Jane Daniels has always been interested in the collision between art and fashion. The creative director of the Jane Daniels label has degrees in both graphic art and fashion design, which she put to use when founding the business in 1986.
For her Autumn/Winter 2018 collection, Daniels travelled to Japan where she drew inspiration from local art, fashion and history. A contemporary fusion of architecture and culture, the collection combines fine tailoring with folded edges softened by tactile fabrics. A crisp colour palette of coral, cherry red, Mizu blue, Japanese Aizome indigo and chalk white offers a fresh take on winter dressing, perfect for easing into the colder seasons.
We caught up with Daniels to discuss her Japan trip and the AW18 collection.
Describe the elements of Japanese culture that inspired your AW18 range.
Before I travelled to Japan I did a great deal of research and was inspired by Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e prints and the colour palette he used. I was also inspired by ancient Japanese calligraphy and traditional men’s costumes, including the hakama wide-pleated pants and yukata.
How did you translate this into your designs?
Aside from the use of colours, I was able to create some prints that were realised onto luxurious silk for the collection. One of these was an ancient calligraphic document. Through my contacts with the Innovative Travel Company I was able to get the document examined by a group of older Japanese men in Kyoto, and was reassured that the script wasn’t in current use and therefore couldn’t cause offence. Other silk fabric highlights are inspired by Sumi ink watercolour painting and another from a historic multidirectional stripe. The new collection also features some abstract calligraphic linings hand-painted in our Auckland design studio. Stylistically, crossover fronts, origami twists, wraps and drapes inspired by the yukata and the art of Furoshiki fabric folding are all integral to the collection.
Do you have a favourite item from the collection?
Yes, a very angular jacket in a drapey Italian travel fabric. Throughout the fitting process of this design our fit models and design team have all been taken by this garment.
What do you see as the top trends of AW18?
To stay ahead of the trends I attend a fabric fair in Europe where textile artists sell their latest designs to be made into fabric. Once something is trending, you can then see a lot of it, as it trickles down to the mass-made in China market. A race to the floor in both price, quality and originality. My favourite designer is Yohji Yamamoto. He is not mainstream and is thoughtful about design. A great deal goes into every garment.
You took part in several art classes in Japan. What kind of classes did you do?
We love making things, so we tried 6 different art classes: indigo dyeing, wood block printing, shodo (calligraphy), sumi ink painting, gold leafing and shibori dyeing. The wood block printing and shodo both have very specific techniques and involved great precision. Indigo dyeing made me appreciate the beautiful scarves you see, as it was a long process and required climbing into huge big vats to clean them. Gold leafing was my favourite. You must use bamboo tweezers to handle the material because anything metal or synthetic ruins it. We were extremely lucky to learn from Noguchi Hakuya, the gold leaf art master. He explained the process of gold leafing to us over tea at his merchant townhouse – it was amazing. What was most interesting about all these art classes was the irrelevance of the language barrier – with art, they can show you.
JANE DANIEL’S GUIDE TO JAPAN
“Every store is an architectural space”,” Daniels says. “We walked all of Omotesando Street in Tokyo, the upmarket designer clothing area with Prada and Yohji Yamamoto. Takeshita Street is where all the young girls hang out, with pink sparkly clothing, fluoro hair, bright socks and playful accessories. We were surprised by how conservative the Japanese people were, in terms of fashion. Very few people were wearing Yohji, and there’s a much bigger market in Europe for brands like these. In fact, the Yohji store in Paris is much bigger and has a wider range.
Like many who travel to Japan, visiting temples was on Daniels’ list. “We saw all of the main temples, including Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto which was my favourite. It never became silver! It looks black. Other highlights were Kinkakuji, the golden pavilion,Kiyomizudera, the temple of pure water, and Fushimi Inari, a temple with 5000 vermilion gates winding up the hill. All of the temples were surrounded by beautiful raked stone gardens.” Daniels also recommends visiting local museums and the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Western Kyoto. For a bit of pampering, try a soak in the healing copper-coloured water at Arima Onsen hot springs in Kita-ku, Kobe.
One of the highlights of Daniels’ trip was her stay at the ryokan Echigoya in Narai-juku. Located on the ancient Nakasendo road between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo), Echigoya is the only original inn still operating. Daniels loved the history of the Nakasendo road, which the Emperor and his Samurai used to travel between the two cities. This history was represented in the old inn, which Daniels says had a beautiful cedarwood bath and gardens.
“My most memorable meal was actually at the Echigoya ryokan”, Daniels says, describing an incredible food tray featuring thirteen delicious local items. In Kyoto, Daniels recommends the food scene in Gion and Pontocho, where bustling alleyways are lined with restaurants offering everything Japanese. “If you can, try shredded beef in ginger”, she advises. “And Japanese plum wine – I tried it in Tokyo for the first time, and I drink it here now.”
Overall, Daniels’ favourite moment from the trip was a visit to Saiundo Fujimoto’s art supply shop in Kyoto. Owned by a husband-and-wife team, the store is hundreds of years old and supplies many of the world’s art shops. “It’s poster-sized and the husband and wife kneel among the product all day”, Daniel’s explains “There’s red paste for stamping, handmade watercolours, special chalk and dozens of unique brushes. It was just fascinating.”