Fukuoka Artisan Profile:
Shiro Araki, Costume Designer
Shiro Araki is a master manipulator. By taking natural and industrial cast-offs and recreating them into fantastical costumes, he challenges our perception on both costume design and what qualifies as clothing material. His costumes have been worn by the likes of international and domestic artists Lady Gaga, Misia and Kou Shibasaki, and his client list includes major companies like Sony Music, Shiseido and more.
Born in Miyazaki Prefecture, Araki studied psychology at university before later transitioning to fashion. His creative path took him to Tokyo and the UK, but he relocated to Fukuoka Prefecture to perfect his craft. Why Fukuoka? According to the artist himself, he couldn’t do it anywhere else. Fukuoka has a big city vibe, but has easy access to the ocean, the mountains, the deep forests and waterfalls — in short, it has everything he needs to create and be inspired.
“Most of my materials are products of nature and my inspiration comes from there. I go to the beach and pick up dead coral or driftwood, while in the mountains I may find cast-off skin from insects, bird feathers and such. I’ll even pick up fallen acorns in the park and boil them to make a dye. I don’t go anywhere special, but a few of the places I like in Fukuoka are Nata Beach, Shikanoshima Island and Itoshima,” Araki explains.
Though his costumes have a mysterious aura, Araki as a person is anything but an enigma. He is frank and forthright with his opinions, techniques and thoughts behind his designs. He doesn’t use patterns for his costumes, instead taking an intuitive approach by placing materials against a mannequin and pinning them in place as he goes, before finally sewing it together. The method works. His costumes overflow with emotion through their dramatic forms and eccentric textures.
“Some days I don’t make anything at all, while other times I’m assembling parts — making 200-300 pieces in a day. I don’t know the final design when I start working on a piece. I have the materials, piece them together, sew them by hand and, if I like it, I draw the design. And then I return to making it, ” he explains.
His creations take from one to six months to complete and it is often difficult to surmise what materials he has used. He attaches denim hems that have been dyed and sewn together, while t-shirts are torn into strips to make skirts, and pigskins are boiled, then pinned and manipulated into unimaginable shapes.
Many of his methods borrow from traditional Japanese techniques. For one dress, Araki raised silkworms and adjusted the environment so they would make circular discs instead of cocoons. He needed two to three silkworms to make each disc, and eventually used about 500 discs to make the dress.
He hopes to do more collaborations with the animal world, noting that the larvae of certain ant types create a filament when making chrysalises. He adds, “I don’t hate things made using chemicals and I don’t have to use organic items. Both have their advantages, so I enjoy connecting them if I can do it seamlessly.”
Araki’s take on his work is aligned with his attitude to life. “It’s humanlike, because it’s not perfect. People eat, but they also poop. The human element means it’s not perfect, even though it looks seamless. As humans, we shouldn’t just eat, work and sleep. To create an open heart, you have to be in contact with rich culture like movies, opera, concerts (both classic and modern music). These things will nurture the motivation in your heart so you can take on the next day with renewed strength. I hope my costumes help cultivate that spirit even just a little bit. Make time to let art into your life. You’ll be better for it.”
Find out more about Shiro Araki’s creations on his website and on his Instagram account.
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