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Behind the Scenes of Fashion from a Textile Perspective: What Are the Expressions & Techniques Supporting Top Runways? [BVLAK Co., Ltd.]

The world has once again overcome the most exciting time for fashion this year. Men's fashion in Paris in January. In New York, London, Milan in February. Women's fashion in Paris in March. It's all about the 2024 AW Collections.
Fashion Week dictates the trend for half a year to a year ahead. Even if you are not holding a Maison brand in your hands, you will see the clothes and makeup that paraded this runway in various shapes: on the street, at parties, in one scene of movies, MVs, or in social media. At least until the SS collections begin around June.
It's not just the designers and craftsmen who support the brand's worldview and top-tier quality. There are also people who provide the 'materials' carefully selected by them.
One such company is 'BVLAK'. It's a Japanese textile company that trades 'textiles' with domestic and overseas brands. Established in 2016 as a venture with 8 employees, their office walls are packed with order sheets from top Maisons worldwide. In this article, an interview with Yuichiro Shomen, the representative of the company, will give you a glimpse into the unknown job of 'textile planning' and behind the scenes of Fashion Week.
Yuichiro Shomen
Yuichiro Shomen

BVLAK Co., Ltd., CEO

He spent his years from 12 to 23 in the UK and obtained a bachelor's degree (B.A.) from a local university. After returning to Japan, he worked as a professional musician and transitioned to the fashion industry at 31. He was engaged in planning, manufacturing, and exporting high-quality textiles at several traditional textile manufacturers before establishing BVLAK in 2016. He has been dealing directly with luxury European fashion brands, and the materials he designed and manufactured are used every season in the Paris/Milan collections and more.

What Does it Mean to 'Plan Textiles'?

Please tell us about the work of BVLAK.
Our main business is 'Textile Design.' We mainly plan knit fabrics such as cut-and-sew.
BVLAK CEO, Yuichiro Shomen
BVLAK CEO, Yuichiro Shomen
About 70% of our sales are with French and Italian fashion brands. We manufacture cut-and-sew materials in Japanese round knitting factories and dyeing factories, and export them.
The job of 'planning textiles' may not be very familiar. Is it different from 'manufacturing'?
While there are fabric manufacturers who do both 'planning' and 'manufacturing,' we don't have factories. We stand between the brand seeking textiles and the factory and play a role in developing original textiles.
Like every creative product, fabric making also starts with inspiration. The work of 'planning' involves turning the idea of "such a fabric may not exist in the world yet," into a design that the factory can actually manufacture.
So, you design the specifications from the idea stage. In the field of clothing making, I thought the brand would directly order the textiles from the factory.
Many cases involve direct ordering, and sometimes trading companies or agency companies are involved. Indeed, it's rare for BVLAK, which is directly trading with major overseas brands. However, the creations of the Maison brands, including those involved in many Fashion Weeks, are extremely high-level, and all of them are unprecedented. Specific orders such as 'blend ×× and 〇〇 by certain %' hardly ever come. Therefore, a job like translating their intentions is necessary.

Ultra-Advanced, Ultra-Fast Fashion Field

How are the fabrics used in Maison's clothing developed and decided?
There are mainly two patterns. One is when brands order based on their specific needs and the other is when our original fabrics are chosen.
In the case of orders from brands, although a strong image of what is required may have been established, there is usually no knowledge of how to create the fabric. We receive orders like, 'Please reproduce this', while being given a designer's personal clothing or pieces of vintage clothing worn for decades. There was a time when we were requested to produce a fabric identical to the one seen in an old photograph of a dress. Or based on the concept of the latest collection alone, we might be asked, "What fabric do you think fits?"
From such demands, we interpret what kind of clothing the brand is trying to create, what kind of fabric can make that clothing, and how that fabric can be manufactured in a factory based on the brand's worldview. We come up with specifications, create three to four samples of the fabric, propose them, decide the direction, and continue to improve until the day of the show.
It is very abstract.
Once, we delivered original fabric within 48 hours. We received an order from France on a Friday and went straight to the factory to have it knitted by noon. Then we stayed overnight at the dyeing factory to do the dyeing process and shipped it to Milan on Saturday. It's not uncommon for the delivery time to become short just before a show or an event.
Why such an overloaded schedule?
It's simply because the brand needs the fabric right then. Of course, to the manufacturer, this makes the brand a very 'demanding client' (laughs). But also, fashion can only be born from the clash of such inspirations. I used to be in the world of music so, as a creator, I can empathize with that.
I feel the essence of fabric planning in moments when my own sensibility is challenged. As we clear difficult themes, our evaluations become higher, and even more challenging themes come. At the same time, we also receive orders for standard fabrics that have stability. We can bring big projects back to the factory that worked together to develop the fabric. For us, factories are more than family.
Their feelings are woven into the fabric, being able to sell those is the ultimate joy and honor for us.
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