You can tell that Jeremy McAlpine, founder of Munich based brand Blackyoto, has a true passion for this special project that literally revives Vintage clothing. The magic about this collection are the stories coming with it. Sourced and hand-picked all across Europe and Japan, on flea markets, through vintage dealers and fortunate finds on house clearings (did i said house? well, that's a bit understated, let's better speak, and dream, of castles, old farms and other special locations) all pieces are unique, left in their original state and tinted in the deep trademark Blackyoto-Black.
Even though it's only over Skype, it's captivating to see him touch the most delicate vintage kimonos, holding up a Biedermeier blouse with intricate embroidery, a culotte that has been worn by—yes, whom? A question you will ask yourself with every piece you lay your hands on.
When we first contact Blackyoto to set up an interview we are invited to follow the making of it through all steps and places from design to production to showing during fashion week and finally see the product presented in store, via pictures taken in Munich, Kyoto, Paris, and, finally, at it's sales destinations.
Said and done. 2 weeks after our first Skype we meet again. This time in person, in Paris. The showroom team is lovely an unpretentious and makes you feel instantly at home. Miho, whom i met earlier on Skype, is there, and of course Jeremy McAlpine, who immediately draws us into his stories, creating excitement through his own excitement. Together we browse through the collection, i run my fingers over the beautiful fabrics, he pulls out piece after piece, each one having its very own charm and story. My eyes get caught by a couple of jackets featuring a contemporary looking skull embroidery on their back. Jeremy explains:
"The embroidery is applied by hand by a Munich based artist. It features the original 'sign' of Kondō Isami who was born into a Samurai family shortly before the Edo epoche." He shows me a picture on his mobile phone taken of an Original from the museum in Kyoto. The original embroidery on it looks surprisingly modern, and in the embroidery the exact same chain structure used back then is used. "Today Kondō Isami is often compared to Robin Hood. He is a hero in Japan, know through a TV docu about his life." tells McAlpine and Miho adds: "He could be recognized by the skull embroidery on the back of his jacket. An embroidery added by his wife to protect him from his enemies."
More Samurais heroes found their ways into the collection I learn, when Jeremy shows me me a picture of freedom seeking outlaw Samurai Sakamoto Ryoma, who was assassinated in 1867, because he rejected the traditional Confucian-samurai values and the discriminatory class structure. His free spirit was also expressed in his way to dress, explains McAlpine: "He was the first Samurai to dress “cross-over” and representing the opening of Japan towards the Western world, wearing Western boots, a Samurai sword, but also a Smith & Wesson revolver."
There is so much to discover: We arrive at the Biedermeier (well, often it's hard to say from time they exactly date back) rack with pieces featuring original labels and accessories.
Seeing all these amazing pieces we are curious to know if the future will bring us pieces that were re-designed (copied?) from finds that were best sellers...
"What we do now is Up-cycling of old kimono fabrics. We have contacts in Kyoto who produce for us modern pieces from those vintage fabrics. We buy raw silk fabric bahnen, which have been dyed before, e.g. with Kanoko, a Japanese tye-dye technique and from those we produce contemporary pieces that match the spirit of our collection.
Sometimes we find pieces that are, “too good to dye”, e.g. vintage wedding kimonos that are beautiful just as they are.
And then there are pieces that are only partly overdyed, beautiful kimonos with flower pattern whose colors take on the black differently than the rest of the fabric. Red turns out as a muted orange, the pattern, still there, can only be imagined now.
At the end of our tour he shows me incredibly soft Roberto Collina jumpers, made in Italy, given the Blackyoto touch with appliquées from vintage obi belts, some of them turned to the back, so the delicate structure of threads makes of the pattern an abstract piece of art.
Und dann gibt es doch einen kleinen Farbschock: Beige!?? Rot?
Wir haben immer gesagt wir werden nur schwarz machen.
Burberry Trenches, die sich durch den polyestergehalt nicht komplett einfärben lassen. Mit Appliquees.
Und es kam super an.
We follow the pieces through the process.
Kyoto Dyeing Process
Doverstreet Market New York