Meet Manonik, the New York-based brand radicalising the trajectory of slow fashion with handcrafted, one-off textile objects. As New York Fashion Week frenzy unfolds, NJAL slows the pace to explore the world of Yoshiyuki Minami, and his avant-garde label actively rejecting fashion’s incessant acceleration.
In the age of fast fashion, the impetus for any label, whether young or seasoned is to indulge the imperative in growing constantly, and fashion production must follow with an aggressive pace of production. The cycle is vicious and endless and quality is no longer a hallmark of a brand’s trusted legacy. Bygone manufacturing techniques which once assured durability are replaced by uniform industrial mechanisms to keep up with demand. This, however, is a latent generalisation, and there still remains fashion which is truly radical in its slowness.
NJAL is incredibly proud to represent over 20,000 designers in over 110 countries, all of whom resist industry ideals to grow too quickly, and preserve meticulous methods of manufacture and an intensely personal degree of involvement in their production process. The NJAL Shop is excited to welcome another avant-garde label who is eschewing convention at every turn, and defying fashion orthodoxy by cranking the brakes on fashion’s dizzying pace of production, with an approach to fashion that’s more closely aligned to a social experiment.
Yoshiyuki Minami’s MANONIK is a series of spontaneous explorations of hand-made textiles. It is also a type of economic and cultural experiment to explore sustainability, micro-production and an alternative perspective on our relationship with textile objects. It champions craftsmanship through traditional methods and processes that are often undervalued in an era of anonymous production and relentless consumption. NJAL waxes lyrical with the designer on core values like handmade, supply chain transparency, to critical industry problems to the designer’s complex web of inspirations.
How did you get into fashion?
For me, fashion is coincidental. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been interested in learning the construction of things. My infatuation with the art of textile making turned into a passion over the past few years as I gain more knowledge about the field. In retrospect, all my experiences have led me to where I am now.
Where are you from?
I’m from a city called, Niihama, in the prefecture of Ehime, Japan. In college, I had academic affairs with business, economic sociology, Italian, astronomy, and graphic design. I grew up surrounded by cultures and artefacts from different regions in the world which my father brought back with his business travels. I also learned Japanese traditions, like koto, tea ceremony, ikebana, calligraphy, sashiko, through which I unconsciously learned the concept Wabi Sabi.
Pared down to its barest essence and purist essentials, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and intellect in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, uncluttered and it reveres authenticity above all.
How do you define your particular style or approach to fashion?
People have described my work as raw, spontaneous, urban, process-driven, “conscious”, etc. I think all of these are valid. What I make is heavily based on the processes and techniques of traditional and contemporary textile making, not necessarily for fashion. I’d define my style in textile making as “unorthodox” or “improper” as I often improvise and combine methods that would make cultural preservationists scratch their heads.
What has influenced your approach?
My mother and her passion toward the handmade. My aunts and their varied practices in traditional Japanese arts. Americana. The propaganda for Freedom (which is an illusion). The Midwest. Rawness. Simplicity. Textile Arts Centre. Without which, what I’m doing wouldn’t have been possible. Discrimination and social inequality. Both immediate and vicarious. Leo Burnett’s “Most Important Book You’ll Ever Read,” which describes the qualities of a “Star Reacher”: the eyes of a child, the hands of a craftsman, the heart of a champion and the soul of a citizen.
What is the problem with fashion today?
It’s that too many in the industry only care about themselves and are blinded by myopic views of the future. This may be more of a cultural problem, than just with fashion.
What problems have you faced as an up & coming designer?
Credibility. I think as a new brand, people often question my worth even if what I’m doing may offer no comparison. I’m always optimistic that people will see the genuine nature of my brand, in time, as it continues to evolve.
What are you most proud of in your work?
That I’m contributing, hopefully, to the development of under-cultivated areas within textile making.
Tell us about how you run your business.
I consider my business as, sort of, a personal project or a social experiment, to figure out the equilibrium for me to continue pursuing my passion and to have a sustainable life. I’ve learned, in the past year, that the most important factor in being self-employed, though very rudimentary, is the health of my own, both physical and psychological.
I make balanced weekly plans, which include not just the time for my studio and administrative tasks, but also the time for physical and psychological maintenance. This means, limiting hours of the actual making, though thinking about the processes and new ideas never stops, sometimes not even in my dreams. Textile making is often very physical, which is why I love this field, but for me to be able to continue making, my body needs to be sound, as well as my mind.
What is sustainable luxury for you?
Sustainability, to me, has three sides.
1) Environmental sustainability in the processes we utilise to make garments.
2) Psychological (or mental) sustainability of those who make these garments
3) Financial sustainability, which is not necessarily profitability. I define luxury as the unparalleled care that was poured into the process of making, from sourcing materials to making cloths, to finishing garments. Sustainable luxury is all of these facets together.
Cash flow for designers is always a problem, how do you survive?
I started saving a few years back in an anticipation to start something new in my life. I did not know what exactly back then. Since I graduated from the AIR program at Textile Arts Centre, I scaled my life down to a small room that measures about 6 x 12 (ft). Currently, all my expenses, both personal and business-related, come out of my savings.
It seems like every city has a fashion award these days, do you think they are still relevant?
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that an award would validate our work. No, in the sense that we, as designers and makers, should not be concerned about the recognition from and the perception of others, in regards to what we do, because these often hinder and slow our growth.
Do you feel that school you study at dictates your style?
Yes. Different schools have different philosophies. Different professors have different POV’s. Different processes have different nuances and consequences. How we perceive the world and what we create in it will inevitably be dictated by what we internalise through our education. We cannot ignore the importance of the personal experiences outside of school, to be fair.
Where do you see yourself/your label for Autumn Winter 2030?
I’ll be 49 in 2030. Hopefully, MANONIK will be more than just a label, inspiring the next generations of our bright future.
For your chance to win this Motley Scarf by MANONIK, Follow NJAL on Instagram for all the details.
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