Let The Support Win

Two weeks ago, Textile and Fashion Federation Singapore presented the annual Singapore Fashion Awards. Despite news preceding the event that speculated on the Awards’ uncertain future, as well as the unexpected downgrade of the presentation to a “tea gala”, many attendees and industry stalwarts concurred: the show must go on


SFA 2017 P1The SFA presentation at the W Hotel, Sentosa Cove

It is heartening that Singapore Fashion Awards (SFA) isn’t leaving the stage. Two months before the sophomore presentation of the come-back SFA, rumours were afloat that organiser Textile and Fashion Federation (TAFF) Singapore may put SFA on a hiatus next year. Among designers and brand owners, this was disappointing news, especially when it was earlier reported that Singapore Fashion Week will likely be no more in 2018—one platform less, not that there are numerous to begin with, on which to trump home-grown fashion.

The initial talk was that TAFF was facing budgetary constraints in staging an increasingly expensive SFA. That this year’s event had to be put in the less glamorous, working-hour time slot of tea (inexplicably termed “gala”) in a place that’s far from the maddening crowd—the W Hotel in the hard-to-get-to Sentosa Cove—was suggestion that TAFF had too tight a purse string to pay for the venue and catering expense, and had to depend on whichever establishment willing to be the sponsor, putting them in a beggars-can’t-be-choosers position.

The sustainability of budding-again SFA was also called to question as the selection committee had a hard time coming up with names in the fashion categories that were not the usual suspects, or last year’s nominees, or winners. The names that were eventually shortlisted were so unexceptional that some of the judges felt this year’s SFA would be severely uninspired. It was heard that at the last minute, two labels were brought to the table and had delighted the judges so much that things started to look up. Nuboaix and Ametsubi were suggested for the Designer of the Year (Fashion) and Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion) categories respectively to the surprise of many as the co-designers of both labels were unknowns. The two nominations, too, surprised the respective designers as none of them had considered themselves to be part of a fashion circle framed by individuals of cultivated visibility.

SFA 2017 P2The always in-control Yasminne Cheng holding the show together

It is now said that SFA will be presented next year and, thereafter, many more years to come. This was encouraging and uplifting news to not only the fashion community, but also to those who think design awards are instrumental in the raising of industry-wide standards and the visibility of the work Singaporean fashion designers do. The limit in budget is understandable and may be improved by better fund-raising programs or by welcoming a title sponsor. The lack of credible names, unfortunately, is very real, and may not necessarily improve in the years to come.

Should TAFF then field those already nominated before, or have been awarded already? There seems to be the thought that each year, SFA should witness a new set of names and labels. The reality is that, despite new entrants in fashion retail yearly, there is still a very small pool of designers that TAFF can turn to. Except for the Emerging Designer category, which, by definition, is to honour the new, all other categories do not have to shy away from those previously considered for the SFA. As one marketing consultant said after the presentation, “Does Meryl Streep not qualify for the following year’s Academy Awards if she is nominated for the current year?”

SFA 2017 P3Designers Keita Ebihara and Elizabeth Soon of Ametsubi holding a pose with their Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion) award

Fashion needs a certain cycle, as it needs selling seasons. It also requires something that practitioners can look forward to. That TAFF was willing to resurrect the once thought to be forever departed Singapore Fashion Awards points to the Federation’s understanding of the value of an annual salute to those who have put their very creative best into their work. Fashion folks like the proverbial pat on the back regardless of how independent, how strong, how unaffected by the opinions of others they are. And nothing is more assuring than accolades from one’s peers and recognition from industry notables. A fashion award such as SFA may prompt designers to work harder, to embrace innovation more fervently, and to adopt originality more passionately. They may aim higher too, since winning once does not mean win no more.

The Singapore Fashion Awards should, therefore, be prized as support, as much as encouragement to designers steering their brand in an industry characteristically faced with unabated challenges. Many designers, even after passing the industry-standard five-year mark that makes them no longer ‘emerging’, continue to manage their brands like fledgling businesses, with profitability a constant inconstancy, so much so that some of them have to supplement their brand’s income by taking on an extra job, often—the heart-wrenching truth—employment that has nothing to do with the perceived allure of fashion. SFA recognition may, thus, make the hardships easier to bear, allowing designers to continue to struggle, as artists do, for their craft, rather than the glamour.

