#LookoutFor | Global Couture Project by Araki Koman
For those of you who remember, yes TLJ did work with illustrator Araki Koman, in a previous issue. But in issue 11, we ask you to #LookoutFor the Parisian, London-based artist's Global Couture project for which she is running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. The project, very interestingly lies in the exciting intersection between fashion, history, culture, and visual anthropology. Araki, who mostly works with black-and-white palettes, has been visually interpreting various traditional attires from different parts of the world, in this style. As an artist, her aim is in trying to build bridges across cultures and communities through her work.
Through most of her art, she invites people to rethink their relationship with appearances as it defines identity. She defines the Global Couture project as “a tribute to clothing aesthetic traditions from around the world through commissions and illustrated goods."
Edited bits of our conversation with her:
TLJ: Tell us how this project started. Why couture?
AK: “Global Couture” is a word play referring to the French term “Haute Couture” which means high fashion or luxury fashion. I wanted to pay tribute to traditional clothing, which are often used as inspiration by fashion designers, but [are] rarely openly celebrated in the fashion industry. I initially used that name for a Pinterest board [on which] I used to collect fashion-conscious visual anthropology pictures, and ended up using this inspiration board for my own illustrations
TLJ: So far, for the Kickstarter campaign, you've found over 100 backers. How are you publicising this and what do you think you're doing that's convincing people to back you (besides the merit of your art)?
AK: I prefer not to answer that question as I am still hustling to make it work!
TLJ: You’ve illustrated 31 women from 31 different countries. Why did you choose the specific countries that you did? Do you think you'll want to do more of these as you find more inspiration?
AK: I simply selected the pictures that inspired me the most while making sure to cover 31 countries (*for the duration of the month). My aim with the Kickstarter campaign is to complete the series while being commissioned to draw more women using real family pictures from a [campaign] backer’s heritage. Now close to the end of the campaign, it will most likely not happen this way as I got very few pledges for that specific commission. (*This is for those who pledge £50 to the project.)
Things don’t always go as planned, I’ll probably find another way to finish the series [and try to] include all countries in the world using “real” pictures.
TLJ: What is the research and process for each of these? And what archival sources are you drawing your inspiration from?
AK: I have been deeply inspired by the world’s diversity since as long as I can remember. During my childhood, I was the happiest when browsing Encarta encyclopedia for hours or watching my dad's anthropology documentaries VHS collection. Later on, I started documenting my interest through different blogs (Blasian, The Dope Traveler, OUM x YUKI) which aimed to give a voice to people with multicultural identities and experiences.
I like digging into vintage family photos and collecting imagery showcasing traditional and contemporary aesthetics from all over the world on my Pinterest account (fashion, interior, body adornment, folklore, muses...).
Then, I collect images, select the ones that inspire me the most, and then draw them with a fine line pen and black china ink marker.
I focus on the main silhouette with minimal lines while playing with ornaments and textile design details to bring depth to the illustration. I use black and white to bring homogeneity in diversity and help anyone relate and feel a bit closer to the subject.
TLJ: The theme we are running with this time is about clothes and the stories behind them. While illustrating these various traditional garments, what was the most interesting thing you learnt about each of their styles?
AK: I’ve learned that every single detail has a purpose. From the colours, material, patterns, shapes, traditional clothing play a significant role in shaping society and vice versa.
For example, I learned that some clothes can help identify the age, marital or social status and even mood of people. It’s very fascinating!
TLJ: You describe your style as minimalistic and inspired by wabi-sabi. But some of the dresses that you've illustrated aren't minimalistic at all. Can you tell us about how the two co-exist in your practice for the Global Couture project in specific?
AK: My illustrations can be very detailed. I still consider them minimalistic because I’ve managed to simplify even more complex designs and colours solely using black and white and a fine liner. The wabi-sabi aspect comes with the organic lines and the imperfections which I embrace wholeheartedly.
TLJ: What culture/picture was the hardest to illustrate? Was it just an artistic hurdle, or did you think there was something that you weren't inherently connecting with in some of these cases?
AK: Drawing was not difficult, but because I had to draw one country a day. Time management was my biggest challenge. I tried to avoid overly detailed outfits which couldn’t be drawn in an hour.
TLJ: We know its hard to choose, but now for some favourites:
The favourite outfit from all that you worked on?
AK: Bolivia. I enjoyed researching cholitas (female wrestlers) pictures. So much fun!
TLJ: And the favourite to learn more about?
AK: Guinea, as it was taken from my family picture.
TLJ: Your favourite final result?
TLJ: Do you have a favourite fabric?
AK: I love linen and cotton because they are resistant over time and shape very nicely. I love when they are textured.
TLJ: And a favourite garment in your wardrobe?
AK: I love my small haori collection from Japan.
Araki's Kickstarter campaign is open until 6 December 2017. You can see all the cool art she's making and pledge to support her here.