October 29, 2022

Interview: THERIACA

インタビュー <br> THERIACA 濱田明日香


Asuka Hamada is a fashion designer based in Berlin. Within Japan, she is more widely known for her modern sewing and knitting pattern books. We are big fans of her pattern books but being a fashion designer herself, we wondered why she publishes those books in the first place. She recently released an inspirational book Yarn, Rope, Spaghetti (DARUMA, 2022) which shows her processes in detail.

Please enjoy her interview, along with some images from her latest book.

How did you become interested in making things?

My parents are creators, so I grew up in an environment where making things was natural. Iʼve enjoyed creating ever since I can remember. According to my mother, around the age of three, I made a skirt for myself with her guidance. I was in my first year of high school when I recognized that I wanted to attend an art college and create professionally in the future.

What was the catalyst for starting your brand THERIACA and what were your goals?

When I was at the University of the Arts London, professors and friends told me they wanted to buy items from a collection I submitted for an assignment. Before I could sell anything, I needed to come up with a brand name and logo design, as well as calculate the costs of materials and production to figure out the prices. The brand I started then out of necessity was THERIACA. It was a good experience to have as a student, I had to think beyond the designs themselves, and consider key elements of launching a business such as branding and production.

There are naturally differences between the techniques and processes of sewing and knitting, both of which your work involves. What do you feel is interesting about knitting in particular? 

The interesting thing about knitting is that you design from the textile itself. With sewing you can also start by designing the fabric, either by creating a print, dyeing it, or even weaving the material, but I think the interesting thing about knitting is that you create the textile and the garment simultaneously.

In your book Theriaca Yarn, Rope, Spaghetti; it is clear that you spend a great deal of time experimenting as a part of your design process. Do you develop your ideas during the design process or do you have a clearly defined goal from the start?

Since the basic premise of the book was to create through the medium of knitting, for many of the projects I started by experimenting to find an interesting knitted fabric and formulated the final design based on my swatches. 

I often start with a vague idea of the final design, but it might change during the process, depending on where my interests take me. In any case, I rarely start with a rigidly defined design in mind. 

There are many designers who draw inspiration from flowers, nature, and other things that are generally considered to be beautiful. Why do you focus instead on everyday necessities and other familiar objects?

True, I donʼt often look to plants as a design source.

Itʼs not that I dislike natural things, I do find inspiration in things like rocks, soil, or mountains. Perhaps I consider flowers and plants difficult to modify because I think that their beauty has been perfected already in both color and shape. 

I think my interest in daily necessities is because in different countries their function, color, and shape can vary according to the lifestyles and needs of the people there.

In another interview you spoke about wanting to distance yourself from creating clothing that is merely consumed. What concerns do you have about the modern fashion industry?

This came about from considering how I wanted to create, rather than any concerns per se.

I realized I could analyze the market and the latest trends to create “clothes that sell,” or I could create the clothes I wanted to make and strive to make them interesting for others, too. I decided that I prefer the latter. It’s not easy to create clothes that will be popular anymore than it is to make a film that will do well at the box office, but I donʼt want to negate the challenges of creating that kind of apparel either. However, I didnʼt want to chase after trends to create clothes that would be thrown out after one season. From an environmental perspective, if Iʼm going to make clothes, I would rather create garments that people will wear and cherish for many years.

What do you think is the meaning or value in making and wearing oneʼs own clothes?

For me, making clothes is about expression and creativity, but I think that the value in making your own clothes is different for everyone; for practical reasons like cost, inability to find the right fit off the rack, or designs that speak to them, or because they enjoy the creative process.

A belief persists in some circles that handmade garments are kind of uncool or tacky, while whatʼs selling in stores is stylish and fashionable. Do you seek to create stylish items when you make garments? What does it mean to be stylish to you?

I think that the evaluation of handmade garments can depend on whether they incorporate the makerʼs perspective and sense of self-expression. Ready-to-wear clothes are also made by hand, starting with the designers and pattern makers, and finally the workers who sew the items in factories. You could say that all clothes are handmade.

In other words, the techniques for making clothes are tools, just like paints and brushes for painting. The worth of the painting depends on what is painted, right? A handmade item could be called tacky or stylish depending on what it is, the fact that it’s handmade isn’t the deciding factor.

I think being stylish is about knowing what looks good on you or having a cohesive personal style. I often design clothes by adding and subtracting. I consider whether I’ve included my own ideas and imagine how an item could combine with others to create interesting outfits.

Personally, I donʼt think that someone is stylish just because they wear the latest trends.

When I see someone wearing an outfit in a way that seems specific to them, a way that no one else could, thatʼs someone I consider stylish. 

In Europe there are many different skin tones, hair colors, and eye colors, and the clothing that suits each person differs, too. I have come to really appreciate this, with more opportunities to see people dressed in clothes that suit them based on their individuality.

These two photos courtesy of Takuma Uematsu.

Why do you present your work and ideas in various formats, whether by publishing books, holding exhibitions, or creating videos for Youtube? Itʼs interesting how diverse and balanced your content is as it ranges from challenging, innovative ideas to easy-to-follow tutorial videos.

It probably started when I was thinking about how fashion could be presented in other ways, other than on a runway at Paris Fashion Week.

