Indigo Child: Japanese Boro

boro-3036-1I would like to introduce you to a new friend! Their name is Boro. Sure, the literal translation may be ‘rags’, but to me, they are a beautiful folk tale–and some of my favorite fabric!

Oh, it also encompasses an aesthetic and methodology of repairing and mending clothes and household textiles. Vintage boro quilts and work wear garments have become collectors’ items (ugh of course $$$), but that’s because they are revered for the intricacy of their mending and scraps of fabric used in their repair (often antique indigo-dyed kimono fabric scraps). The fact that the entire garment could then be disassembled and returned to its original form as a bolt of fabric is pretty remarkable in terms of sustainability! It begs the question: How can we maximize utility and minimize waste?

boro-3032-30verygoodoldboro22222_1024x1024In pre-industrial Japan, only the upper class dahlings were permitted to wear silk clothing. In contrast, commoners dressed in humble garments made from homespun coarse hemp and cotton fabrics. These same unrefined, handmade textiles were also employed to create utilitarian articles for the home.

boro-3036-10boro-3036-11From very ancient times until the 1600s, Japanese peasants wore clothing made from common hemp. Rural Japanese craftswomen spun the hemp and handloomed the fiber threads into usable fabric which was turned into everyday farm field clothing and household articles. The Japanese did not distinguish between linen and hemp, the two have similar fibers and appearance and are referred to by the same Japanese word, asa. One time, I madeout with a boy named Asa–and this is now cooler. Hemp fabric was the only material available for general use in Japan until the introduction of cotton.


Beginning in the Edo Period, seafaring Japanese traders sailed up and down the coastal waters trading in used, discarded indigo cotton cloth. This cloth was acquired in Western Japan and then sold into the poorer Northern rural and seaboard communities. Japanese farm women purchased these used fabrics and gave them new life by remaking them into boro field clothing (noragi), futon covers (futongawa) and other useful household textiles.


In the Northern Japanese islands industrious Japanese women worked with used cotton indigo dyed fabrics to perfect several sewing techniques in order to give renewed life to the secondhand cloth. They created new uses for these discarded materials by layering several pieces of cloth, attaching each together with sashiko stitching and then, if needed, boro patching them. Subsequently, these patchwork textiles could then be reassembled into warm clothing, futon covers and other common household items for the family’s use.


Sashiko is a traditional form of Japanese hand sewing that uses a simple running stitch sewn in repeating or interlocking patterns, usually piercing through several layers of fabric. From the 17th century onward, creative rural Japanese seamstresses discovered an important feature of sashiko stitching. If the layers of fabric were held together with sashiko stitching, home made hemp and cotton clothing provided much better protection from the elements, lasted longer and even added a creative and individual flare to their handmade garments. As a result, sashiko grew into a widely favored sewing technique and quickly became established throughout Japan for use as a utilitarian and dramatic embroidery.


The Japanese discovered that cotton was a difficult fabric to dye except with indigo. Consequently, organic indigo dye was widely used throughout Japan as a coloring and designing agent for cotton textiles. Kasuri, katazome and shibori patterns were popular and were often incorporated into the fabrics’ design. These patterns enriched the fabrics, evoking a feeling of joy and sometimes mythical significance, thereby helping to alleviate the routine drudgery of farm life.


At the time when Japan was struggling to recover from the devastation of the Second World War, the Japanese regarded boro textiles with great shame in that these utilitarian textiles served as an open reminder of Japan’s impoverished past. Today both Japanese and international collectors regard boro textiles as striking examples of a bygone and lost folk craft. These same textiles are cherished and collected for the stories they tell and the windows they open into Japanese folk culture and history.

boro-3122-8shikimonoboro2_1024x1024boro-3122-1I think it’s really special how this style was so looked down on, and now it’s regarded as some of the finest stitchwork and sewing in our history. I always preferred rags to riches, anyway! Hehe.

boro-3120-1I hope you enjoyed this post about being an Indigo Girl!

Historical text and photos from: Kimono Boy and Sri Threads

Anime Mini-Backpacks


When my best friend Kasey was in town visiting for the holidays, we went on a day trip to Little Tokyo in DTLA. We’re both big fans of kawaii, Japanese food/fashion/beauty products, and karaoke, so we thought this would be ideal! We found a huge anime megastore called Anime Jungle, which is located in the Little Tokyo Mall. While we were browsing, we happened upon two of the most adorable creations to have ever graced the world! Plush, mini-backpacks featuring some of the cutest anime creatures I’ve seen (“Tony Tony Chopper”, and “Soel”- the “Mokona Modoki”). Kasey gave me Tony Tony Chopper for my Christmas present and kept the Mokona for herself. They are best friends just like us. We didn’t know the backstories of either character, so I went hunting for information on Wiki!aaaGE5648-2Tony Tony Chopper is the doctor of the Straw Hat Pirates in the manga/anime series One Piece. Chopper is a reindeer that ate a Devil Fruit called the Hito Hito no Mi. He came from Drum Island. He is the sixth member of the crew and the fifth to join Luffy, as well as being the youngest member on board. He has a bounty of Beli100[6] due to being mistaken for the crew’s pet.

