demure

couture hat amsterdam

About sustainability

Yuki Isshiki

As some of you may know, I originally come from Japan, which is known as a ‘trendy country’. Everything is pretty advanced there and attitude towards sustainability is no exception. However, while awareness for sustainability has been raised relatively recently worldwide, in Japan, it has been a core value of the culture since the beginning of history and there are three major reasons that I see.

Firstly, it is a country under heavy influence of Buddhism. The way they think is logical yet pragmatic. For example, before we start eating, instead of saying ‘Bon appetite’, we say ‘We are about to eat others’ life with most gratefulness and respect’. It means that, while we accept that we cannot physically survive without eating others’ lives animal-based or plant-based, it is important that we pay utmost respect to the sacrifice and try to keep such sacrifice to the minimum. And speaking of respect, we are also told not to forget all the effort that people made so we can have what we have. There were these people who produced the goods, then people who worked hard to bring these goods home. Wasting things would be a sign of disrespect to these hard-working people. My grandfather would say ‘If you think about these things, you wouldn’ t even leave a single grain of rice left in your ricebowl!. 

Secondly as a matter of a fact, despite apparent material abundance, Japan has always lived on little resources. To date, rice is the only thing they can supply themselves 100% domestically as a result of heavy governmental protection. Everything ielse s imported. In 70’s when there was this oil crisis, there was a rumour that we would even run out of toilet papers and people would rush into supermarket in panic. 

Thirdly, it was merely 70 years ago that the entire nation went through poverty and starvation during the World War II. My parents’ generation and the older have passed on their stories and have taught us how grateful we should be for the peace and other tings that come with it. 

The idea of sustainability therefore is my permanent personal value rather than something I have been made aware of recently and it certainly isn’t something I talk about to present my brand as ‘trendy’. Also, as you may realise by now, innovations and creativity that come from Japan are often result of people’s effort to enhance our living without wasting resources, be it on corporate or individual level. For example on a very individual level, when I was 10 year old, I told my father that I wanted a telescope to watch the surface of the moon. He first complained how much of luxury I was asking for, but next moment he would go and find small optical mirrors from some old equipments and a small piece of water pipe left in a building site and would build a telescope. It might have looked nothing like an expensive telescope, but I could indeed see the craters of the moon, the ring of Saturn and Jupiter with 4 of its largest satellites! 

When I opened my studio in September 2016, my business-savvy friend would tell me how important it was for me to make sure the look of the studio premise was up to the luxury standard and was appalled that I brought unused furniture from home. However, before a luxury brand owner, I am a person who was raised with values described as above and I could not make a compromise. Also I strongly believe that what makes my product ‘luxurious’ is the time, work and care that I put into each hat that I make and not the money I spend in new furniture for the studio (where I make a mess anyway!). 

Having said that, while I am an individual who values sustainability, I am also a fashion designer who is supposed to produce beautiful things. These days, if I say ‘this is an environmentally-friendly hat’,I  will probably get away to some extent even with an ugly hat made with scraps of fabrics in bad colours scheme. However, I take my job as a designer too seriously for that marketing plot. Of course, working with sustainability in mind often brings some limitation in terms of resources. However, this is where my ability as a designer is tested. Actually, as I said earlier, such limitation can drive you to be more creative, leading to some pleasantly surprising result! I would like to show a few examples of such projects below.

This bucket hat from AW19 collection (The first photo below) was made with small remnants of tweed used to make skipper caps. Because it was made of all the remnants, putting all the small pieces together in tact yet not showing any seams and also in the right colour scheme was a time-consuming challenge but I had spent long enough to collect enough to choose from. and textures. I made these pieces to order in consultation with customers so everyone had a unique piece with different gradation of colours.

