I have been travelling recently and in the process, picking up inspiration from my holidays. It is always interesting to see how different cultures react to fashion and in particular the Japanese. I have always been in awe of Japanese designers such as Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo for their bold use of pattern cutting in their designs. The clothes might now always be wearable but they always relay the designer’s point of view.
On my visit to Kyoto, I had envisioned that the Japanese would be wearing interesting garments but was shocked to see how simple their normal attire was. Maybe I am too spoilt in London where you see people using fashion to convey their mood/point of view. That said, although the Japanese have access to high end fashion brands, it was a lot of tunics, shirts, workwear, cotton, linen and simple shapes. The more places I went around Kyoto, the more I began to understand the culture of Zen. There was also the culture of conformity and not standing out from the crowd that I didn’t necessarily agree with but that’s my opinion. Nevertheless, it inspired me to think about wearing garments that are simple and and in a way Zen.
When I came back, I decided to make some linen shirts for summer (although it seems like we may not be having a summer this year!) but integrating inspirations from what I observed in Kyoto. In the process, I decided on a simple T-shirt with a bateau neck and longer hem at the back. To make it different, I decided to leave the side seams open with a strap that fastens from the front.
Initially I wore the shirt with the strap on the outside but it just draped funny so the straps were fastened inside with the back floating freely instead (make your own joke about capes here). I really like the way the garment flowed and how breezy it was. I didn’t mind the occasional back flash.
I used Irish linen as I’d had some good experience with it and loved the quality and drape. It is also a conscious effort to use a material that was more sustainable. It can be quite difficult to iron but I found that this is best done as soon as it has come out of the wash.
I also thought about the types of fastening that can be used and had always wanted to experiment with Neodymium magnets. I managed to get some small ones but when they arrived, there was a sheet warning me of the dangers of these powerful magnet. It did scare me at first and made me think about standing too close to people with pacemakers but then I did get weaker ones and when I wore it recently, I didn’t get stuck to the chair. It made fastening the straps so effortless so I may use it in the future as a method of hidden fastening.
I also experimented with the bateau neck (boat neck) as it was something that I had always wanted to try. Initially, the neckline was too wide so I added an extra piece at the back neckline and it now sits perfectly.
I’ve also made another shirt but with closed side seams. I wanted to compare the wearability of both but am sure will get lots of use from both of them providing the summer weather turns nicer.
With these cool looking linen shirts, I’ve encountered a problem though. The trousers/shorts that I wear with them must be as effortless to be paired up with. I’m sure I have a few in my wardrobe but it also means that I may have to think of new trouser styles that are as zen as the shirts.