Photo: Courtesy of 45R

At a time when fashion is moving at an increasingly fast speed, Japanese artisanal label 45R’s slow fashion approach has clearly struck a chord with today’s increasingly discerning consumer. The comfortable, yet stylish pieces are created for this customer in mind, and are meticulously crafted from stitch to finish.

Its signature loose silhouettes and bohemian aesthetics are made to last—the clothes are created through through time-tested techniques of Japanese design and production, with a heavy focus on materials. Why? Brand successor, Midori Matsubara, compares the process of making clothes to cooking, “ If you cook with great ingredients, you don’t need to be heavy-handed with the seasoning and processing in order to get a wonderful dish at the end. It is the same for 45R.”

And now, 45R has expanded to a second store in Singapore, at Paragon Shopping Centre. We speak to the brand successor, Midori Matsubara, about the brand, design process, what else to look out for, and why we should learn from Japanese style.

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Photo: Courtesy of 45R

Is there a meaning behind the brand name, 45R?

The name 45R is inspired by the rotational speed of vinyl records—45rpm (revolutions per minute)—and it is a reminder to the brand to consistently produce good work.

Describe the style of your brand and the woman who shops at 45R.

From silhouettes to materials, 45R weaves in elements that are inspired by vintage style. The silhouette of our clothes is always unisex, even for our range of womenswear.

The 45R customer is not a trend-chasing fashionista, but rather, someone who appreciates the craftsmanship and values that the brand embodies.

Photo: Courtesy of 45R

You mention that you want to share the power of Japanese style to the world. What is Japanese style and why do you think the world needs to be exposed to this?

If you look at the world map, Japan is shaped like a wave and it is located on the eastern side of the hemisphere, where the sun first rises. To me, I think that elements of culture and fashion flow from different parts of the world and back to Japan. When people mention Japanese style, it is essentially a fusion of cultures and styles from all over the world.

In my opinion, I think that the world needs to be exposed to Japanese style because of the philosophy/ ideal that we live by—that is, to treasure your clothes as heirlooms and pass them on to the next generation.

With a materials first focus as part of the 45R’s brand ethos, why do you think it is so important to place a strong emphasis on materials?

It is like cooking. If you cook with great ingredients, you don’t need to be heavy-handed with the seasoning and processing in order to get a wonderful dish at the end. It is the same for 45R. We emphasise materials first, so that the end product is both natural and of the highest quality.

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Bird Silk Furoshikii, $450. Photo: Courtesy of 45R

You use traditional craftsmanship and artisanal methods in creating your clothing. Could you share with us a little bit of the process that goes behind making these clothes?

Khadi fabric is a favourite of 45R. It is traditionally handspun and hand-woven, with the beauty of handmade imperfections. Khadi is most famously Indian, since Mahatma Gandhi iconicized the fabric as an indigenous product made by local hands and resources in order to fight colonial and global influences. We love this material because there is a story of the spirit of India behind this material. We like mixing and matching elements of different cultures into one piece, through traditional methods like hand-sewing or hand-spinning.

Photo: Courtesy of 45R

Were there any conscious decisions when it comes to colour, and why? A lot of your clothes feature earthy colours, and most notably, shades of blue and indigo.

We get a lot of inspiration from vintage clothing. We have an extensive fabric library in the office where we reference from, and that’s how we select the colour palettes for our collections. Due to the vintage nature of the fabric swatches, the once-vibrant colours are now faded, which explains why most of our colours are earth-toned. This is also because, 50 years ago, there weren’t many chemical colours used in the production process to keep the colours bold for longer. Shades such as blue and indigo were what the working class used to wear—we recognize the beauty in this utilitarian colour. At 45R, we use natural ai dye, and it acts as an insect repellant, so it has a real function aside from being just an enigmatic colour. The indigo shade has been used since ancient times, and is a colour that Japanese continue to respect today.

Photo: Courtesy of 45R

You also have a Manzoku-Kobo Atelier section—could you share with us what sparked your interest in coming up with this concept?

Manzoku-Kobo Atelier is an alteration service that shares the same philosophy as 45R on slow fashion and mindful consumerism. As 45R clothes are built to be worn forever, we want to extend this service to our customers to help them enjoy their clothes longer. We also have a new concept called 45R Laundry, where we use a special cleaning agent to keep the clothes new, fresh, and healthy, so they can last longer. These services are all based and only available in Japan.

 If there is one item or collection that a new customer should look out for when approaching your brand, what would it be?

