Sirens’ Song


December 1, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

Kamo River Kyoto

The train whisks us past Osaka. It’s the end of autumn. Beautiful green foliage is giving way to ambers and tangerines. Smoke-stacks in the distance, puncturing the clear blue sky. Past grimy - well grimy by Japanese standards - houses with rusted steel gates and darkened wood, not without their charms.

The allure of having a crush on someone lies not in the virtues of the recipient of our sentiments, but in our ignorance of their inner demons and shortcomings. The overwhelming emotions can lead to disastrous consequences. Every trip to Japan feels exactly like that. Its visible charms obscure the problems that one does not face until one lives here. The call of the sirens is strong.

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A lone figure stood by the train tracks, cigarettes between his lips. We locked gaze for a split second. I liked his navy blue jacket.

Jackets. Many of the Japanese blue collar uniforms are so well-designed I had to stop in my tracks to study them. Discreetly of course. Cerulean blue paired with midnight, separated by strips of silver hi-vis tapes. A Japan Airlines mechanic bent down to pick up the change from the vending machine, revealing panels of elastics hidden by overlapping fabrics at the lower back of his jumpsuit. A cleaner in an aqua coat; dissected in the middle by a matte waterproof zipper. A beautiful shade of aqua, I might add, but no more noteworthy than the sound I’m imagining that zipper will make as it glides smoothly up to the collar.

Kaki-Sandwich

+ A Short Digression

As someone who prefers rice to breads, I don't usually eat sandwiches. But when I do give them the occasional try, they are made of milk bread and stuffed with persimmons and a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream. We were taking a break from our shoot as it started drizzling and decided to try this quaint looking cafe in the vicinity; completely unaware of the popularity of the place. They roast their own beans and the sandwiches they made was superb. We sat by the kitchen bar so we could watch them slice every sandwich with precision, filled with egg mayo and ham, or sweet slices of seasonal fruits. Our accidental find turned out to be our breakfast favourite. We enjoyed the sandwiches and coffee so much that we came back twice more. More information on Ichikawaya coffee can be found here.


Hills and mountains. Surrounding this valley of a city. Orange, greens and reds. The train is slowing down. Wonder what it’s like to live in this city as the evergreen leaves turn into warm hues slowly and surely everyday. We often take the things we see everyday for granted. The lamp post outside our home. The bus stop we walk by everyday. The gaggle of grandmothers congregating in the park. The vending machine that never fails to replenish itself. The home we live in. The partner we live with. The life we lead.

I fear I may be doing the same every time I fantasise about uprooting my life in Shanghai and living in a city like Kyoto.

The Haruka train draws into Kyoto station. I step out of the train, swallowing the sights and sounds of the hubbub. It’s all so familiar. Almost like home. Again.

The song of the sirens grows louder.

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I'm wearing ROSEN's upcoming collection that will be released in the next few days.


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A Look Into Our Design Mishaps


November 8, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

ROSEN Hakamas

At ROSEN we don't make overly complicated clothing. Despite that we do encounter problems in translating our vision into reality. We started off with the idea of making pleated hakamas - a beautiful pair of wide-legged trousers with knife pleats. However we didn't want them to look too close to the traditional Japanese garment, nor too Yohji-esque; both characterised by inner pleats folded inwards towards the inner thighs. Our first iteration looked like sailor trousers with a removable central front overlay which we came to dislike. After several rounds of discussion we decided not to obstruct the bifurcated frontal view of the trousers. We folded the removable panel and pinned it on one leg to show the tailor what the final outcome should be.

Now here's where I should point out that the tailor has seen enough of our wonderfully weird designs to not question our judgment. So he took back the hakama - crude revisions and all - without so much as clarifying what the final result should be. On the other hand, we trusted our tailor so much that we forgot what was obvious to us but not to others. Imagine the shock we had when the trousers came back with the revision done on just one side and not the other - pretty much verbatim. It was such an honest yet hilarious mistake we couldn't help but to laugh. The end result was strangely appealing, so we stuck to it.