Depending on what Iʼm trying to communicate, the best way to present something Iʼve created may be to hold an exhibition, publish a book, or create opportunities for people to wear the items. I started Youtube when I released my knitting book because I sensed that there were many people who would be interested making knitwear if they didnʼt find it so intimidating. I hoped the videos would be a good introduction to my book. There are people who found me and my work through Youtube, so I donʼt think thereʼs any need to limit my activities to only one medium.

While building your apparel business, you also published sewing and knitting patterns in craft books that anyone can make. Why did you decide to do both? Have you found any advantages or disadvantages in doing both? 

This is another example of changing the medium depending on what I want to communicate. 

For the brand, I design by incorporating plenty of my own sense of playfulness. I want to share the joy of physically wearing clothing, something that cannot be conveyed via a book, and yet you could think of my books as compilations of my research and experiments with patterns.

For example, Ookina Fuku & Chisana Fuku (“big clothes & small clothes”) explores how the size of a garment affects the silhouette, while Amai Fuku (“sweet clothes”) is a collection of volumizing techniques like gathers, tucks, and frills. Instead of writing an academic thesis, I decided to release my research through pattern books to make these ideas and techniques more accessible. 

The reach for a specialized book is quite limited, Iʼm more interested in writing something that will be easy for many people to pick up. Some people might just like the garments and want to make them, while others will be more interested in the concepts, but I think itʼs fine for each person to approach the books differently.

I have different goals in producing clothes or publishing books. One place I draw a line is that I do not publish patterns of designs for my brand. I may apply or further develop something from the books into my collections for THERIACA, though, so both activities have a positive influence on each other.

You could say that the research for my books is the input, while my collections for THERIACA are the output.

You worked with yarn manufacturer DARUMA on the production of the nylon yarn TUBE. How did you feel about designing a material like this? Were there any particularly interesting or challenging aspects?

Itʼs impossible to create this kind of material on your own so working with a manufacturer was a new and fun experience for me. THERIACA Yarn, Rope, Spaghetti features some pieces I made starting from the yarn itself but making a yarn for my own artistic expression and making a yarn that will sell as a product are two different things.

Since the main seasons for knitting are fall and winter, I did feel some pressure in designing a summer yarn. Even so, it was exciting to combine my ideas with the knowledge of a yarn expert and arrive at a final product that was beyond anything I had originally imagined. It was quite different from working on my own.

What have you enjoyed about working not only in Japan, but also in London and Berlin? What do you enjoy about working across borders and what influence does it have on your designs? 

Just like how the values of your school or workplace can affect how you think, I find that when Iʼm in Japan I tend to prioritize how something will be received there. I think the biggest merit of working in several countries is that it creates opportunities to understand different value systems and be openminded about what you personally find to be interesting or beautiful.

What have been some of the major influences on your design work? For example, other designers or brands, or even different genres like music or films.

I donʼt have any specific influences, although I am very intentional about not looking at other clothing for my design inspiration. I do make it a point to look at other mediums and genres, whether performances, art, product design, written word, or childrenʼs handicrafts, and then transform that inspiration into clothing.

What kinds of things are you interested in creating or experimenting with in the future?

I would be interested in delving into embroidery as a textile technique, or maybe taking a closer look at childrenʼs clothing. I have always loved knitwear so thereʼs lots Iʼm interested in exploring there, too. There never seems to be enough time, but I want to throw myself into the topic that appeals to me most in that moment, and explore it to the best of my ability.

Funny shape knits (かたちのニット, Japanese book)
Published in 2020 by Bunka Publishing Bureau
87 pages, 1,500 JPY.
ISBN:  978-4579117185

Based on her experiments with shapes of knitwear, this book contains 17 patterns with interesting shapes and drapes. Patterns are available in one size only.

Wearing big clothes, wearing small clothes (大きな服を着る、小さな服を着る, Japanese book)
Published in 2016 by Bunka Publishing Bureau
79 pages, 1,400 JPY.
ISBN:  978-4579115631

One of her four sewing pattern books. This book experiments with the same shape garments in two different sizes to create different drapes and fits.

Yarn, Rope, Spaghetti
Published in 2022 by Yokota Co., Ltd.
240 pages, 2,700 JPY.
ISBN:  978-4908769184

Asuka's newest art book showcasing exploration of knitting and knitwear.
Throughout this project she shows the endless creative potential for knitwork with her colorful, artistic pieces. She experiments with not only traditional yarns but also with unexpected yet familiar materials such as foods, shoelaces, fabric, or paper. In addition to images of her work, this book also includes an interview with Hamada and a look into her creative process. Please note that this is not a pattern book.

Photos, except otherwise noted,  are from her book Yarn, Rope, Spaghetti, and were taken by Jiuk Kim. 

Asuka Hamada

Fashion designer. After studying textile design at Kyoto City University of Arts and NSCAD University (Canada), she worked as a designer in apparel planning before relocating to the UK. She researches fashion and patterns and designs clothes with an imaginative approach. She started her brand THERIACA during her studies at the London College of Fashion in 2014. She has presented her work in galleries and art museums as well as published books. Her publications include Katachi no Fuku, Amai Fuku (Bunka Publishing), THERIACA Yarn, Rope, Spaghetti (Yokota Co., Ltd.) and more.


Instagram: @_theriaca_