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Texprint alumna’s story: Manri Kishimoto, Mannine

26 February 2015 by Jainnie Cho in Alumni Stories, Fashion

An optimistic energy is at the heart of Manri Kishimoto’s designs. The 32-year-old Japanese designer’s prints, bursting with colour and whimsical, nature-inspired themes, would put a smile on anyone’s face. “I’ve always wanted to work with colour rather than focus on shape and cutting skills. I wanted to make something fun but in simple silhouettes that are inspired by everyday things,” she says. Tellingly, her favourite designers and artists include Eley Kishimoto, Henri Matisse and David Hockney – all renowned for their use of colour.

This approach to textile design sings in her last two collections for her own label, Mannine (launched late 2013). Birds inspired the Spring/Summer collection for last year – “I like designing with nature and animals” – while the idea for her Autumn/Winter collection came from the music of French composer Pierre Henry.  “He collects sounds from around the city – the streets, parks and so on – and uses these sounds for his music. Similarly, I put normal, everyday stuff onto my textiles,” she says.

Manri Kishimoto

While Kishimoto’s student days weren’t without their challenges, they seem to have paid off swimmingly for the designer. Upon graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2012, she was chosen to participate in Texprint and went on to win the Pantone Colour Prize and the Lululemon Athletica Prize that year. Texprint also took her to Premiere Vision, an experience Kishimoto recalls as being “invaluable.” “When I was a student, I went to Premiere Vision to do research so I couldn’t believe that I was actually at Premier Vision showcasing my stuff,” the designer recalls.

With this experience under her belt, she went on to showcase at various other fairs around the world. At one in particular, she met buyers from Japanese department store Isetan, which led to the now Yokohama-based designer launching two collections for the store – one last year and one this March.

Mannine look book autumn/winter 2014

Texprint caught up with Kishimoto and talked about her fashion designing family, her travels around Japanese textile mills and her vision for Mannine.

I read that Grayson Perry wore your clothes. How did that happen?

At Central Saint Martins, we did a project with Grayson once. He voted for my collection and even wore one of my designs for a BBC programme. Actually, when I did my Texprint interview, one of the panel said he knew my clothes because he saw it on the TV show.

You grew up in quite a fashion-centric household, right?

Yes. Both my parents are fashion designers and so is my sister. I started doing a lot of embroidery and hand stitching at a young age – at around six years old. My mom taught me. I remember when I was in school, I made a lot of small dolls for my friends on their birthdays. When I was starting out, my sister and my parents gave me a lot of advice and direction. My dad has a special technique for pattern-cutting so that was helpful to learn.

Why did you decide to go to London and study textiles?

I visited London when I was very young. I loved the atmosphere – how people loved art and that it was so international. I’m very much influenced by European and Japanese culture. For example, I like how Europeans love old things. In Japan, we like new houses but we also love our shrines and old architecture as well. I like the idea of new and old living together. My job is creating new design but at the same time, I get my inspiration from stories, history and old stuff. 

So I wanted to study in London and applied for a foundation course at Central Saint Martins and got in.

You toured around Japanese textile mills at one point. Why?

After seven or so years in London, I wanted to know more about Japan and its great traditional textile culture. I visited many mills and printers, like a printing mill in Niigata; some in Kyoto, traditionally popular for textile design; Shizuoka for its famous cotton mills; and Fukui, famous for silk and synthetic fabric. When I was at school, I didn’t know where the fabric came from. I learned a lot about material from these trips.

Does your label name, Mannine, mean anything?

I took the first three letters from my name, Manri, and added the number nine. I like the number nine because it’s the biggest single digit number. I didn’t like the idea of using my full name and wanted to create something with no meaning.

What is the concept or philosophy behind Mannine?

I want to dedicate my clothes to people who like print, who enjoy print and colour and have fun with it. They are comfortable clothes. I don’t want to make tight dresses. People can take my clothes to travel around in and just have fun.

Exhibition booth at Machi exhibition Meguro Tokyo

After launching your label in 2013, you soon partnered with Isetan. How did this come about?

My first collection with Isetan was last September. I met some Isetan buyers at an exhibition and they picked up my AW collection and asked me to create something more from my graduate collection. I think they also liked that my clothes are accessible to everyone, regardless of age and size. I don’t have a particular target for age or size. My designs are quite flexible.

Fukumori store at Mansebashi Tokyo

And you have a second Isetan collection coming up this March?

Yes. My next collection for Isetan is launched on March 4 2015. It’s sizes 13 to 19 – so plus size. I like the idea of my clothes being open to all sizes. Along with this plus size collection, Isetan will also feature my fabric on a separate floor. Also, my own collection, the AW one, will be coming up at the end of March.

We say: well done Isetan for their creative vision – we just wish Mannine was available here in the UK!

Mannine at Isetan Japan, autumn winter 2014

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