Residing and working in Italy, Japanese designer Issei Fujita has always been influenced by the traditional simplicity of clothing in his native country. He has translated this into Lumen et Umbra, through which he creates garments combining traditional craftsmanship with unique and innovative techniques.
Rewinding back about 12 years, Fujita, in his twenties at the time, came across garments from Maurizio Altieri’s Carpe Diem on a visit to a boutique in Osaka. Immediately fascinated by the work, he made the bold choice to travel to Italy to meet the man behind the label. In 1999 he began working for the label, doing research on materials and visual merchandising, feeding his passion for travelling with various people involved in the label. The experience of working on various stages of the creative process was essential to him, influencing his creative approach and laying the foundations for his label, Lumen et Umbra – “light and shadow” in ancient Latin.
Fujita’s earliest fashion related influences stem from childhood memories, sparking his interested to create his own clothing. “My mother always liked clothes from Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto. As a child, I saw her wearing these brands to express herself”, he reminisces.
In 2005, after working with Carpe Diem for six years, Fujita began working on a personal project related to clothing and photography, another passion of his. “I discovered a special technique to print on fabrics and other materials. I decided to start a small t-shirts collection, playing with light and shadows, in black and white.” In March 2006, he presented his small collection in Paris under the name Lumen et Umbra. The range of t-shirts utilizing a special printing technique was the first showcase from him as a photographer and designer, the presentation also featured a video produced by a very good friend of his, Alessandro Tinelli.
Lumen et Umbra began growing into more of label, with latter collections featuring a wider selection of garments from knit pieces to outerwear. His interest towards materials has led to extensive research in order to develop unique fabrics and methods to work with them. “I’m trying to mix materials used in the old times with new technologies. The Orbace is one of these; it’s a strong wool fabric made by a special craftsmanship and used during the Roman Empire making soldier’s clothes, it’s actually water-resistant.”
Another unique material from the current season is hemp harvested from Abaca plants, often used for ropes, fishing nets as well as specialty paper due to it’s natural characteristics of strength, flexibility and also water resistance. “I always like to test innovative treatments on experimental fabrics”, Fujita says. In the upcoming Lumen et Umbra collection, part of the knitwear range utilizes paper yarn while some pieces have carbon and metal mixed with natural materials like wool, cashmere, silk and cotton. The use of carbon in particular is a very unusual idea; when examining the garments up close one can see black streaks of fibres within the knit, whereas metal fibres create a crumbled effect on materials that still feel soft and luxurious.
Treatments are another significant element in the garments, such as airbrushing to create a unique texture on knit fabrics. “All these finishes are done by hand, one by one” Fujita explains. “I work with a team of people skilled in treatments, every collection has a special peculiarity that we work with.” All the work is created in Italy, different processes taking place in different locations, with Fujita following all the stages to build the final result. “I’ve had the chance to work with small factories that have an excellent tradition in manufacturing, we have a really close relationship with some of these craftsmen that we collaborate with.”
The label talks about Fujita’s personal style and his fascination with Japanese simplicity, combined with living his western reality. “What I am trying to do is to create a link between past and present, wildlife and big cities, tradition and modernity.” Inspired by everyday life and his passion for travelling, he hopes to see his aesthetic adapted rather than consumed. “I would like for people to approach my collection and wear my clothes with their personal style in mind”.(scoute)