Most of the time, Chopper is a toddler-sized human/reindeer hybrid, but his Devil Fruit abilities allow him to change his appearance depending on the situation. Chopper’s left antler is braced at the base by a metal plate because it was reattached after being broken during his search for the Amiudake when he was younger (where he thought the Amiudake can cure Hiluluk’s disease) and ran into the leader of his old herd, who severely injured him. He usually wears a large pale red/pink fuzzy top hat with a sideways medical cross (given to him by Hiluluk) and a maroon pair of shorts. He also sometimes wears a blue backpack that has the same sideways medical cross as his hat. He also has a remarkable blue nose.

A running gag is that various characters in One Piece think Chopper is a tanuki (raccoon-dog, often simply translated as “a raccoon”) while in his Brain Point or hybrid form. The word “tonakai”, which is the Japanese word for “reindeer”, is where the “Tony” in Chopper’s name is derived from. His Heavy Point or human form is likewise mistaken for a gorilla (or an abominable snowman on his home island).

He loves cotton candy.


Mokona Modoki is the name given to the two rabbit-like creatures from Clamp’s sister series Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and xxxHolic (Also appearing in one of their earlier works, Magic Knight Rayearth). The name Mokona Modoki (or simply Mokona) refers to any or both characters, as they are never called by their real names. The Black Mokona’s real name is Larg while the White Mokona’s real name is Soel.


Larg and Soel are copies of the original Mokona, who appears in Magic Knight Rayearth (another Clamp series). The two were created by Yūko Ichihara and Clow Reed (who appear to be aware of the existence of Sakura Kinomoto and all of the events in her world). One day, Yūko and Clow encountered the original Mokona, who was traveling through different worlds, and Mokona provided Yūko and Clow with the knowledge of alternate dimensions. After learning that one day a Sakura and Syaoran from an alternate world would come to their world to ask for help, Yūko and Clow created the two Mokona, basing them on the original but with slight differences, such as difference in size and the ability to talk (whereas the original Mokona would only say “Puu!”). Each Mokona was also given an earring which matched the color of the gem on its forehead, the blue earring seals magic power while the red earring boosts magic power.

In Chapter 133 of Tsubasa, Yūko explained to the TRC group that the two Mokona were created in order to stop the plans of Fei Wong Reed’s wishes.

The full story of the two Mokona is told in Clamp’s Soel to Larg: Mokona=Modoki no Bouken (Soel and Larg: The Adventures of Mokona=Modoki).

We also learn in the Drama CD provided with the first Kei DVD that the Mokona chose the 14th of February for their birthday.

White Mokona (Soel):

+ Good at Drawing
+ Likes sweet food
+ Gem in the forehead.earring: Red/Magic

White Mokona is the manju-bun -like creature from Clamp’s Tsubasa Chronicle that possess several astonishing abilities, such as traveling to different worlds, teleporting objects from one world to another, and sensing strong auras. Mokona was what Yûko gave Syaoran and the others in return for the prices they paid, enabling them to go to different worlds in the search for Sakura’s feathers, and as we later find out, without Mokona they wouldn’t be able to communicate (except for Syaoran and Sakura, as they are from the same world) because they all come from different worlds and speak different languages. With the help of Black Mokona, Mokona is able to stay in contact with Yûko, and in the manga there is an illustration showing Mokona talking to Black Mokona in the background.

Mokona is also responsible for locating Sakura’s feathers, and whenever one is around it goes ‘mekkyon’ (scary face) for an instant, which alerts the others. Mokona is a very cheerful, optimistic and energetic being, and loves to tease Kurogane, who occasionally uses violence to get back at him. Similar to Larg, Soel has a strong fondness for alcoholic drinks. The name Soel comes from the rune Sôwilô meaning sun.

