June 01, 2020

Invitation to a Fictional Country
The Embroidered Accessories of ARRO

架空の国への誘い <br>刺繍アクセサリーARRO



Many layers of bird feathers seem to comprise this small object. Upon closer look, you will notice that this cluster of feathers, each varying in size and pattern, is a pierced earring. Now, place it against your ear in front of a mirror. Given its unexpected length—about 5 centimeters long—the earring should extend from the tip of your earlobe down to your jawline. This is a surprisingly large ear accessory, but the curved form allows it to sit nicely along the contour of the face…perhaps it is better to say that you are “wearing” this earring as opposed to merely “putting it on.”

This is a work of ARRO, a Japanese accessory brand that specializes in fabric-based items made through a combination of machine-embroidery and handcraft. This particular earring is named “Hunter” and draws inspiration from birds of prey. Once we know that these are feathers of birds with ferocious beaks and claws, the earring, though graceful at first glance, somehow feels a bit more empowering. ARRO’s accessories are tricky and elusive; they are layered but light, radical but delicately designed.


ARRO’s designer is Nana Watanabe, who started off her career as a fashion designer. At the time, she not only made clothing but also specialized in textiles and accessories, which eventually led her to launch her own accessory brand. “I realized along the way that making three-dimensional objects was my forte. I was happy to see that many people were amazed by my work. And the smaller the objects were, the better I could express three-dimensionality,” she recalls.

Take for example, “Wetland,” a series of ear accessories that have been inspired from ferns and mosses. “Here I’m showing plants dappled with dew, growing in damp habitats. Thickly grown ferns and mosses have a sense of vigor to them, almost as if they might start moving on their own,” she says.



Sure enough, the earring, made from embroidered parts resembling leaf veins and spore cases, gives off a gentle sheen depending on the angle you look at it, and beckons us into the microscopic world of plants. It is this contrast between Watanabe’s meticulous attention to detail and her dynamic design that makes ARRO’s accessories so alluring.

Other motifs in Watanabe’s work include corals and shells, flying birds, tropical flowers and even mushrooms growing on fallen logs. ARRO’s works are like pages from pictorial books or glimpses into someone’s dream. Watanabe uses the term 


“fictional country” to describe her artistic vision that seems suspended between dream and reality.

“Our family used to move a lot. I’ve lived in the countryside of Kumamoto and Aomori where I encountered woodpeckers chiseling nest holes and squirrels running around. These images I saw as a child were so beautiful, I wasn’t even sure if they were real or imaginary. I want to express these images as ‘accessories of a fictional country.’”

Watanabe’s creative process begins with a rough sketch of the accessory parts, which she first cuts out from uncolored paper. She folds and assembles these parts through trial and error. She then computer-scans her prototype, adds colors and patterns, and fine-tunes the overall form. 

Once that is done, she entrusts the work to a machine-embroidery factory. An embroidery machine is basically a large sewing machine that is used to add embellishments to clothing and other consumer products. A factory craftsman converts Watanabe’s image to computerized punching data and then begins the actual embroidery process.

The term “machine” embroidery may give the impression that the work is done through a predetermined process, but Watanabe says that many factors can affect the outcome. The “path” of the needle can alter the sheen of the thread and the overall thickness and texture, so the image Watanabe had in mind may not always be achieved in one go. She also has to consider the durability and the cost of the materials when making work. But despite these difficulties, Watanabe says that her collaboration with the factory gives her constant inspiration. “It takes patience, but ultimately when the color, the form and the texture match perfectly, I get a real sense of satisfaction.”

ARRO, by the way, comes from the word “arrow.” An arrow is a symbol that guides one’s attention to something that didn’t have meaning otherwise, or had been overlooked. It is also a motif that signifies an invitation to somewhere beyond this place. “I want people to give their own meaning to my accessories and have fun wearing them,” Watanabe says. Like an arrow shot, ARRO’s accessory surely reaches the heart of those who encounter it, then travels further beyond in their imagination.

All images courtesy of ARRO
Photography / Terukazu Sugino 
Hair & Make-up / Nanae Nojiri
Model / Rio

Instagram @arro_acc

Photo1: An ear accessory from the Wetland series
Photo2: Hunter
Photo3: Wetland