It would be the Star T-Shirt as it is our signature item. Made in 100% Zimbabwe cotton, the uneven weave gives it a dry-touch feel, best enjoyed in the Singapore weather. The price range is also lower and more affordable for customers who are new to 45R. After wearing it, we are confident they will come back to try other 45R ranges. It is a versatile piece that goes well with other clothing separates.

45R Indigo Star Tee Photo: 45R

In such a fast-paced fashion industry, are there any difficulties and/or advantages in adopting a slow fashion approach?

For me, the fashion industry is too fast-paced—I can’t keep up. But the advantage that our slow fashion approach has, in the case of 45R, is that we don’t follow a fixed fashion cycle or passing trends. Our designs are classic and timeless, so we have more focus in what we do, and work on details that truly matter—and that’s to make good clothes that wear well and last. In general, there are two categories of fashion customers—one who looks for fast-fashion and trendy pieces, and another who looks for comfortable clothes that they can wear forever. The latter is the 45R target audience. We always believe that once they become our customers, they are customers for life.

What has your journey into fashion been like, and what brought you to 45R?

I have always enjoyed kimonos and traditional Japanese garments, so when I was looking for a job and came across 45R, I was immediately attracted by how they were using a lot of traditional methods in their design and production. Even back when 45R was doing American vintage style, I was already a fan. When I was a student, I also came across the brand a lot, so when I finally graduated, I sought out a position at 45R. In the beginning, I started out as an assistant who helped with odd jobs before moving on to help in the different departments, such as pattern-making and textiles, to creative design. Then, I worked my way up from there.

Photo: Courtesy of 45R

Name one or a few of your personal inspirations when it comes to style.

I am inspired by objects of the past, as they often have stories and traditions behind their history—for example, folklores and myths in tribal cultures. I am also inspired by personalities such as Georgia O’ Keeffe, Shirasu Masako, and Coco Chanel. They are all women with strong perspectives. Aside from that, I enjoy looking at vintage photographs to see how women of the yesteryears dressed themselves.

How has Ms Yasumi Inoue inspired you in both work and life?

Yasumi-san still works now, even in her 60s. I’m inspired by how hardworking she is, and how she never stops working and learning to better herself. I really appreciate these virtues. I’m also inspired by her humility. Although she is considered very successful and well-known in the industry, she is still very hands-on and involved in the day-to-day work at 45R.

Photo: Courtesy of 45R

What are your plans in carrying the business forward? Any adaptations in terms of design or business strategy? Or things that you would like to improve on?

Currently, 45R is more focused on womenswear. I hope to expand the menswear range and develop 45R more as a lifestyle brand. There is a gap in the market between luxury brands and casual wear at the moment that 45R can really respond to. For customers who want to wear clothes made with quality craftsmanship, and has a vintage aesthetic, my goal is to ensure 45R become a natural extension of their lifestyles. I want 45R to be more integral to people’s lives, and not just a clothing choice that they make.

You have now opened a second store for 45R in Singapore. What has changed between the first time you set up shop here to now?

45R is expanding rapidly now. In terms of designing for an international audience, I need to reconsider fundamental elements such as sizing to materials used—even the weather in which the garments will be worn under. There are more concerns now than before when it comes to the design process.

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45R Paragon Outlet. Photo: Courtesy of 45R

Do you have any hopes for the future of fashion or retail? And what would that be?

The e-commerce landscape is very well-developed now. 45R is also involved in online retail, but I hope that retailers will continue to put in effort to build up their brick-and-mortar store as a touch point because the physical interaction with customers, along with the in-store brand experience matter in the long run. These are not things that online shopping can provide. 45R strives to offer a unique store experience, and you can always feel the connection between the brand and its products when you enter the store. Also, fashion, to me, is like a second layer of skin. It’s the nearest thing to your body that represents you. I hope that in future, there will be more personalization in fashion and trends will slower its pace, so customers can choose what is most suitable for them and their lifestyles with clarity, and not chase the next trend blindly.

Lastly, what are your hopes for the brand in the upcoming years?

In this increasingly digitalized world, I hope that people will start to appreciate handcrafted goods more as it bears the warmth of the artisan’s hands. It’s also my biggest wish for people to start appreciating this aspect of 45R. I hope to spread 45R’s philosophy of slow fashion—of buying lesser but better, to different parts of the world.

Catch some of the items from 45R’s Summer 2018 collection here:

45R is located at Capitol Piazza, #01-13/14, and Paragon Shopping Centre, #02-04/05.

For more information, visit their website