Journey to Japan: An Interview with Emily

First, the itinerary: four days in Kyoto, an overnight in a “wooden” mountain town, then in Tokyo for more exploration at urban-energy pace. Emily describes this trip as almost spiritual, honoring the culture that inspired Tea’s founding aesthetic seven years ago. Enjoy the sights and senses of the Fall Collection and learn how Japanese culture affects Emily—profoundly.

So why Japan for Fall 2009?

The aesthetics of Japan are part of our soul.  Their innate simplicity and the cultural colors of indigo, black, and red move us immensely.  We visited temples and artisan workshops.  We instantly made connections between ancient traditions and the ceaseless innovation in everyday life.  Our pure enthusiasm is what we wanted to share.

Visit to Indigo Artisan Aisenkobo
Indigo Artisan: Aisenkobo

Can you tell us about the design process?

You have to imagine being completely immersed in the cultural senses, rhythms, messages and meanings.  We design to make these foreign sensibilities more familiar in today’s world.

It’s natural for us to envision traditional kanji characters rendered in bold, sporty graphics.  We see a vintage print, sketch it, reinterpret it, change the colors, rework the size and scale; then select an unexpected texture.  We put those fabrics into cool silhouettes, by that I mean a hip dress with a drop waistband or a layered t-shirt.

We love layers, so we start to mix and match pieces from Collection and Daily Tea.  And that’s the Tea recipe for style!

Design Inspiration

What do you want Street Styles to say or express?

Urban life in Tokyo was fascinating to observe.  I was taken by the smallest children walking with their moms on the busy sidewalks.  They seem to only know confident, happy, contented energy.  They moved effortlessly among the crowds and shops in striped stockings and funny graphic tees – completely at ease in the global metropolis. What could be better than to celebrate this “watch me live” attitude with people at home?

Kids in sidewalks

Were there any highlights?

I was six months pregnant on this trip.  Our travel agency, Esprit Travel, surprised us with a very special Shinto blessing, for my unborn child, at the Mehji Temple in Tokyo.  Religion is such a personal experience, but a blessing like this just shows how universal it is … every religion or sacred practice blesses a new life coming into the world.

Menji Temple

What are your favorite pieces?

I love our printed French terry knit dress for girls and the plaid cargo pants for boys.  We stumbled upon a small, exquisite textile gallery in Kyoto and bought a handful of swatches.  Our textile designer interpreted these swatches into our Shibuya Floral print and the intricate Omotesando Plaid.  Seeing our little Tea models in Street Styles takes me right back to the streets of Tokyo and to the kids whom I can only describe as in the moment and full of spirit.

Edo Firefighter, Shibuya Floral, Sayonara Tee

When did you know that your journey was complete?

We could have stayed for weeks in Japan, soaking up every little fascinating thing.  But the great thing about Tea is that the journey never ends.  What is so beautiful is that the culture continues through our children and customers here.  From the travels, sketches, illustrations, and prototypes to the factories, cargo ships, and warehouses, we are bringing cultural connection to all who seek it.  I am so proud of Street Styles and so happy to give everyone this gift of Japan.

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