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We are now proud to introduce ROSEN's Hanzo Hakama - a wide-legged trousers made of imported Japanese wool with knife pleats at the back. It has a side slit to showcase the inner layer that is made of our favourite sandwashed silk in dark grey, which is removable. The trousers are equipped with side pockets and back pockets, hidden under the pleats, as well as a slanted waist button flap. Lastly, the front of the trousers is attached with a front overlay on the right side, in keeping with our asymmetrical design element of our collection. And as always, these trousers are meant for all genders.

Hanzo hakama is available here.

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ROSEN’s FW2017 Collection: An Exploration in Spacetime & Androgyny


November 1, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

ROSEN FW2017

“Please, you go first," the woman said. "The water will get all cloudy if we put our hands in. You'd think it was too dirty after us women.”

Excerpt From: Kawabata, Yasunari. “The Dancing Girl of Izu and other Stories.”

It was less than a century ago when gender discrimination was the norm across the world. Kawabata's descriptions of how women were regarded in his short story was no less apalling from the sexism that Victorian women endured in early 20th Century, though they manifested in differing ways. Fast forward almost a hundred years later, most women in most nations have the freedom to craft their own future without the fear that their presence will tarnish the quality of objects through their touch. It is with this awareness in mind that I am happy to introduce ROSEN's Fall/Winter 2017 collection. Continuing with our pursuit of genderless fashion, we have made garments in all new colours and new fabrics, from Italian wools to sashiko linens.

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Plato shirt in rust sandwashed silk; Plato trousers in khaki grey sandwashed silk; O-Ren coat in sashiko linen

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Bronte shirt in moss green velvet

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Epicurean robe in Italian double-faced wool

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Earheart jumpsuit in Japanese wool twill

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Plato overshirt in taupe wool cashmere; Ingvar trousers in Japanese wool twill and sandwashed silk

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Totoro trench in moss green wool cashmere; Epicurean robe in Italian double-faced wool

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Bronte shirt in fatigue green sand washed silk

In this 21st Century, most men and women live, work and travel abreast, no longer segregated by outdated gender norms. In the realms of fashion, androgyny isn't just a one way street anymore, ie. women wearing men's t-shirts and suitings cut for female bodies. We have now embraced a two-way conversation, taking elements from both sides of the spectrums to create garments that transcend fads, befitting curious adventurers of the universe.

All featured ROSEN garments and more are available here.


“Won't you at least have a bite with us? It's not very appetizing now that we women have put in our chopsticks, but maybe this could be the makings of a funny story." The woman took a bowl and chopsticks out of the wicker basket and asked Yuriko to wash them.”


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Putting ROSEN Prototypes To The Test


October 21, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

Kurokawa

In my quest to catch up with Eastern literature, I started on a third book by Kenzaburo Oē. And just as I had suspected, the topic of suicide crept in within the first chapter. With all due respect to Oē-san, there may be such a thing as too much suicide in a span of a few months of reading. I decided to take a break from him and dived into Banana Yoshimoto, one of the rare few female writers widely recognised by the Japanese literati. But ah, death poked its head out within the first page. I shrugged and continued reading. At least it wasn’t suicide.

The mountains of Minamioguni raced past the bus window as it sped up the winding road. My annual pilgrimage to Kurokawa succeeded a wonderful short stay in Fukuoka, having seen old friends, eating wonderful Japanese foods and coffee, while taking a short respite from the overwhelming amount of work and anxieties that threatened to push me over the edge.

“We’re cruelest, almost always, to ourselves.” - It's in Our Hands, by Bjork.

ROSEN Coat Kurokawa

There’s a single habit I’ve cultivated whenever I travel. I would wake up at dawn to go for a slow hour-long run. It’s the best way to explore a place with as little distractions as possible - when shops are still closed and barely anyone is awake - while keeping up with my obsession to exercise on a frequent basis. The singular mountainous road in and out of Kurokawa was lined with tall evergreen trees, shielding me from the strong morning sun. Through the loose canopy, beams of light managed to pass through, illuminating floating dust specks. They looked like the spirits of the forest, beckoning me to play with them. Somewhere out there someone’s world is in utter chaos, but up in these mountains, one can’t help but feel grateful to be able to luxuriate in peace and quiet, even if it is temporary.

