyday different things inspire me and gives me an idea to create something. I think it’s important as a designer to always be motivated, and for me I keep that motivation high by going outside, and letting nature speak to me. Sometimes I would have a dream in the middle of the night that gives me an idea, so I would wake up, go down to my atelier and start designing at three in the morning. That’s why my house and atelier are in the same place, so whenever I get inspired to create something I can do it right away.

What types of materials do you use in your designs?
My specialty is using raw materials. I’m not interested in using things commonly considered as valuable, such as gemstones or works of art. I don’t even like using materials specifically manufactured for fashion creation such as buttons and cloth. I’d rather use things like banana fibres, fish scales, feathers, sponge, plastic, vinyl sheets, and sometimes even metal pieces.

Why do you only use natural, refurbished materials?
In my perspective, a designer is someone who makes value out of things that don’t have value yet. For example, diamond and silk are things that already have value. They are expensive and everybody wants them. But for me, I have no interest in working with something that already has value. I want to work with things that a lot of people deem as dirty or what they consider as garbage, and I want to create valuable things out of them.

For example in a building material store I heard something calling out for me from the top shelf. What I saw was a dirty old sponge sitting on top of the shelf resting itself in between building equipments. I couldn’t help but be curious and it was calling out for me. I decided not to take it, but then one of the staff members took the equipment next to that dirty grey sponge and accidentally tore it. Inside of that dirty outer layer was a beautiful array of colours such as pink, yellow, blue and green that bursted out.

Why did you decide to move to Bali?
I moved to Bali because I needed sunshine for my designing process. During this process I need to wash the fabric, glue them, dry them out in the sun, then I repeat this multiple times to get the results that I want. In Japan they have four seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Moreover, they have the rainy season in June for about a month. Japan is not just freezing cold, but sometimes snow would cover the entire surface of the ground, making my creation process impossible to do in Japan. And because I can’t work in these conditions I decided to move to Bali.

Now my atelier is located just outside the city of Kuta in a place called Panorama Cottages, which is a collection of separate cottages spread across a beautiful garden, it feels like a forest that once belonged to the royal family. I have met many nice people in Bali, and people who started as friends eventually became my workers. So, with my collection of friends, I greatly enjoy making clothes and accessories.

Can you tell us a little bit about some of the exhibitions you have participated in?
In February 2018 I participated in the 16th New Artist Unit (NAU) 21st Century Art Exhibition, and my artworks “Fuku” were exhibited in the National Art Centre in Tokyo. In July 2018 I directed my exhibition of “Wearable Art” at the Yamagata Prefecture Local Museum “Bunshokan” in Japan during the 11th International SHIBORI Symposium. I have also had numerous exhibitions in New York and recently had a fashion show in Jakarta

Where can people buy and enjoy your creations?
Right now my clothes can be purchased from Bali through wholesale; we only sell to retailers at the moment. Soon in Jakarta we will be available for purchase at Sunrise Gallery and Arcade at Fairmont Jakarta and Chic Mart in Kemang. Outside Indonesia I have had past exhibitions Japan and the US. In Japan my pieces were exhibited at Ginza Matsuya in Tokyo, Hankyu Umeda in Osaka, as well as Takashimaya in Nagoya and Yokohama. In the US I was featured at Gallery Max, An American Craftsman, Studio MIEKO MINTZ and Julie Artisans’ Gallery in New York, and Gump’s Department Store in San Francisco, Keiko Gallery in Boston, as well as Kobo in Seattle.

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