After leaving her job in fashion in 1997 to stay home and raise her daughter, Tokyo designer Chitose Abe had a revelation: “I realized that I really wanted to go back to making things,” she says. So she bought a pair of knitting needles and ten balls of yarn, and proceeded to hand-knit five garments. “At the time, the idea of creating a brand based on just five silhouettes seemed like a unique idea.”
Given her extensive experience as a pattern cutter for Rei Kawakubo and then as a longtime member of the design team for Junya Watanabe at Comme des Garçons, it wasn’t just the concept, but the craftwork and execution that gave Abe’s homespun enterprise wings. It’s been 16 years since those inaugural pieces comprised the genesis of Abe’s label, Sacai (a variation on her maiden name, Sakai), and now her womenswear is a fixture at 175 stores worldwide, with a fervent cult following to match.
For Sacai’s spring/summer collection, Abe played with contrasting constructions in typically clashing fabrics: floating ruffles and A-line shirtdresses; Army fatigues alongside paisleys and florals, all seemingly made for a marvelous day in the park. If there’s one constant, it’s that every collection is deeply rooted in the fabrics, all of which, other than lace, are custom-made for the label. And the resultant clothes are innovative in their clever reworkings on conventional forms, without ever seeming overwrought. Indeed, one could say that much of the label’s allure lies in Sacai’s slow and deliberate growth, all quietly overseen by Abe as sole owner. It’s not a label you’ll find at every major retailer—nor is that the 49-year-old designer’s intention. Investment offers have come her way, which she’s persistently declined, explaining, “I think the brand has become what it is because I have been in complete control of the creations as well as the business. It allows me to make decisions and not have regrets later.”
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