Text by Kei Benger
This summer, Cosmic Wonder transferred their studio from the city to the heart of the mountains in the Nara prefecture. This essential shift from an urban environment into the wilderness marks a new beginning for Cosmic Wonder in their effort to enhance their awareness of nature further, and simultaneously presents an ideal setting for exploring measures of circumventing existing manufacturing practices by appropriating alternative methods of producing clothing –a theme which they have continuously pursued throughout their practice.
Natural fabrics such as hand-woven choma and kudzu that have deep historical roots in Japanese clothes making, fabrics such as kasuri woven through traditional Japanese craftsmanship, natural dyed wool and cotton that are dyed without the use of chemical dyes or chemical treatments such as color clasps, are some of the core elements that are present within their latest works. With the belief that there exists a natural beauty embedded within traditional techniques, Cosmic Wonder hopes to create works that harmonize with nature and seeks to foster an opportunity of transforming our consciousness towards methods of producing clothing.
The fibers are removed by hand from the vines of a leguminous plant, and the yarn is hand-spun through a gradual and detailed procedure. The thread is hand-woven to create a natural fabric with a rich texture. The pristine color of the fabric is untreated and is true to its original material. The use of kudzu in Japan dates as far back as the Jomon period, making it one of Japan’s oldest fabrics.
Amidst the rising age of fast fashion where emphasis is placed heavily on churning out trends at a speedy pace, sustainability and an attention to the natural environment are aspects that are often over-looked. Cosmic Wonder’s approach focuses on creating clothing with a sustainable vision that not only expands an awareness of nature, but also establishes ties with traditional techniques and craftsmanship.
Miyako-asagi is pure Japanese silk that is made from silkworms raised on organic mulberry leaves. This silk is produced by three independent sericulturist families in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto, yet despite this traditional process having a long history in Japan, these three families are currently the sole preserves of this technique. The delicate and beautiful yellow color is a result of the silkworms possessing a specific gene that allows the antibacterial flavonoid composition to be extracted from the mulberry leaves. No chemical treatments are used throughout the entire process of raising the silkworms, and the fresh cocoons are reeled by hand so as to preserve the strength of the thread. Both the Miyako-asagi silk Obi tie dress and square dress are carefully crafted and finished by hand, instilling both the power of the fabric itself and the beauty of traditional design. A delicate and constructional silhouette is achieved through combining planar segments. A Yagasuri Omeshi Obi belt is produced with the traditional Nishijin brocade technique.
The cotton used for the Ryukyu indigo-dyed haori, was cultivated with organic farming methods in a field that is free of pesticides and fertilizers. The cotton is spun gently and slowly by hand using a traditional spinning wheel and finished on a loom, producing a soft and plush double-gauze fabric. The deep oceanic Ryukyu indigo blue is produced through multiple applications of natural plant dye (repeated 20 to 30 times) in order to create a vivid hue. This item is inspired by traditional Japanese work clothes that combine elements of functionality and aesthetic beauty. The texture of the natural dye presents a richness that matures and is achieved over time with continuous wear.
Fashion in the items that we wear and carry are very much a part of our daily lives, and throughout history have presented close ties to cultural and anthropological developments. However, through this gradual evolution over time, there are many sensitivities and cultural practices that have become lost under precedence of trends, time, and convenience. With a current necessity to increase awareness towards the natural environment and a noticeable decline in traditional techniques to make way for industrialized mass production, it is important more than ever to reconsider our values in fashion and the production of clothing. Cosmic Wonder’s use of natural materials and their collaboration with local and traditional craftsmanship, allows long-forgotten practices to resurface amidst a contemporary context and establishes a vision of sustainability that is both old and new at the same time. It is a hope of preserving traditional cultural values to be passed on to generations to come and is essentially a ‘process of finding beauty in the continuity between the future and past that we are at a risk of losing.’
We look upon their practice with eager anticipation as Cosmic Wonder takes their next evolutionary step towards the future.