“Her paintings speak to the present moment, bringing a fantasied worldview to life.”
While we were in confinement, I was thinking about how we could tell the story of the latest collection and also reflected the moment we were in, and this idea of “sento murals” came to mind. I remember seeing one when I was in Tokyo in a store and then I learned that it’s a traditional art form. The murals are painted onto the walls of public bath houses and are this art form unique to Japan. I quite enjoy the traditional nature of the art and its place in Japanese culture, but what really excited me was the idea of using this particular style of painting as background imagery in our campaign, creating a kind of fantasy landscape of positivity.
When we looked into it further, we found that among the small group of active mural painters, there is a young woman named Mizuki Tanaka. So we reached out to her and asked if she would paint some scenes of London and Notting Hill, the theme of this season’s collection. I didn’t make any specific requests for her. When working with an artist as talented as her, you have to let them be free to do what they want. From the first sketches, I was very excited. I could tell her murals were going to be fantastic.
If her work and UNIQLO and JW ANDERSON have something in common, I think it’s about this idea of craft and craftsmanship. Whether it’s clothing or art, it’s about how things are made, knowledge and this idea of history and tradition.
“The playful mix of colors and lines used in the UNIQLO and JW ANDERSON collection inspired me to paint with a new, fresh approach.”
When I was asked to join this project, I was genuinely stunned, because I felt my work to be the opposite of JW ANDERSON’s designs. My impressions of his designs are their creative use of lines, and the use of unlikely colors. By balancing these two aspects, he creates fresh, new designs. On the other hand, sento (public bath house) murals mostly are of Mt. Fuji or botanical motifs, all of which are organic in shape and hardly ever use straight lines. The color palette is incredibly simple, having just the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and white.
The fact that our styles are so different led me to believe that this would be a good collaboration. A typical request from the owner of a sento would be “Mt. Fuji,” but this time, the request was “a street in Notting Hill.” The buildings, doors and windows all have angular shapes, and I also intentionally used some pastel colors, to create contrast with the chic tones of the collection. To keep the essence of the sento murals I added the floating clouds in the style of “suyari-gasumi” found in Japanese paintings, and also kept some elements to using only white and the primary colors, creating a fantastical window to the world. These murals are a form of background painting, but through this collaboration, I was able to take on this new approach where the subject and the background enhanced one another, and it was an exciting experience for me.