Support for young, up-coming designers is especially important. There is a general lament that our island nation is utterly lacking in talents that can be nutured to fly the Singapore flag. It is also a reality that many budding designers, however gifted and prolific, are not able to propel themselves to a bigger audience without a more established organisation such as TAFF to act as some kind of launch pad. Private sector and government initiatives, thus, often allow greenhorns to see and learn more, and may expose them to markets not previously thought reachable. Case in point: This past Thursday, Singapore saw for the first time ‘Finland’s Fashion Frontier’, a fashion show featuring five of Helsinki’s best fashion design graduates that was organised by Helsinki New, a private enterprise that pairs Finnish designers and brands with the international marketplace, in collaboration with Aalto University and Helsinki Marketing, a company backed by the city itself. Sure, we’d probably not see these designers’ work for a while to come, but the satisfaction from witnessing talents in action from the Nordic land is immeasurable. It is not improbable that some day we may wear some of these names on our back.

SFA 2017 P4State Property’s Lin Ruiyin and Afzal Imran with their Emerging Designer of the Year (Accessories) award

But our young designers can only dream of support that has such far-reaching consequence. Sure, TAFF has, for many brands, acted as link to overseas markets though consultations and trade missions abroad, even if the trips have not enjoyed the visibility of those co-organised with the then Trade Development Board in the ’80s, of which those particular excursions that launched the careers of “The Magnificent Seven”—among them Tan Yoong, Thomas Wee, and Bobby Chng—are still talked about today. But can the Federation alone offer consequential reach with their woefully inadequate resources without members of the media, for one, helping to bolster the small efforts put together to give those designers a leg up?

Shortly after the SFA presentation, The Straits Times ran a report of the event on their online edition that curiously omitted the names of the co-winners of the Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion). An update published a few hours later did not correct the irregularity; neither the follow-up the next day—save a mention in the caption that accompanied the main picture—or the version that appeared in the print edition two days later. It was not, curiously, an omission particular to ST. Other online reports, including those by the members of the Chinese media, published similar exclusion. This collective blank-out (in some cases, one-half of the duo was mentioned) prompted the whisper of conspiracy theories, including one that suggested that TAFF had wanted to play down the fact that the winning brand Ametsubi’s design studio is based in Japan, never mind that they’re a Singapore-registered company and label.

Carolyn KanCarolyn Kan of Carrie K won big this year, with three awards: Best Collaboration of the Year, Champion for Creatives and Designers, and Bespoke 

This was an odd development. It is not likely that TAFF would sanction such a reporting anomaly. Surely they would have ascertained all selected brands’ country of origin. As one creative director rightly pointed out, “In this connected world, where many of us do business from all corners of the globe, does it matter where the design studio is based? A designer can design in the middle of the Indian Ocean if he or she, or they wanted to.” Or, could the non-acknowledgement be the result of appeasing disgruntled nominees claiming unfair competition, as some attendees had later inferred? Even to that, it is possible that TAFF had anticipated such an unseemly expression of displeasure and planned a course of action to deal with it.

It is, therefore, possible, after a process of elimination, that the names of the winners of the Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion)—Elizabeth Soon and Keita Ebihara—were excluded because these are monikers that do not arouse the interest of the respective editors, or will not ring even the lightest bell among the titles’ readers. If the suppositions are true, then some members of the media may be well served to be reminded that the biggest winner of this year’s SFA, Carolyn Kan, was a fashion nobody when she started Carrie K, even when she had made a name for herself in the advertising industry. The same can be said of the winner of Designer of the Year (Fashion), Dzojchen’s Chelsea Scott-Blackhall, who, by her admission, has been spending a lot of time in New York, presumably to design, and Vietnam, where she had acquired a factory to produce her collection. To not talk about those with a dream and the talent to make it big, even if that will happen in the distant future, is to deny them the hope with which many project their prospects.

Marilyn TanMarilyn Tan receiving the Designer of the Year (Accessories) award from Carolyn Kan

In tandem with the honours that they bestow, Singapore Fashion Awards should be produced to be worthy of Event of the Year. A “tea gala” in the resort hotel W on Sentosa is hardly the premise of something that would grab the attention of the industry or imbue the Awards with the prestige that would make a momentous difference to the honorees. While this year’s presentation enjoyed a significant improvement from last year’s, which was staged in the ill-suited space of the Supreme Court Terrace of the National Gallery, it could have been better appreciated and, indeed, attended if it had been held at a more accessible location. Nobody, it can be certain, expects the equivalent of the Royal Albert Hall, where the British version of the SFA, The Fashion Awards, also a sophomore outing, was held this past Monday. Nobody is going to pretend that the choice of the W, no doubt a lovely hotel, is an artistic decision.

In fact, SFA does not have to be a splashy event in a plush setting. As an industry occasion, it can be a little more intimate, with the atmosphere of a family gathering that generates a sense of belonging for all. It could, for instance, be staged at the main atrium of the National Design Centre, a fitting location for an event that celebrates design. The best fashion often takes inspiration from previously unthought-of places, and tells stories yet narrated. TAFF may put SFA in better standing by trekking that path.

