Mame Kurogouchi’s Perfectly Imperfect Approach


By Paul McLauchlan

Maiko Kurogouchi’s shows typically take place in an anonymous gallery space. This approach serves her ornate creations well as the space illuminates the labour and craftsmanship of her garments. For Spring Summer 2024, however, she has switched things up. The venue will be Ogata, a sophisticated Japanese restaurant in the Marais, which was formerly a private mansion. Here, while guests sip tea and nibble on traditional pastries, the show becomes a transportive escape to Japan, and a more realistic experience than ever before. 


Having previously looked to bamboo basket-weaving, Jomon pottery, and Itajime Shibori, Kurogouchi has turned our attention to Arita ware, a broad term for Japanese porcelain. In particular, she was drawn to the imperfect, broken, or discarded pieces that correspond to the wabi-sabi philosophy. This translated into patterned dresses using shibori dyeing techniques, embossed denim resembling her favourite ceramics, and ceramic-beaded jewellery and buttons. Other highlights include shimmering organza representing the porcelain glaze and hand-painted motifs. The outing will prove as beautiful and imperfect as creation can be.  


“I draw inspiration from Japanese culture and my own daily life, but I always try to let them pass through my filter and I try to be honest about how I feel,” wrote Kurogouchi, in an email. 


How did you begin this collection?

This season the collection centres around Japanese porcelain’s rich craftsmanship and their history of pursuing “ideal” creation. I’ve always been interested in ceramics and I started to visit Arita ware towns in the Saga Prefecture, renowned for early Imari pottery which harbours memories of the dawn of Japanese porcelain in the first half of the 17th century. I’ve always wanted to create a collection around this theme and I finally started to delve into it for this season. 


Looking at how pottery is created is like witnessing alchemy – how familiar raw materials turn into a work of art that can be used in daily life is magical. I believe it can be an inspiration for all industries. I am inspired by the fact that the magic of beauty arises from the world around us. This collection is the result of my fascination and I am happy to share those memories with you.


How do you go from initial inspiration to execution?

I take a lot of time to field research and meet new people. In the beginning, I search for what moves me. It’s very intuitive in a way. Then once this takes shape, I think about what elements would be interesting to distill and translate into design. 


What part of the creation process is the most challenging?

It’s getting harder and harder to create garments. From sourcing materials to production, things we used to do in past collections are not necessarily possible now. I want to keep my creation pure but there are situations where adjustments are required. It is challenging, but also the fun part of the creation lies in contemplating how to make clothes in such situations.


What aspect of this collection brings you the most satisfaction or pride?

I cherish every process of the things that only existed in my imagination gradually get shaped and becoming clothes.


What are the values that mean the most to you, to your brand?

Being myself and being honest to my feelings is the most important thing. It is interesting to see how seemingly random events become personalised in my mind.


This interview was lightly edited.