From Designer Integrate intelligence and sensibility in to one. What ECOMACO would like to pass on through clothing.

Everything started from what I saw at the incineration plant

When various environmental problems were first talked about in the early 1990s, it was the issue of garbage that became particularly prominent in discussion. At the incineration plant I saw with my own eyes the massive volume of clothing that was disposed of. I was also hit by the reality of the plastic garbage that would never biodegrade, even after 100 or 200 years when it comes time to dig out the landfill. The following questions came across my mind, ‘Is it ok to throw away this much? ‘Is a disposable society cool?

These thoughts became the starting point of the present ECOMACO.

The population of the Earth has dramatically increased in the past 100 years from a mere one billion a century ago to over seven billion in 2011. In order to cope with this explosive population increase synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and rayon were developed. Likewise for dyes, as natural dyes shifted to chemical types.
However, I feel it is important to value new developments and technologies created to suit a need at a given time, hence I believe the changes in fabrics and dyes were important at the time to help support the population increase. Corn and sugarcane fibers which we have used can be viewed in the same way.

Until now, materials used to make synthetic fabrics have relied solely on petroleum based products. In addition, energy used for such things as powering automobiles and heating systems has been supplied almost exclusively from oil. Oil resources however, have limits. With this in mind, we must consider what sort of clothes, made from what material will man be wearing in the future? I believe that the 21st Century will be a time of ‘energy security’. The world is currently trying to secure energy from sources such as gas and solar power, and the fashion world is no exception. We therefore paid a great deal of attention to corn and sugarcane.

I wonder what the primary materials for makingproducts will be in the 21st Century?

After taking part in a fashion show at the Nagano Winter Olympics where I promoted polylactic acid fibers I received many questions from the media.

‘What is the most environmentally friendly thing to do?’ It might sound extreme to say, but the best thing to do would be to make nothing. In that case, what have we actually done? There is of course no answer to that. Whenever I thought about what I could express in my clothing lines, I always came back to the materials. ‘I want to make clothes like leaves, fully biodegradable.’ I first came across polylactic fibers made from corn in 1997. After devoting a lot of time to studying thread, I always thought that a thread is just like a baby at first. We have been using material so young and new, something that has only just come out on the market.

The clothes displayed at the Olympics had biodegraded after only a few years. Our strength had become a weakness. I always think strengths are weaknesses, and vice versa. However, if we nurture it, it will become an original product, not found anywhere else.
The first difficulty we faced was how to strike a balance between biodegradation and durability. Another matter to resolve was how to turn other demerits to our advantage, fabric having poor heat resistance for example. I took out a new patent to make crease effect fabrics.

I owe a lot to the cutting edge textile companies and the traditional craftsmen who have been working patiently with me. Nowadays, we are able to maintain a stable supply of crease effect fabrics, but the development and progress of materials is always uncertain, and a continual struggle. The current ECOMACO exists by working weaknesses to advantages, and by continuously improving our threads.

‘Be free’ and ‘Be myself’ are always in my themes.

‘To put on natural energy’ is a big part of the concept of ECOMACO. With the advancement these days in transportation, like the shinkansen bullet trains and air travel, as well as in communication devices such as computers and mobile phones, the more this generation experiences a sense of speed and technology, the more they want to surround themselves with something natural, and help to grow and nurture something beautiful.

I desire to be covered in something ‘settled’, something that gives stability and calmness. Clothes should possess the power of nature which has comfort, beauty and peacefulness that you can feel. The clothes that working women wear in the office, after work, in private and their homes should all have the same comfortable feeling. I want to make clothes that suit all occasions, that are truly ‘location free’.

What ECOMACO has aimed to do, and continues to aim to do is make clothes that help people relax. Clothing that is not only to protect you, but to also make others around you relax. Japanese women were once called ‘yamato-nadeshiko’, or patient and delicate, which are both positive characteristics. In other words, they are considerate and thoughtful. Regardless of whether it is a man or woman, these are characteristics I believe all Japanese people possess. We can treat guests considerately, without behaving like we are following a manual. We are thoughtful people. The fashion created here is not only a form of self-expression but cares for those around us and helps to make people feel relaxed. I truly believe so.

From now, ECOMACO would like to search deeper.

‘I want to be beautiful’ and ‘I want to look beautiful’ are inherent feelings of women everywhere. On the other hand, being environmentally friendly is something we can understand, something that is part of our intellect. Our goal is to combine the often contradictory senses of ‘feeling’ and ‘intellect’. We do not aim to send such loud messages as ‘reduce CO2’. Instead, when facing environmental questions our goal is participation, or asking ‘what can we do now for the future?, and what viable alternative materials are there to synthetic, petroleum based fibers?’ Materials produced from corn and sugarcane have shown great potential, and there may be others that could eventually produce lighter and better materials. When we consider the link between nature and future business possibilities, agriculture will hopefully play a big role.

When thinking about environmental issues, one of the most important considerations is how wasteful we are. With this in mind we started a project named ‘fragment of light’ in 2012, based on the concepts of ‘how wasteful’, ‘smile’ and ‘appreciation’ in a bid to turn ECOMACO’s fabric remnants in to smaller items. We are currently promoting ‘regional dyeing’: ECOMACO’s materials are dyed using rape blossoms, peony, or apple branches thinned out from trees and normally disposed of. We are using such materials to try and show the beautiful colors of nature. In this endeavor we are attempting to shed some light on the fact that all things are important, despite not being needed in a particular place and time. Everybody is thankful for the blessing of nature and a smile, and eventually everybody shows their appreciation with a simple ‘thank you’. This is our goal, and we hope our activities will help spread an environmental consciousness.

Profile OKA MASAKO
In 1998, during the Nagano Winter Olympic Games, Masako Oka had the chance to show off clothing made from polylactic acid textiles to the world. She attracted considerable attention from both inside Japan and abroad as a pioneer of the introduction of ecology in to fashion. Consequently she started ECOMACO in 2003. In 2012, the grand prize at the International Business Awards (Stevie Awards), regarded as the Oscars of the business world, was granted to her. At present Masako Oka concurrently holds the posts of Principal of Okagakuen Total Design Academy and Principal of Sugino Dressmaker Gakuin.

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