⟨ Craft ⟩

The serendipity of us crossing paths

Og handicrafts

Words / Jas Tse
Photography / Kimio Ng
Translation / Nicole Go

到日本旅遊時,總喜歡搜尋有沒有當期市集可逛,尤其每年在固定時間舉行的大型市集,總有滿滿對挖寶的期待。在語言不通的情況下,好像能更單純憑著直覺看待物件。也喜歡使用手機翻譯時,在錯亂的文法中,取散落的詞語重組句子,理解能用想像填滿呢。

這條褲子,是在東京世田谷市集遇到的。那是一年兩度、合共四天的舊物市,每個攤檔都是小小的四方格塞滿了寶物,遊人如魚兒流轉。人太多,攤主也不忙著招待。入夜後有些攤子挑起燈,有些乾脆依靠街燈的白照亮。隨意走著,在暗裡隱約看見素白的一攤,原來是賣棉線、麻布也有衣服。

When travelling to Japan, I always look for pop-up markets. Seasonal markets, in particular, are highly anticipated – the experiencing of seeing made all the more instinctive and pleasurable by the language barrier. I also like using mobile translation apps, filling up the space lost in translation and broken syntax with imagination.

I found these pants in Tokyo’s Setagaya Boro-ichi, a biannual, four-day flea market. Each stall comprises partitions overflowing with treasure. It’s so busy, it’s impossible for traders to tend to every visitor. As night falls, stalls either light up or bathe in the atmospheric streetlights.

A patch of white almost glowed in the expanse of the dark. It was a stall selling cotton threads, linen and clothes.

褲子版型很寬,打開攤平看,闊度幾乎是我身體的兩倍,想要放下的時候,攤主卻神情自若的,有一種「這是可以的」的從容,徐徐為我展示褲子的綁法,還立即把收攤用的大片墊子鋪到地上,讓我脫鞋站進去試褲子。當時想:「好隨性的日本人啊!」我們用簡單英語交談,他適時趨前為我繫上腰間帶子。

聊著聊著,才知道他正是這褲子的品牌創辦人小倉猛斗,褲子上的吊牌寫著「小倉商会」。「我們平常都在展示會裡售賣,沒固定的店子呢。」既然是這種一期一會,就無法錯過。

The wide-leg pants were dramatic – almost twice the width I was used to. As I was putting them back where I found them, the vendor looked on calmy, as though to reassure me that it’s alright whilst he demonstrated how to do the waistband. Out of nowhere he produced a portable stall mat, placed it on the ground, and gestured for me to take off my shoes and try the pants on the mat. “How spontaneous are the Japanese!” I thought to myself. We communicated in simple English. He helped me do the belt around my waist.

From our conversation I learned that he’s the founder of the pants’ label, Taketo Ogura. The tag on the pants read “Og handicrafts”. “We trade all of our pieces here and in exhibitions. We don’t have a shop.” I was glad I didn’t miss the serendipity of us crossing paths.

小倉先生說,他們的衣服都是在東南亞由當地人製作。回看已是十六年前,小倉先生第一次去到克倫族的村落,那是泰國北部、距離清邁約三小時車程的郊區。克倫族人會在山上種植無農藥的有機棉花,再以傳統工具人手編織日常衣飾,也會以草木染為紗線上色。

自此,他每年往返日本與泰國。他負責設計,再交由泰國當地婦女製作。每次「回去」都會在當地住上一陣子,那邊的隨意與熱情一定也感染了他。鄰居閒時過來串門,便放下手中織線一起聊天吃水果,聊完了才再回頭手上作業,生活得就像當地人一般。他曾說:「如果你想學習一些奇妙的東西,那就是村裡每日的風景。」

According to Ogura-san, all of the label’s garments were handcrafted in Southeast Asia by the locals. It was sixteen years ago when Ogura-san first visited the Karen tribe in Northern Thailand, about a three-hour drive from Chiang Mai. The Karen harvest their own organic cotton and hand-spin the threads, producing textiles with the use of natural dyes.

Since then, Ogura-san has been travelling between Japan and Thailand regularly. He takes care of the design, which he then brings to the Karen women, many of whom are micro-entrepreneurs and weaves textiles for a living. Every time he travels over, he would stay for quite a while in the company of his spontaneous and enthusiastic business partners. The neighbours would chime in over fruits and refreshment, before going back to weaving. Ogura-san believes that, to be amazed, one has to experience Karen culture and textiles – to live among the people.

「小倉商会」的衣服有些民俗服飾的形貌,有東南亞的闊鬆自在,也有一種布衣與和服的層層披搭、最後以腰帶綁緊作結。男女合穿,可貼合自己的身形去包裹。想想,那好像就是衣服的原態。

「衣服是從日常風景裡誕生的,材質和形狀都是因應氣候而產生,作為一種工具,衣服已經被人們使用了很長時間,人們能以熟悉的方式穿著,穿上後,它就是人的一部分。」

At the heart of Og handicrafts’ style is a love of tribal fashion and the airy silhouette of Southeast Asian textiles – swathed in gauze in a unisex fashion, flattering bodies of all shapes and sizes. Come to think of it, that’s clothes in their most functional state.

“Clothes are a product of everyday life, their material, texture and shape a response to the weather in flux. They’re full of history as a staple of civilisation – an extension of the human body.”