1/8 Takamura, craftsmanship and experimentation
We interviewed Guillermo Vargas, founder and creative director of ⅛ Takamura, a mix of avant-garde and artisanal processes, which is emerging as one of the most distinctive creative lines in Mexican fashion. He told us about his beginnings in the industry, experimentation with clothing from around the world and how he is inspired by the disobedient spirit of Japanese/Parisian designers. That and more below:
180º: How did ⅛ Takamura come about?
Guillermo Vargas: I have had a degree in Fashion Design since I was very young, I did a technical degree, I worked a little, I did my degree and then I started working again. So I've been in the industry for 20 years or more. I worked making costumes, wedding dresses, sweaters at different stages of my life. I did a 3-month internship in New York, also in Paris, with Isabel Marant.
A few years ago I was working and wanted to make my brand, but I hadn't graduated, so I went to the Casa de Francia (Casa de Francia Institute of Higher Fashion Studies), where I studied my degree. The director told me “hey, if you want to get a degree that's great, but what is your dream?” I told her that I wanted to create my own brand, so she offered me to teach classes, a job that ends at 3 in the afternoon. And it seemed perfect to me, because I would dedicate the entire afternoon to my brand. But I was there for 6 years, and I discovered that teaching is too hard and demanding a job to come home and still do creative work. Later, a bazaar of new brands and products made by the students was organized at the school, where I entered, supporting the students' project, thinking of getting rid of the thorn of starting my own project. From there came ⅛ Takamura, along with another brand called Fusca, and little by little all the points came together so that the project was formed, as Steve Jobs said. Then I combined my experience with brands like Fábrica Social, working with artisans, and contacts that I made in fashion , such as photographers and fashion producers, joined together. And also my own students, later they looked for me to see if I wanted to sell their projects, or the projects where they worked, like Cynthia Castillo, who was also a designer at 180º SHOP. And that's how ⅛ Takamura came about. It's been 4 years, or 2, since I dedicated myself to it 100%.
180º: Who makes up the brand?
GV: There is Luis, a brave man who was my first intern and worked from the beginning, without any pay. Now that we are more formalized, he is the head of production. Then Jessica Arroniz came in, who is in charge of administration and clients. It's me, in the direction and design of the brand. We have two basic seamstresses, Paty and Margarita. There is also Nicolás, who takes care of the embroidery. He is a craftsman. It comes from the world of wedding dresses, evening dresses, which is a technique very similar to that used in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. So we returned to that technique, without directly copying the Isthmus style, but since it is a universal technique of thread, fabric, hook, needle, we tried to create something from that. We also have a group of artisans in Gualupita, with whom we have worked since 2012, four years ago. Although the project was not yet official, we began to do experimental questions with them. And there are also people who impress us, the suppliers, a very constant work team, because we see each other every week, we talk every third day. So that's our little industry.
180º: And speaking of the industry, what are the difficulties in positioning yourself as a brand within the fashion industry today?
GV: I think we are at a time when people are used to risking their money when acquiring new projects. People like to buy new things, they like national proposals, because there is a new revaluation, and we are now more aware. I hope it doesn't get lost, I hope not, because there are more and more local creative industries, in clothing, industrial design, even stationery. We are a great group of creative industries where people realize that there are creative Mexicans and we must consume them. So the market is almost ready. The real difficulties are the lack of industry and habits. What I mean is that there is no official calendar for small industries. There are calendars for businesses like the Iron Palace, Liverpool. But they are strategies for very large levels of production and investment. For us, the flow of money is not that fast or that big. So the biggest challenge is to train yourself as an entrepreneur and as an industrial agent, because the creative part is what we like the most and we don't mind training or keeping an eye on trends. What weighs most on us is what we are understanding now. And it's not that it costs us because we don't like it, but because whenever you learn it is painful. So that is the challenge, establishing the internal structure of the company.
180º: Do you think that Mexican design is in a good moment?