Skipper caps made with ‘C-class’ denim from Japan and lined with Italian silk (The second photo below). B-class’ or ‘C-class’ fabric are the ones which have a few flows (unevenly woven part, small damages etc) and the shocking fact is that, in many cases, these fabrics are simply destroyed. However in Japan, they often sell them at a cost price or there are even factories which specialise in repairing these fabrics to the ‘A-class’. For me, avoiding the ‘flow’ part is easy and the small damage part are made into trims and other small things although I have to give it a little time to efficiently cut the fabrics and think about the designs so these ‘flows’ don’t look like flows. And when it comes to the silk used as lining, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, it was just that the big brand decided not to use this material and rolls and rolls of this beautiful silk were about to be dumped! Luckily, some rolls were saved by a friend of mine who was happy to share some with me. Otherwise, a skipper cap with handmade silk lining wouldn’ t be possible at the current price ;) 

Tur-Ban-Deau made with ‘vegan silk’ (The third photo below). ‘Vegan silk’ is made from cellulose extracted from wood waste, which makes this fabric in principle the same as viscose. However, the fabric used for these pieces are of ‘ball-gown quality’. Normally, the price of a bandeau (EUR49.5,-) is pretty much the same as the cost of this beautiful material but thanks to my fabric supplier who was willing to share the beauty at a much lower price because the pieces were trade samples. Meanwhile, turning these fabric with classic or almost ‘old-fashioned’ look into something more casual and easy to wear with possibility of being able to sell them at a reasonable price was an interesting challenge. Tur-Ban-Deau is a hairband with a small piece of elastic hidden in a cute knot and because of generous use of fabric, it can look as voluminous as a turban while wearing it is very easy. 

To care about resources while maintaining high standard of designs, Much of time, energy and professional knowledge are required. And I hope, all the effort that I make result in a product that looks and feels special and becomes something that you would like to wear for a long time. My biggest wish is that, instead of investing money into disposable fashion, people invest in the effort and creativity to optimise the potential of resources, and end up in a product that you can emotionally engage for a long time. 

It will probably not be the last time that I write about this issue. Thank you so much for your time to listen to my mumbling!

yuki

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Spring & Summer 2019 Collection

Yuki Isshiki


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The theme of demure Spring & Summer collection is 'Beach Wedding, Its Guests and the Morning After'. It however is not a bridal-only collection. Most of the pieces carry very casual air and you could definitely wear them daily. Shades of whites, natural linen colours and straw colours are clean and classic yet overall styles of the hats are very relaxed. Materials are all natural and high quality to survive the strong UV and life full of activities while looking chic. These pieces will hopefully make you feel special while enjoying summer holidays or commuting to work in the sun.
While producing this collection, I somehow had this story of a very modern wedding on my mind. A small gathering to celebrate the newly wed, private and relaxed. Everyone needs a hat because it is sunny on the beach. The groom may fall into the sand and the bride, instead of looking like a 'princess for a day' turns up in her favourite summer dress and roses made with washed out cottons. In-laws and some ex-es. A friend who used to be and maybe still is in love with one of the couple. Even maybe future lovers. Literally anything is possible and nothing is eternal these days and maybe because of that it feels magical for these people to get together to spend some carefree happy moments. So in this collection, there may be some traditional bridal cues in terms of colours (whit-ish) the styles are very individual as if each piece forms a character in this wedding story. And the white-ish shades that I chose have lots of nuances and textures. I was surprised myself
to have found some beautiful ivory waxed linens and some other beautiful white shades.

The beautiful campaign images were, like AW18,  produced by photographer Nicky Onderwater and stylist Thomas Vermeer. Both Thomas and Nicky have supported demure from the very beginning and brought so much inspirations to my work. Now that I run demure also as a business, my campaigns needs to reflect some commercial needs but lure of just going creative without thinking ‘Is it gonna sell?’ is so irresistible. And I love that my team also seems to share the same sense of 'guilty pleasure'. My quiet dream is to continue with this team and one day produce a little album. Please take a look at the images on my 'campaign pages' and get inspired.

As the days become longer and we see more of the sun, I wish you all lovely spring and summer with good UV protection!

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'Handmade' and 'Homemade'

Yuki Isshiki
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My teacher of hat-making (or millinery) is Prudence of Prudence Millinery, who has famously been making hats for Vivienne Westwood and other great brands as well as for her own. I strongly believe that she is the best in the world. While she is one of the sweetest person that I know, when it comes to making hats, she is uncompromising in her approach. I learned so much from her about couture work. There are so many words that she said that I still have close to my heart when working but I would like to share one of my favourite quotes from her.

