A backstage interview with fashion designer Rika Hemmi and her brand, Soseisoudou, at Vancouver Fashion Week FW22, learning about her microbrand’s expansion and her dedication to the use of natural sheep’s fleece in her designs. Translation provided.
Rika Hemmi recently showcased her latest collection on Day Two of Vancouver Fashion Week’s Fall/Winter 2022 season. Her brand, Soseisoudou, specializes in garments made from natural, locally sourced materials. This season’s collection aims to connect people to nature through the use of natural materials such as plant dyes, and wool from her own sheep.
What inspired your brand?
HEMMI: In 2004 I moved to my current town called Bifuka town. There, they have sheep for the purpose of meat and so all the fleece is wasted. I wanted to use that to make something, so that’s why I decided to migrate to Bifuka in 2004.
I’ve been doing workshops for visitors, and first we started using this wasted fleece to make small knick knacks, like a doll, but I wanted to make something more practical. I found out you can actually combine fleece with thin cloth fabric, so felt, to make clothes. In that case, you can make really thin felt, and that’s how I started to make clothes. The first clothes I made were made for workshop attendees’ projects. So, like a big skirt, and a vest. And then we got an offer from a magazine to post some of the clothes for online shopping. I wore my own clothes to my workshops, people would order them, and I got a collaboration with a Japanese designer who lives in China. First he designed, but then I started to make felt clothes in 2012.
What inspired this specific collection?
HEMMI: This collection is made special for the runway, so the clothes have a special kind of texture, keeping it just outside of actual sheep’s wool texture. The material is a wool fiber that’s very light, waterproof, and breathable. It’s more for daily wear, and is much easier to wear. And of course, on top of that, it’s a natural material. So even if you live in a metropolitan area, you can wear it. I want people to wear these clothes in their daily lives, and be reminded of being in nature. I live with sheep, so everything I do is surrounded by natural elements. I want people to feel the natural fabric touching their own skin.
I was invited here by Elina Bang, who works at Vancouver Fashion Week. She found me on the internet and she invited me. Since I was a child I’ve seen people do the runway shows and I was interested in doing it myself, but at the time I knew I couldn’t. I don’t have any connections to hairstylists, or makeup artists, or music, so I thought it would not be possible. But then she invited me, and I thought this might be a good chance to do it. This is my first time doing a runway show.
What’s your creative process like?
HEMMI: I got inspired by the material of the sheep wool itself. It made me think about how I can transform wool into something wearable that people can use in their daily lives. So, this time my theme for the show is “Hugging the Sheep”. It makes people want to hug, and feel happy touching it.
What’s the vision of the future of your brand?
I came here to Vancouver to attend this fashion show, and I had never met anyone from Vancouver before. However, since I decided to join Vancouver Fashion Week, I’ve met so many people and ended up inviting like thirty people I got to know either through emails, or in person. So, I have a really big network now. In the future, if given the chance, I would love to come back again. Right now, my brand is a micro-brand in Japan, but I think being a micro-brand has its own advantages. To be small might be a good thing, so ideally we’ll keep the good characteristics of being a micro-brand but, in the future, I would like to do more overseas as well.
What are the ‘good characteristics’ of being a micro-brand?
HEMMI: So right now, including myself, there are only three of us making the collection. We have our own sheep, and when we have fabrics coming from outside, we are the ones washing the fabrics so I can see through every step of the process. If there’s anything I feel in doubt, or I feel like I have better ideas, we can always make changes right away.
I think I want to keep that kind of system for the future, where I can oversee and supervise everything. But at the same time, I would like to present my collection in a place where I can meet many people and I can feel connected to other people. I want my clothes to help people overcome their differences with each other.
Thank you Rika Hemmi for sharing your fleece creations with us! We’re looking forward to a future of more natural materials in fashion with the arrival of micro-brands like yours. Thank you to her friend for translating Japanese to English.
Soseisoudou’s’ designs are available on https://www.soseisoudou.jp, as well as on instagram at @soseisoudou. For more runway photos, check out @vanfashionweek on instagram.
Great write-up of this Japanese Brand and interview with the Designers. I met them and was so impressed. Note that @terrysasaki at his @sasakiartgallery has samples of their jackets and scarves. You can find his gallery on the second floor (shops) at the Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver.