Representing the creative future

Fumika Oshima: “Being limited makes you more creative”

The CSM graduate shares her thoughts on finding new aesthetics outside of your old routines

The CSM graduate shares her thoughts on finding new aesthetics outside of your old routines

When Fumika Oshima enrolled on the BA Fashion course at CSM, she already had a love of vintage fabrics, but the print-clashing, patchwork aesthetic of her graduate collection was a far cry from her previous work. While studying, Fumika co-founded Proposition Clothing with vintage clothing collector Richard Spandler. A muted mix of minimalist styling and clean cuts, the Proposition manifesto provided strict guidelines for her designs. At CSM, the Japanese designer cut loose, staging an intervention for her own creative process. The gamble paid off, as she was made L’Oréal Professionnel Young Talent runner-up. With other designers moving indoors under lockdown and facing new obstacles in their old routines, there is something to be gleaned from Fumika’s decision to mix things up.

What was your experience of CSM? 

CSM itself was a bit disappointing. Sometimes I questioned the tutors’ advice and decided not to take it, but mostly because I believed in what I was doing. Generally, I was looking for a more collaborative style of education, where people from different departments would work together. Fashion felt very separate from everything else. I would have liked more access to other departments, so I could experiment and explore. That said, I miss the facilities a lot. I am struggling to find a decent printing space, but maybe being limited makes you more creative.  

How did Proposition come about? 

I love clothes with a sense of history and character, which is why upcycling vintage appeals to me. I met Richard while I was in London, because he was dealing old clothes and fabrics. Proposition was an opportunity to use the vintage fabrics he sourced and modernise them by applying my design skills. Because many of the clothes he sources have parts missing, we tend to cut them up and patch them back together. Our clothes almost look like part of history, because of the fabrics, but we have modified them into something more interesting. 

Having a brand is about making other people’s desires work with your own.”

How did your approach differ between your graduate collection and your brand? 

Having a brand is about making other people’s desires work with your own. My graduation collection was entirely for me, so it was very different. For the graduate collection, I was inspired by a Russian artist called Ilya Kabakov, who did an exhibition entitled ‘Ten Characters’. He didn’t believe in ego and identity, but in creating art the way you create literature. It’s more about expanding beyond your own identity into new possibilities. So, I developed six characters with different personalities and based my design decisions on what each of those characters would like to wear. Then I started collecting reference images. I wanted to do a lot of printing in this project, so I started experimenting with lots of colours. I never used much colour in previous collections, which is why I called this one ‘Making friends with enemies.’ Using colours and prints felt rebellious to me. From that point, it just flowed.

What do you think colour adds that was not previously part of Proposition? How does it change the tone of and response to a collection? 

I suppose colour makes designs easier to understand. Colours make a collection appear more diverse, which I like. The colours I used in my graduate collection clash, which is my way of saying that there is no right or wrong, just a singular reality seen from different perspectives. Using different colours can also help people abandon their preconceptions of a brand by challenging what they expect to see. I am trying to bring this into Proposition more. 

Aside from adding colour, what are your future plans for the brand? 

We are open to anything. I really enjoyed drawing more for my graduate collection and I discovered that I am good at knitting too. Some people take fashion and art so seriously, but I want to add a sense of fun and lightness to the brand. That means being more experimental and not being part of the ‘mega-machine’ of fashion. We are trying to do the opposite of the big fashion world. With coronavirus, it seems like that whole system is collapsing.

Using different colours can also help people abandon their preconceptions of a brand by challenging what they expect to see.”

Has coronavirus affected your business at all? 

Most of our stockists are in Japan, China and Korea. Chinese buyers were being very careful months ago, because their industry is in flux, but this applies to the rest of the world now too. Our brand is very small, so we work with limited quantities which helps. Because our supply chain is so close, we are relatively self-sufficient and able to make our products entirely in-house. The situation is changing every minute, so we need to see how it progresses. 

Do you think the fashion industry will be fundamentally changed because of coronavirus? 

Humans are vulnerable and we need clothing to veil our vulnerability, or enhance our self-expression. Until we all live in virtual reality, physical fashion will continue. 

Many people have suggested sustainable design will come to the fore post-pandemic. You have already been designing sustainably for a while – what are the particular technical challenges that arise, working with upcycled materials? 

Sustainability is such a normal thing for us to think about, because it feels very obvious or ‘common sense’ to us. For me, it is connected to why I love vintage. I love the warmth you feel from a piece of clothing which has been cared for and thought of as special for a really long time. I suppose you are limited because each piece of fabric is a one-off and they can be very fragile. When you touch old cotton cloth, it can disappear into dust. Some people can understand the beauty in that, other people struggle to see the beauty in damaged or worn clothing. I choose the stronger parts of vintage clothing and stitch them together in patches. 

It is also a lot less expensive to live here and there is more air to breathe, so you can be creative and still afford to live. Berlin freed me a little bit.”

How do you make upcycled clothing affordable, when it is such a labour-intensive process? 

That is really difficult, because I treat clothes as art instead of something disposable. These pieces are really special, because of their unique history, but if I sell them to a shop, they will be really expensive. I think it is easiest to sell directly to the customer. 

When you graduated from CSM, you moved to Berlin. What prompted that decision and how has it changed your approach to design and business? 

I took a year out before I graduated from CSM and spent some time in Berlin. It really affected me and my design aesthetic, because I found it to be so much less pretentious than London. In London and Japan, people take life so seriously, but Berlin is more relaxed. When I returned to Berlin after graduating, it felt like a natural fit, so designing came to me more naturally here as well. It is also a lot less expensive to live here and there is more air to breathe, so you can be creative and still afford to live. Berlin freed me a little bit.

1 Granary

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