Chelsea Scott BlackhallChelsea Scott-Blackhall receiving the Designer of the Year (Fashion) Award from guest-of-honour, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Ministry of Trade and Industry, Sim Ann

If more boxes are to be ticked, it should also include calling out those nominees and winners who have opted to give SFA a noticeable miss. Support for the fashion industry does not come from only those watching or cheering from the sides or below the stage. It ought to also come from those who have the talent and the good fortune to be nominated. Even if you are not the winner, it is always an appreciable act of grace to be present to applaud those who walk away with a trophy. The high number of no-shows of those whose names were announced and flashed on screen, therefore, left a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste at the end of the presentation, not because of the indifference suggested by those individuals’ absence, but because of their plain rudeness.

Among the winners of the Marketing Awards—Most Popular Brands and Best Marketing, only Trixie Khong of By Invite Only and Rebecca Ting of Beyond the Vines attended and went on stage to collect their trophy. No one from Love, Bonito was present; no one from Benjamin Barker showed up to collect the Best Marketing award. It was a now-show, too, for Contributor Awards winners—the Fashion Hairstylist of the Year, Fashion Make-Up (Artist) of the Year, Fashion Photographer of the Year. Jeremy Tan, who won Fashion Stylist of the Year, had at least sent a friend to collect the trophy on his behalf.

For as long as you’re a nominee, attendance is expected. To not be able to meet that expectation would be akin to letting your brand skip a fashion season. Buyers may overlook the professional mis-step, but consumers may think your playing hooky is ignoring the fact that they’re watching you. Bye for now may not beget hello tomorrow.

Singapore Fashion Award 2017: Full List of Winners

Emerging Designer of The Year (Fashion): Elizabeth Soon and Keita Ebihara for Ametsubi

Emerging Designer of the Year (Accessories): Lin Ruiyin and Afzal Imram of State Property

Top Three Most Popular Brands: Love, Bonito; By Invite Only; Beyond the Vines

Best Marketing: Benjamin Barker

Best Collaboration of the Year: Carrie K X Disney

Honorary Award: Tan Yoong

Bespoke Award: Carolyn Kan of Carrie K

Fashion Hairstylist of the Year: Marc Teng

Fashion Make-Up (Artist) of the Year: Elain Lim

Fashion Photographer of the Year: Stefan Khoo

Fashion Stylist of the Year: Jeremy Tan

Designer of the Year (Accessories): Marilyn Tan of Marilyn Tan Jewellery

Designer of the Year (Fashion): Chelsea Scott-Blackhall of Dzojchen

Photos: Chin Boh Kay and Zhao Xiangji

East Meets East: Confluence Of Uncommon Creativity

At the Singapore Fashion Award (SFA) this afternoon, virtual unknowns Keita Ebihara and Elizabeth Soon won Emerging Designer of the Year (Fashion) for their label Ametsubi. In a rare moment for SFA, the future looks bright


Keita and Elisabeth Nov 2017Designing newcomers: Keita Ebihara and Elizabeth Soon. Photo: Jim Sim

Newlyweds Japanese Keita Ebihara and Singaporean Elizabeth Soon have been busy since returning, a few days ago, from Japan, where their label Ametsubi is based, to attend the Singapore Fashion Awards presentation. It is a family trip of sort, too, as Mr Ebihara’s parents are visiting the Singaporean in-laws in our city-state for the first time. So packed have their days been, Mr Ebihara admitted, two days ago, they have not done anything that could later be remembered as honeymoon moments. Heady from a marriage that was registered barely two weeks ago, on 11/11, ironically Singles Day in China (and some retailers in the rest of Asia), Ms Soon was happily showing us a photo of their Japanese marriage certificate—mostly filled out in kanji and katakana—on her iPhone.

Her husband was amused that she was still unable to get over the possession of the marriage cert and teased her about it. Undeterred, she said, Ariel-like, “It’s our first time; it’s my first time. Maybe, the Japanese wedding system is very common for you.” And added, “You are used to it,” quite unaware of what she might possibly have implied. Mr Ebihara smiled at her; his attention not quite ready to be diverted to the conversation at the table.

The Ebiharas’ good humour, easy laughter, and teasing nature belie the intellectual heft that imperceptibly characterised their Ametsubi collections. In sharing with us their design and product development processes—which took up one evening(!), they gave a deep impression of being designers who are not only interested in the exterior and visual effects of clothes, but equally in fashion as applied arts. Even in explaining how the name Ametsubi came about, they spared no effort to impress upon us with the haiku-eque significance of the name, rather than the semantics.