During the class, she would often refer to something and say 'Um, this is 'home-made' rather than 'hand-made'. While Prudence finds the same amount of love in both 'home-made' and 'hand-made' things, as the best milliner in the world, she believes that the standards of techniques involved to produce 'hand=made' items are totally different from those employed to make something 'home-made'.

In order to be able to call a hat 'hand-made' or 'couture' instead of 'home-made', she taught us students very specific techniques many of which have been largely forgotten or ignored for commercial reasons. She also expected us to perfect the skills by taking time to do everything neatly. All the hand techniques were often complicated and hard to get it right. Every time we learned new stitches and new materials, it would take ages to make the most simple thing and I would often go home thinking 'Maybe I'm not good at this'. However Prudence would say 'Don't worry, don't rush. Speed will come with time. It is important that you learn the right skill to achieve the best aesthetic. You'd hate to see ugly sewing machine stitches on the brim of your hats, don't you!?  Take your time and never compromise on your standard. It makes your piece truly 'hand-made', not 'home-made'. I had to be patient and so did Prudence during my long training period.

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Craftsmanship has become a very popular concept and even pre-packaged biscuits sold at supermarket says it. I am actually not bitter about it at all because there is nothing wrong with the concept and we all have to say something nice to say to sell. However, I feel terribly sorry when I see people paying lots of money for something not-well-made because they are somehow tricke by the word 'craftsmanship'. Someone has somehow managed to blur the line between 'hand-made' and 'home-made'.

I'm sure it is still a little vague. If you are curious about difference between 'hand-made' and 'home-made', please come and visit my studio.  Once I tell you what to look at and why I do certain things certain way, the way you look at hats or any other products may change a bit. Then I hope that you will also realise that much more thoughts and care are put into your hats and what you pay is certainly invested into your hats, not into that vague 'brand experience' . OK, now this is also my excuse for not having a mahogany table and marble floor like a 'luxury shop' should do, which makes some of my business savvy friends freak out all the time!

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demure Skipper caps 'LBd'

Yuki Isshiki
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Skipper caps are far the most popular items sold at demure. Amongst them, the ones which come in black/blue/beige are popular and all the names of these colours happen to start with 'b' so I call this selection of caps 'LBd' or "Little Black/Blue/Beige demure'.

It's been a few years since skipper caps became trendy and elsewhere you may have started seeing other styles are gathering popularity but here in Amsterdam I think skippers will stay to become one of the classics. Casual and active style perfectly fit Amsterdam lifestyle and these caps with peak and headband are perfectly made for windy weather and biking.

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As far as LBd's are concerned, what make them popular is staying true to the classic while being unique in design. Also, I have taken practicalities and other things into consideration in making them.

1. Original patterns

The skipper caps that you may find elsewhere are in made using patterns and forms for original skippers caps which were meant to be for men and they in general have rather different facial features from women. I started drawing my patterns to address the difference. I have also developed several different patterns depending on which fabric I use or what customers are looking for. 'A skipper cap which can contain a bun of your hair on your bad hair day' is one example. With these patterns, proportions of different parts are well thought out (I have no idea how many times I repeated prototyping/drawing!) and I can of course make further adjustment according to customers' individual needs.

2. Fabric

I couldn't help but try the combination of rich tweeds, silk denim and other luxurious fabric with skipper shape. As a result, the caps can be worn for both casual and formal occasions and can be a part of lady-like look as well as more masculine style and my customers love them!

3. Other details

The band at the front, buttons and emblems are typical trim for skipper caps but minor difference in shapes and sizes of these things can even affect the way they enhance your facial features and i think I have been figuring out these secrets.....!

4. Sizing and the headband

The band which is underneath the main part of the cap often has hard plastic base and I hate it. It is not breathable at all and it often gives you headache. So I use cotton or linen canvas instead and that's why my caps are way more comfortable when you put them on.