ROSEN Coat-Kurokawa

ROSEN Coat-Kurokawa

I’m wearing ROSEN’s latest prototype which we have named the O-Ren. It is our usual practice to put our samples through field tests so we know how they’ll perform in real life, from grabbing coffee to gallivanting through a forest. This O-Ren coat is a one-off prototype made in heavy textured linen. While the fabric itself is extremely tactile - with highly visible weaves made up of different threads - it doesn’t lend itself to creating the final form that we were after. Beautiful thick yarns in khaki are intertwined with the sporadic red and ivory to form a richly textured cloth. Unfortunately it is simply too heavy to drape well as a coat that is made out of multiple yards of fabric. The end result looks rather heavy. Although some people might like more substantial drapes, the coat we had in mind would have an airy quality to it while retaining its structure. I could imagine the fabric looking rather exquisite if made into a pair of wide-legged trousers. It is rather unfortunate that all the fabric has been used up to make this sample.

With that said, we are almost ready to release ROSEN’s fall/winter 2017 collection into the wild. This time we have expanded our colour schemes into various shades of dark green, rust, taupe and greys. The new collection includes the final iterations of the O-Ren coat made of two different fabrics - one in Japanese olive boiled silk/wool blend, the other an ivory linen with sashiko weaves. The former is possibly my favourite fabric that I may never come across again. It is visually coarse and fragile-looking, yet extremely airy and retains warmth. There’s so little of it that we are only able to make two of them. As with all the other ROSEN garments, they are made from deadstock fabric, hence every model is limited in numbers. Daniel is furiously uploading our latest collection on ROSEN as I'm typing this. And may I just say how excited we are to present them to you. We hope you will like them as much as we do.

For the latest updates of ROSEN in-house label and ROSEN’s archive, please follow @therosenrot and @dandanxl on Instagram, and sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page.

Special thanks to Robert Anton Patterson for the wonderful photographs. You can view his collection of interviews, thoughts and notes here.

ROSEN Coat-Kurokawa

Kurokawa


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The Hypocrisy of Consumption and Suicide


September 19, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

Rick Owens Sphinx Vest Kyoto

When I was just a wee child growing up in Jakarta, I would occasionally be taken by my late grandmother to do her groceries. Being a traditional person, she shunned the modern supermarket in favour of an old-school wet market. These places are typically found in Asia, if there is any example in other parts of the world I would certainly profess ignorance. They're characterised by the moisture that permeates the air, floor, and goods for sale. Fresh fruits and vegetables are arranged neatly in mounds, with shoppers bagging the goods themselves. Live seafood are displayed in the adjacent area, while another housed hawkers of poultry, eggs and red meats. Fast forward more than twenty years later in Shanghai, I found myself doing weekly shopping in my neighbourhood wet market - choosing my own bean curds, mushrooms and eggs. In late summer, figs and peaches are abound. My seasonal favourites are lychees in late spring, and strawberries in winter. There is no cheese and little dairy to be found here, for that I would have to go to the supermarket, which is probably a good thing or I cannot stop myself from hoarding Brie every week. For my poultry needs I would always go to this friendly couple who would choose a freshly slaughtered chicken for me, then chop it up and gut it as requested. On the first few occasions I started buying from them, they would offer to slaughter one from their stash of live stocks kept underneath the counter - my grandmother herself had on several occasions expertly killed live chickens in our kitchen - but I always refused. My hypocritical self would rather not witness the cruelty of my consumption. Give me a pink plump one any day without the evidence of pain, please and thank you.

To the new generation, wet markets present a bygone era; the days when folks converse with their grocers and the latter know the shopping habits of their clientele. Even my weekly trips are now threatened by the convenience of ordering groceries online. With several taps on my phone, I can have the same mushrooms and tofu delivered to my doorstep, thanks to Chinese companies that have pushed the user experience of phone apps and e-commerce logistics beyond anything I can ever imagine. As I’m writing this I am sipping a tall cup of frothy latte that was ordered via a food-delivery app (I fear this may become a terrible habit), brought to me piping hot within 30 minutes. The cost: $4. Human cost: no idea.