GV: Yes, I think there are now more projects, like Carmen Rion, like Fábrica Social, Carla Fernández, which are brands that have not really entered the mass distribution channels, but boutiques, sales spaces have been found, which They allow it to last 10, 15 years. Now I think that the next step is for other new brands, like us, to become very profitable, both for the worker, the collaborator and the buyer. But also for the dreamer, because sometimes the dreamer sacrifices a lot, but he does not know how many years he is going to sacrifice. There are people who have spent 10 years with the joy of making beautiful things, but it is very difficult to turn it into a profitable company. So I think the challenge now is to generate solid industries and more stable markets. But in Mexico we need to develop everything. All industries in Mexico are small. There are many good examples of mega-industries, such as automotive or oil, but at the value-added level, such as design, the size is small. I don't like to say it's just starting, because there are a lot of people who have done a lot of work for a long time. All of us in my generation are almost 40 years old, so we are not people who have just started, we are no longer emerging, but we are understanding as we go and we do not take our finger off the line. And there we will be. In any size or shape, but there we will continue designing. We are not designers because it is the best option, but because it is what we like the most.
180º: A while ago you said something about Comme des Garçons , is it a strong influence for you?
GV: I like Comme des Garcons both aesthetically and as a business model. Rei Kawakubo explains his business vision with an elementary phrase, “commercialize creativity.” So, with that conceptual freedom, the medium is clothing. She is a philosopher by training, and later she found that her ideal means of contributing something philosophically was clothing. That position seems incredible to me. And outside of that, she doesn't give any explanation for her collections, or why she does what she does. Although on the one hand she is very creative, on the other she is also very strict.
180º: Do you also have them in mind during your creative process or are there any other influences you can mention?
GV: I do think a lot about them, because if they had so much confidence in each other, why not me? They are very risky proposals. I had a boss who told me about when he started working in the industry, in the 80s. He traveled to Paris to buy materials that he brought to his father's business in Mexico. He says he saw the Comme des Garçons boutique in a small corner of Paris, and together with his co-workers and brothers, they went to see what the crazy people of Comme des Garçons were making , to make fun of them. Until one day they saw the Comme des Garçons logo on Place Vendôme, next to Chanel, in front of the Ritz. And then they knew that they were viewing it very wrong. But they never backed down, neither Yamamoto nor Kenzo, that whole generation of Japanese designers who came to Paris. I don't know if Mexico has the same thing, or if we are a brand that is going to change something in the vision of clothing or functionality, but at least I think that if they did it, why not us? At the end of the day, maybe we don't have to go to Paris to make our victory official, but we offer our community a different clothing proposal, with other values in terms of the process, the ideal practices. So it is there, but with that meaning.
180º: What are you looking for when you design? What are your fundamental lines?
GV: Basically, comfort, zero discomfort, because at the end of the day it is an item of clothing. It is something that is useful for a moment, it works to live it, not to suffer it. That's my vision. My aesthetic is there, but don't let it bother anyone. As a customer, if you already bought it, I hope you use it and forget about it, but when you remember, it may be because you like the way you look, or because of its usefulness, or because people recognize that you bring something different. So it is comfort, experimentation, that is, proposing something, but without forcing it too much. I don't like forcing people to go beyond what they want to wear. There are designers who are very purposeful, but suddenly, as a consumer, it is very difficult for you to use it. What I want is that despite being experimental garments, they are pleasant for the people who wear them.
Likewise, it is not always noticeable, but I usually base myself on clothing from around the world. There are times when it is obvious that they are Japanese pants, or a huipil, but in the end, I do not propose them as folkloric clothing, but as the success of human beings in creating pants with three rectangles, for example, that It's what interests me.
180º: Otherwise, calling it folklore could trivialize the history of the garments, right?
GV: The truth is that I don't bother much with that. Its origin is the folkloric world, but many times I do not work with any artisan. However, when you work with artisans, folklore stops having boundaries, suddenly you no longer understand what is folkloric and what is artisanal. They are processes. Some by hand, incredible, and others industrial, which are also very convenient.
180º: What projects related to fashion in Mexico are you currently interested in?GV: I really like what Fábrica Social does, that we share a space in Rome. Carla Fernandez. I look favorably on everyone, because I believe that all projects are tears of the dreamer and the people on the team. I really don't discriminate much when it comes to seeing. Later if I buy it, I don't buy it, it's something else. A brand that fascinates me is Unmarked, they are shoes that I wear every day. The guys seem incredible to me, their product is very comfortable and aesthetically they are my style. They also have an origin, from the footwear tradition of León. Pays also comes to mind. But perhaps there are some who are still very young and who still have to go through all the purgatory of quality, and the development of a personal proposal. There are times when they follow design trends, and generate brands based on that trend. But trends are trends and they change. So, the challenge for those who are already established is to continue creating new things in their particular style, and for those who are just starting out, they need to build their personal process.