What Follows: Wakako Kishimoto


6 March 2017

“Brexit means Brexit.” This mantra has been repeated by the British prime minister Theresa May ever since the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016. The exact form that this disentanglement from the EU will take remains unclear.

Post-referendum, Disegno collaborated with the designer Faye Toogood on a series of portraits reflecting the contribution of non-UK nationals to London’s diverse creative industries. The portraits, published in Disegno #13, were accompanied by a short text from each sitter, reflecting on what the rhetoric of Brexit means for them. Many of the featured practitioners operate internationally, but each is based in London and each has been affected by the Brexit vote.

The project was developed in conjunction with London-based designer Faye Toogood, whose work is currently the subject of a solo exhibition on display at Friedman Benda gallery, New York. Since 2013, Faye and her sister Erica have operated Toogood, a unisex brand whose garments are inspired by the workwear of traditional professions.

To highlight the practices of the sitters rather than the nationalities, for Disegno #13 Toogood created a series of garments in calico that represent the various trades in abstract terms. The garments are archetypes. They celebrate the knowledge, skills, and culture that non-UK citizens have brought to London’s creative industries, as well as acknowledging the absence their loss would precipitate.

On the occasion of Faye Toogood: Assemblage 5 opening at Friedman Benda in late-February, Disegno is delighted to publish an extended version of one of the reflections, penned by Wakako Kishimoto, co-founder of London-based fashion studio Eley Kishimoto. Eley Kishimoto was founded by Kishimoto and her husband Mark Eley in 1992. The Brixton-based fashion studio has since become known for its bold pattern design; its prints embellishing everything from Anglepoise lamps to Centre Point, a quasi-brutalist 33-storey tower block in central London.

Kishimoto's reflection is accompanied by a portrait of the designer, photographed by Kevin Davies in her studio in Brixton, south London.

Wakako Kishimoto, co-founder of Eley Kishimoto

The current situation makes me think of the old Eastern idiom “frog in the well”: a narrow-minded, short-sighted, and self-important frog who won’t go and see the ocean, as he claims his little world is just perfect. Better than anywhere else.

When a common old teaching urges us not to be blinkered and to explore the bigger world, it is baffling to witness a modern society opting for a small dark well. I was fortunate to go through British art education in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which time I was introduced to the freedom of the creative process. Coming from Japan, this was fresh and exciting to me. After graduating, I started a design business with my partner. The demands on us from the industry have been based on our creative abilities and professional delivery, not the colours of our passports. The same can be said for my British peers who lived and worked abroad.

I hope the younger generation will get their hammers out to break down the walls of the well and swim out to the big ocean. A well can be destroyed by a drought or a flood. The ocean remains oceanic even though it goes through severe weather conditions from time to time. The world needs to be bigger, not smaller.