Rick Owens Sphinx Vest Kyoto

Wearing: Rick Owens sphinx padded vest and cashmere pod shorts; Nike Air Uptempo

It’s been a very long few weeks running around cities and countries. I stared at these photographs that I had taken months before in Kyoto, before I took on two projects with Daniel - one of them our techwear line Velamen, the other one is the re-launch of ROSEN, our new collaboration of staple garments in luxurious fabrics. I thought I was busy then, but it was nowhere near what I am going through now. Three to four nights a week, I sleep for less than five hours. Between running the archive store, writing essays, creating social media content, taking care of Velamen samples in Guangzhou, while continuously sampling ROSEN garments at the other side of Shanghai, I am mentally required to be in several places at once, and several more physically. It’s the kind of challenges I find to be very fulfilling, yet too much of a good thing can be bad. I have found myself unable to get out of bed on some occasions under the weight of the workload facing me everyday and my mind swimming in anxieties. My fatigue turned me into a miserable human being who wasn’t too pleasant to be around with. Thankfully I have a reliable support network I can count on whenever my mental strength has been completely sapped. The internet has brought me closer to you, my wonderful readers and customers, and they’ve also allowed me to keep in touch with people all around the world who are willing to listen to my (first-world) woes without judgment.

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Takoyaki, the Kansai version

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Pontocho, Kyoto

The time was 9AM. I was doing my early morning reading and writing session again. When I finally caught up with sleep the night before, I woke up in much better spirits. I could get back to my couch with coffee and a new author to tackle. His name is Kenzaburō Ōe, a Japanese nobel laureate. I had just finished The Silent Cry - a post-war novel with a touch of suicide and incest thrown into it - and am now diving into The Changeling, another one with suicide as its central theme. It does bring to light how different cultures view the act of taking one’s life. Abrahamic religions stress so much importance in the non-ownership of one’s life that to take it away voluntarily - no matter the difficulties that drive one to consider such an action - is an unforgivable sin. Yet, one could possibly argue that Jesus himself chose to commit suicide by not fighting nor running away - assuming the tale of crucifixion is true. Without all that satellites and geotagging Instagram features dude could have easily run off to the Alps and married a fellow shepherd. Though the act of ending his life wasn’t carried out with his own hands, he succumbed to a fate that had been handed down to him. Religious defenders have argued that if one does it in a self-sacrificial manner, such as firefighters and military personnels, that makes it commendable. But to save oneself from pain and suffering is an immoral act, considering the fact that both occasions leave behind grieving families and friends. Without invoking the logical fallacy of ‘because the bible says so’, it’s hard to argue why a person who suffers so deeply should not have the choice to end their misery. I don't know what it's like to go through a life so bad that suicide becomes a better alternative. However, I would argue that we didn’t have the choice to be born into this world, perhaps the least we could have is the right to not continue suffering should life becomes acutely unbearable. If indeed as religions argue that we have been given the ‘gift of life’, then surely like a gift, we can decide what we would like to do with it.

From our consumption to our most deeply-held beliefs, every aspect of our lives is mired in hypocrisy. A short paragraph on a heavy topic such as suicide certainly does not do it any justice. Perhaps one day I can continue writing about this topic. It might end up being a showdown between Hume and Kant.

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Nijo Castle outpost


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ROSEN – Our Made-to-Order Collection


September 18, 2017

by Gracia Ventus

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Plato overshirt and Locke shorts; choose between Japanese wool gabardine and cotton twill

This blog was created more than eight years ago, and I started selling second hand designer clothes on ebay over five years ago. It has been a very long journey, many of my readers have been with me since the beginning and I cannot be thankful enough for sticking with me throughout the years. Having been a lone wolf all of these years, I have finally found Daniel, my business partner with whom I can work to diversify the store offerings. Together we are very pleased to present our own ROSEN collection - made-to-order garments that are genderless, fuss-free and meant to be worn with our favourite designers. Between the both of us, our taste range from the Japanese masters all the way back to 90s minimalist Prada and 80s oversized garments. We pride ourselves in choosing fabrics that are slightly experimental with our technical cottons, to luxurious opium-den aesthetics such as sandwashed silks and cashmeres.

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Plato shirt in sandwashed silk; soon available in cashmere blend

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Hume coat worn over Plato shirt

All garments are available here


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