Tokyo-based Australian designer Manon Marguerite creates new designs from used kimono, carefully creating patterns and sewing pieces together to create dreamy sets. After extensively consulting the customer on what kind of piece they want, she personally selects the kimono to be upcycled and carefully handmakes each part. It takes hours to make these meticulously crafted pieces.
This brand makes sustainability and ethical practice an integral part of its ethos. Takes something old that would normally be discarded, and turns it into something new and beautiful.
Forget fast fashion, we need to start taking it slow!
Your brand’s direction has changed over the years, starting with lolita fashion to soft, pastel, fairy-like clothing, and now you upcycle kimono. Are these changes a reflection of your personal fashion growth or a conscious business decision?
I think it’s a bit of both. My personal style has certainly changed and so has the brand image, but I have tried to keep the overarching theme of softness, fantasy, and femininity that makes my designs unique. The change to using kimono fabrics was first and foremost an environmental and ethical choice. I’ve always been really concerned with the ethics of the fashion industry, which is why even when I started my brand I wanted to make everything myself. Later I felt like just ethical labour wasn’t enough and wanted to know that the fabrics I was using were also ethically sourced and not negatively impacting the environment.
You talk about ethical practice and sustainability as part of your brand’s (and also personal) ethos. Why is it important to you?
I think it should be important to everyone, especially to business owners and fashion leaders who have the chance to change this industry for the better. We only have one planet and it is an incredibly beautiful one, I don’t think our personal desire to be beautiful should come at its expense. Nor do I believe it’s a beautiful act to wear clothing that harms the planet or costs someone else’s livelihood. I want to make and wear clothing that reflects beauty in every aspect.
Do you think that small independently-run brands can make a difference to the fashion industry in terms of pushing for fairer and more ethically run business practices?
I think we’re lucky that more and more people are becoming aware of the realities of the fashion industry. Documentaries like The True Cost on Netflix have opened a lot of eyes and people are looking for alternatives. Whenever someone chooses to support a brand like mine, they’re making a difference to the fashion industry. However, I think consumer demand is too slow to change to everything and it should be up to big businesses to make ethical choices from the get-go, because it’s the right thing to do. There’s something very upsetting about effectively saying you are ok risking people’s livelihood because there isn’t a big enough demand for an alternative.
What is your connection to Japanese culture? How did you discover it?
My step-brother grew up in Japan and introduced me to the culture. The first time I visited Harajuku I fell in love and the rest is history.
Where do you find inspiration?
Fantasy characters, otherworldly beings, and mythical creatures are a lot of my inspiration. I want anyone who wears my designs to feel magical so I try to design with that in mind. I also take a lot of inspiration from the fabrics I work with and try to make designs that will complement the pattern, colour, and texture best.
What do you do when you need to get yourself out of a creative rut?
I’m really lucky that because I do so many commissions I always have a back-and-forth with my customers and get to hear their ideas and can feed off their energy a bit. It helps to motivate me. Since every project is different, in terms of fabric and sizing, I get to do a lot of problem solving and altering of designs that keeps me on my toes. And because I am always overwhelmed with work, I have a bunch of personal projects in my mind I can’t wait to get started on when I have the time.
What’s the last piece of culture that you’ve loved and why?
“Probability 1” by Amir Aczel is a book about the probability of life in the universe I read a while back but has stuck with me. I love anything that makes me think outside of our planet, to realise how small we are, how insignificant—and yet wholly significant—our existence is. Things like “Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan really help me to humble myself, stay focused, as well as nurture and appreciate the beauty in life.
Any last words?
“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” – Roald Dahl