Considering each body shape unique, Japanese brand ato continues to embrace such uniqueness through its fantastic collections. One of its best-sellers, the stoic slim and minimal tailored jacket, has also been favored by many stylists and editors.
“Japan has a long tradition of wearing kimonos and appreciates the beauty of layering. So I think many people still tend to avoid clothes that emphasise their body shape,” said ato designer Ato Matsumoto. “Skinny silhouettes have moved into mainstream now, but when I launched my brand in 1993, clothes were made to cover and hide the body.”
Striving to dispel the typical Japanese covered-up look, Matsumoto aims to do more than just designing body-conscious shapes. In order to accentuate the male or female body shape, he concentrates more on the silhouettes and intricate detailing – and this is one of the main reasons why ato attracts both men and women.
“Silhouettes change dramatically by carefully adjusting the pocket placements and waistline,” says Matsumoto. “A look can change easily with the use of alternative fabrics too, but I don’t like to rely on materials as much. I rather explore further possibilities by making small adjustments.”
“Consumers may find this hard to understand,” he continues. “But I would like people to think of this as our character. Heavily embellished, decorative garments maybe more obvious, but that just isn’t my style. I don’t feel the need to create exaggerated designs because I consider clothes as a tool to supports the wearers, not to outshine them.”
Matsumoto has been incorporating his strong brand identity into his designs since the brand launch, however, things haven’t been always easy.
“Ideally, I would like to offer more men’s-inspired and masculine designs for women. But most Japanese women opt for “kawaii” designs,” he says. “Cute designs wouldn’t be quite our style. But then it wouldn’t appeal if the designs were too masculine.”
Having had difficulty finding the common ground, Matsumoto decided to return to his roots, in a sense, and based his autumn/winter 2010/11 collection around the theme “unisex”. Using the same material, his collection demonstrated the creative boundaries between menswear and womenswear. “I was able to create different silhouettes from the same fabric because both body forms are completely different.”
Boosting energy from the gap between women’s needs and his desires, Matsumoto continues to explore new possibilities for womenswear. Very tough and challenging indeed.