Tao Kurihara, closed her Signature Label after Seven Years

1 May
Tao Kurihara

It’s already 5 years ago, Tao Kurihara’s label, simply named Tao, ceased to exist. Under the umbrella of her mentor and Comme Des Garçons founder, Rei Kawakubo, Tao showed from a/w 2005 untill s/s 2011.

It all started with an elaborate re-working of the corset; only in Kurihara’s hands this was cable-knitted and came with a ruffled and also knitted lace trim and predominantly in less than overtly feminine school-uniform grey. Witty and pretty in the extreme, it quickly came to the attention of the more discerning fashion follower who, while she might not have been quite ready to buy into this aesthetic in bulk – it was as prohibitively expensive as it was extreme – would be more than happy to see and read about it. This she could do in the pages of W magazine which, for a debut collection, is elevated coverage indeed.

TaoPage in W magazineTao 2005

The famously media-shy Kawakubo, meanwhile, admired Kurihara’s work enough to make an exception to her rule of silence and comment in that magazine thus: “The Japanese don’t have the habit of praising their own family, but I thought the collection was good because it has a concept and youthfulness.”

Next came a collection based entirely on handkerchiefs – predominantly found, vintage Swiss handkerchiefs – and trench coats. “I was attracted to the strong, cool, definite form of trench coats,” Kurihara explained of that season’s offering. “But I wanted to make something very different from traditional, water-resistant and functional trenches. So I chose to work with something fragile and familiar: handkerchiefs.”

handkerchief trenchcoat

spring '06

Kurihara re-worked old-fashioned bedcovers too, into exquisite, rainbow-coloured stoles and, more spectacularly still, turned her attention to the wedding dress, playing off the overblown and ornamental genre with nothing more overtly feminine or obviously decorative than a classic man’s white shirt. “I thought the idea of a man’s shirt meeting a white dress was a beautiful one,” she told at the time. “It’s because it is worn only once. Some people get married a few times but they don’t, I would imagine, wear the same outfit or go on to wear their wedding dress again as part of their daily outfit.”ss 2007

summer '07

For this reason, she continued, at least some of the designs in the collection were crafted in plain white paper, only pleated and folded in a manner that might upstage even the most overblown meringue. “That makes sense to me,” Kurihara said. “Paper is so fragile and not appropriate for over-use. I thought a paper wedding dress would be more special than one that was crafted out of a more traditional and typically extravagant material.

spring '07White silk knit short-sleeve polo shirt, white craft paper skirt from -A shirt and a wedding dress-

“I think the best way to express myself is to do a small but concentrated and very condensed collection,” was how the designer explained any self-imposed limitations as far as theme was concerned. “I believe that when one sets such limitations some kind of strength occurs.”

From thereon in, Kurihara based her shows on everything from 1980s gym-wear – striped, in hot pink and edged with small but perfectly-formed crushed frills – to the twisting and knotting of great swathes of fabric and the type of uniform the most  toy soldier might like to wear. While her work was clearly indebted to Comme des Garçons in particular and to the Japanese school of design more generally – and with that a belief that experimentation, as far as both fabric, cut and proportion are concerned, was of prime importance, her aesthetic has always also been gently feminine and as playful and light-hearted as it is clever.

What she did share with both Kawakubo and Watanabe is an uncompromising disregard for anything as obvious as a passing trend or even anything even remotely people-pleasing.

Tao fall 2006fall 2006

fall 06Tao spring 2008spring '08

spring '08Tao fall 2008fall '08

fall '08Tao spring 2009spring '09

In fact – and in this she differs from her Comme des Garçons stablemates – Kurihara studied fashion in London at Central Saint Martin’s “a few classes behind Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo. I couldn’t find any Japanese universities and colleges where I could investigate my interests more deeply. I don’t deny that my national identity is reflected in my work. I think I’m influenced by where I grew up and especially by my experience at Comme des Garçons. However, I don’t think my way of working would change if I was another nationality. My standpoint would still be the same. Nationality is pure chance”.

Since graduation – and based once more back in Tokyo – her career path has, as she has always said, been entirely indebted to Comme des Garçons. After graduating, she worked as assistant to Junya Watanabe and, as well as designing her own collection, in 2002, took over from him (Watanabe) at the more accessible Comme des Garçons Tricot line alongside. She has been, she argues, “very lucky to work in an environment with 100 per cent free spirit”.

Tao fall 2009Tao Comme Des Garçons

fall '09

fall '09

fall '09 Tao fall 2010fall '10

fall '10Tao spring 2010spring '10

spring '10

spring '10Last Tao collection, spring 2011spring 2011

spring '11

spring 2011

spring 2011.j

Of her decision to stop work on her signature line in 2011, she says now that she was looking for “a change of my lifestyle – marriage could have been a trigger.”

Kurihara is, of course, not the first or last talented designer to make such a move and, although her presence in Paris is missed, she still continues to design Tricot, which is available in Dover Street Market in and enjoys a high profile in Japan. “My intention is to create the kind of everyday clothing that is new and exciting for this label.

Tricot Comme Des Garçons 

tricot CDG

tricot CDG

iiiinspired _ special story Tricot Comme des Garcons, so-en, feb 2011, ph Osamu Yokonami _013

iiiinspired _ special story Tricot Comme des Garcons, so-en, feb 2011, ph Osamu Yokonami _ 017

tricot CDG '13 '14

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info: http://www.independent.co.uk & http://www.vogue.com/fashion-showsows

tao-kurihara

 

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