5. Lining

Maybe this is a part which may not be seen but is a very important part because it touches your head directly. That's why I would love to use fabric made of natural fibres. And I would like them to be as luxurious as silk, vegan silk, cashmere/cotton mix, Cotton drill or Liberty Tana Lawn. Showing your style to the rest of the world is one thing, but I would like to add something that only YOU will know and enjoy. I think this leads to quiet confidence or 'demureness' by my definition.

These things are some of what make LBd's rather special. And because they are special, I would love you to wear them for a long time. To make it possible, I take much time to make them in the first place, and I would be more than happy to do the maintenance work such as changing the grosgrain ribbon in side the caps for free of charge. This way I can also keep in touch with my customers as they bring their beloved pieces back to me and it is always my utmost pleasure to hear them say 'Hey I wear this one all the time!'.

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Hello!

Yuki Isshiki
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an introduction

Yuki on demure

My shop is in the centre of beautiful little Amsterdam, but not on a  shopping street so it’s never busy. I get to talk to my customers which  is kind of important as a hat maker, not least because it’s not easy to  choose a hat.

Most of the conversations with my customers start with ‘I  have a huge head’, which is most of the time NOT the case. ‘I never  look good in hat’, is also common, and is also most often UNTRUE. These comments come from lack  of knowledge on hats as accessories (which are there to make you look  and feel better) of maybe lack of confidence and I’m here to assist you  by making suggestions based on my professional knowledge or personal  experience, not based on my incentive to sell and make money (If I did  everything based on the last, it’s me who ends up with returned goods  covered in make up).

Because demure is a ‘hobby-for-life-turned-into-a-little-business’ kind  of shop, I truly enjoy the process of chatting for good hour or two about  what I make, how happy I was to find this rare fabric, how long it took  me to make all the details and why I think you look great in certain  shapes and colours. If you think about it, every colour and shape and  character should have at least one complimenting colour/shape/mood and  if you are refusing to believe it, it may actually come from somewhere  inside you. That I totally understand. I come from Japan, which happens  to be known to be a fashion capital amongst many other things but one  not-so-nice things is that there is this atmosphere that ‘You have to be  certain way if you belong to certain group’, which often causes  unnecessary sense of insecurity in vulnerable hearts.

I was not one of  the trendy kids, not mixing well, always on a chubby end (by insane  Japanese standard). So whenever I had to pick up any piece of garment  for myself, I had to pay so much attention to superdetails to ensure  that it does not look too horrible on me (everyone remembers this brutal  phrase ‘if you are skinny, everything looks nice on you’ and I was the complete opposite, so technically there was none/hardly anything which  would look good on me). This is not the happiest memory of my youth but  two nice things came out of it. One, I totally feel your tiniest  insecurity and I’m the last one to take advantage of it. Two, with all  the hard work of finding out exactly what can compliment a look in terms  of shapes and colours, I can address the tiniest details so you feel  ‘Ah, this works!’.

When I started this project, I wanted to call it ‘demure’ (in all small  letters please!) because to me, this is the status you can be in when  you are truly comfortable and confident. Like, ‘Yep, I’m cool, period.’  My grandmother was that person. In the 1980’s when all the wealthy old  ladies were clad in Versace and Leonard and said my nana was ‘modest’  (which translated ‘poor’) because she was wearing all the beiges and  greys, not even knowing brands such as Daks and Aquascutum or not being  familiar with concept of bespoke tailoring. Meanwhile my grandmother  would just let them gossip and stuck to her own style as she knew  everything about clothes after growing up in a family which traded in  kimono fabrics. My humble goal is to appreciate all my customers to decisions to give me  a chance and for sharing their wishes and make sure that they all feel  ‘demure’ when put on my pieces.

My most favourite moment is when I hear a  customer say ‘I wear this one all the time!’ When s/he brings back a  well-used piece for maintenance and repairs. Once I saw Yohji Yamamoto saying on a Japanese TV show ‘I never felt  that I lost to any other fashion designers but when I see a friend  grabbing his old tatty coat every winter as if he wouldn’t survive the  cold without it, I feel sheer sense of defeat’. I would love to make such a hat for you.

demure studio shop, Korte Marnixstraat 5, 1013 HT Amsterdam

demure studio shop, Korte Marnixstraat 5, 1013 HT Amsterdam