108 Secret Skills include:

Voice Imitation
Super Sneaky Entry
Travel Between Worlds (White Mokona only)
Clever Disguise
Understanding Lonely People
Super Suction Power (able to vary the strength)
Super Aspiration
Drawing Capabilities
Time Traveling
Feel the Feathers’ Wavelength
Writing kanji (Black Mokona is good at it)
Communicating Between Different Worlds (as seen in Tsubasa Chronicle)
Making Friends
Super Strength
Super Transformation (as seen in Tsubasa Chronicle)
Inhibit Magical Curses (White Mokona’s earring can do so as seen in the manga)
Teleport items between the Mokonas
Immune to bad luck
Drink alcohol
N’CHA Cannon (a reference to the manga series Doctor Slump)
Play Chess
Know when someone is sad.
Super Deductive Reasoning
Eating Apples Whole
Dramatic Performance

Kawaiiland Los Angeles

IMG_1263-2 Me in my Daniel Palillo dress with Rilakkuma 

On Saturday there was a very special event filled with many special creatures at Los Globos night club in Los Angeles: Kawaiiland!  I got to meet the San-X character Rilakkuma IRL and was clearly jumping for joy. There was J-pop music, artists and vendors selling kawaii goodies + Harajuku inspired wear, a fashion show, music performances, and my personal favorite (aside from the bear)- the patrons in lavish costuming!

IMG_1254 copyIMG_1302 copyDoo Doo Dolls booth

IMG_1311 copyIMG_1266 copyA giant Doo Doo doll that came running toward me

IMG_1277 copyIMG_1271 copyIMG_1267 copyIMG_1259 copyRilakkuma US gal

IMG_1295 copyStephanie Yanez and cute friend

IMG_1281 copyIMG_1264 copyIMG_1286 copyIMG_1283 copyIMG_1293 copyIMG_1297 copyIMG_1305 copyIMG_1304 copyIMG_1278 copyLaura Brown from Pretty Star Clothing


♡ *All photos by Jessie Askinazi* ♡


The Japanese company Fujiya’s mascot is called Peko-chan; she is a girl in pigtails with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth (mostly recognized from Milky candy packaging). When I was in middle school, I had an amazing powder blue Peko-chan baby tee from the Delia*s catalogue (omg remember those and Alloy catalogues?) I’ve always loved that character and I wanted to share some of the cuteness I found during my interweb search :)

Yoshikazu Yamagata + writtenafterwards

An old children’s harlequin costume hangs in the corner of Yoshikazu Yamagata’s central Tokyo studio. A shade of golden yellow that is both brilliant and aged, it hovers over us like a ghost, a memory of exuberance withered by time’s fatal passing. The designer tells me that when he found it as a wide-eyed 19-year-old at Portobello Road Market it stopped him in his tracks and made him wonder if one day he could make clothes like that. Eleven years have passed and he says he has always hung it wherever he has worked as a reminder of why he was first drawn to fashion.

After graduating from women’s wear at Central St Martins in London, Yoshi worked for labels including Ann-Sofie Back, McQUEEN, Kei Kagami and John Galliano before forming writtenafterwards with Kentaro Tamai in 2005. The first show they did was The Everyone’s New Clothes {above}, a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen on his 200th anniversary, and since then the tragic-comic duality of the faded yellow harlequin ensemble has been manifest in every collection.

According to Yoshi, he had never been good at verbal communication and always struggled to connect with other kids at school, but he discovered fashion as a mode of expression and exchange. Clothing exists next to the body as the most immediate means of communication between people, and writtenafterwards was founded on the notion of fashion as interaction.

It is fitting, then, that collaboration has always been such a major part of the label’s ethos. In 2007 Yoshi joined forces with the knit artist mafuyu on the My Town In My Home collection of wearable houses that could double as children’s toys (above), and he has done joint projects with the likes of designer Hedi Slamane (see here), photographer Naoki Honjo (below) and children’s picture book publisher elaelaopa. “I don’t want one designer, I want a community,” he says. “Ideally we will introduce secondary writtenafterwards lines from other designers, to foster more exchange.”

For the last five years Yoshi has also been focusing on teaching in the small fashion school he established, Coconogako. Unsatisfied with the current system of fashion education, he believes a teacher should be a collaborator, “not an old man talking to a young man, as the Japanese hierarchy structure dictates”. Countering the façade of exclusivity that usually plagues fashion, Coconogako admits school kids, young professionals and grandparents alike to create a dynamic and inclusive design/education system for exploring the possibilities of fashion and how it can be defined.

With a policy of accepting every idea that is proposed to him Yoshi says being a teacher can at times be overwhelming and difficult to balance with running his own label, but it is an integral part of his work as a designer. “I want to be as open as Bruno Munari,” he says, citing the Italian designer, teacher, inventor, artist, researcher and children’s book author as a major source of inspiration, and a reminder that teaching has been a vital part of the creative process for many of the world’s best designers. Yoshi’s favourite collection for writtenafterwards has been the 0-Points project he did last year in collaboration with the students at his college (see above). “Fashion comes from young people,” he says, “you have to always be open to the untrained.”

{article and photos courtesy of}

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