Ametsubi SS 2018 P1Key visual from the Ametsubi spring/summer 2018 campaign

“Ametsubi is a Japanese word,” Mr Ebihara explained. “It comes from the word ame, which means raindrops.” Ms Soon, taking a pen out to elaborate on paper, continued as she wrote, “The original word is ame-tsu-bu—that is water droplets. We took these characters (pointing the tip of the pen to the first two) and changed the bu to bi.” But that wasn’t all of it: “We met in Italy,” Ms Soon carried on, “and we are one (1) male and one (1) female, we chose [the Roman numeral from the] Latin alphabet ‘i’.”

There is more! “I am Japanese and she’s Singaporean, right?” Mr Ebihara rejoined. “In Japan, I hate rain, especially rainy season. Every day is wet and humid, and it is very uncomfortable. Normally, Japanese hate rain. But she, Singaporean lady, said to me, ‘I love rain’, because after the rain it is cool. Later we were talking about fashion, and how fashion is related to the environment. So when we discussed this, we thought this could be a reference point: I hate rain, she loves rain.”

All that for a name!

Keita Ebihara and Elizabeth Soon delivering their acceptance speech at SFA. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

It is interesting that at this year’s SFA, there’s a couple in each of the two fashion designer categories: Yong Siyuan and Jessica Lee of Nuboaix and Keita Ehibara and Eilzabeth Soon of Ametsubi. In many ways, the story of both pairs are similar, which illustrates a fact without alternative: that young designers face the same problems and hurdles, regardless of where they are based, who they are selling to. Undeniably, the Ametsubi duo has a leg up, as Japan has a lively fashion scene and an ecosystem that designers can tap into.

This afternoon, after receiving the trophy for the Emerging Designer of the Year, both designers were too moved with the honour to be able to articulate their feelings. Ms Soon could only say, when she stepped off the stage, that she wanted to cry. For many fashion observers, the win was hardly surprising. One of the judges Tina Tan enthused: “Their things are truly beautiful.” The other contenders, in fact, were up against two talents who are technically on another plane. Mr Ebihara and Ms Soon has shown that looking beyond the obvious augments flair to make fashion more engaging, more unique, totally desirable.

Fellow nominee Amos Yeo of AmosAnanda is a favourite among young TV stars. His clothes capture the spirit of a certain UK men’s wear designer-of-the-day, and cater to those who only care about the surface and not what’s beneath. And Rebecca Ting of Beyond the Vines has carved a distinguishable aesthetic of supreme gentleness, but she has yet shown that she’s adept at manipulating shapes and infusing her designs with details that can excite the eye.

Ametsubi DA graduation collection 2015

The 2013 graduation collection of Ametsubi’s Keita Ebihara and Elizabeth Soon. Photos: Domus Academy

Keita Ebihara and Elizabeth Soon met in Milan in 2013, when they were MA students at the prestigious Domus Academy (DA), ranked by BOF last year as the 19th best global graduate school for fashion. As Ms Soon recalled, “the first day of school was my birthday” and Mr Ebihara was there, mistaking her to be a Japanese lass, but spoke to her in what, by his admission, was then halting English. One renowned Singaporean who went to DA to complete his post-grad studies is the Paris-based designer Andrew Gn, after he graduated from Central Saint Martins. As DA programs are based on the idea of “learning by designing” and students busy themselves in “workshops”, the grouping and intermingling allowed Mr Ebihara and Ms Soon to interface frequently enough that pairing up as co-designers was an attractive idea.

Prior to their academic life together in Milan, Ms Soon, who was born in Canada and moved back to Singapore when she was six, was a student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Fashion Studies, where she graduated with a BA (Hons) in fashion design in 2012. In the same year, her graduation collection zipped to the UK to represent Singapore at the London Graduate Fashion Week, and was met with rave reviews in the English media, which noted her designs’ “powerful visual impact”.

Mr Ebihara, who was born in Tokyo, had gone to Sugino Gakuen, one of the top-10 fashion schools in the city to study fashion design; he graduated in 2009. Although he had “learned more about techniques: Japanese sewing and draughting”, he wanted to know “more about the product.” Terra Italiano was his greener grass on the other side.

While still in school, Mr Ebihara was selected to work for the Milan-based British designer Neil Barrett, and continued for four months after graduation in 2013. It was an experience that he admitted he did not enjoy. With his wife giggling in the background, he said, “to be honest, I found it to be very boring. Because their style is… how should I say? It was something I did not like too much.” While her husband-to-be was designing for a fashion house he did not take pleasure in, Ms Soon was picked to join someone she admired, the Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen, but she opted out of that opportunity. With her husband mock-chastising her, “you should have gone”, Ms Soon explained: “I had a housing obligation then. I signed a rental contract for a year, and I could not back out of that.” Mr Ebihara repeated himself, and she concurred, “I should have, but I was paying 700 Euros a month for that apartment. I couldn’t just go. And I was scared. I was 22, and I was spending too much money in Italy. I can’t go to Amsterdam and pay rent there and continue to pay rent in Milan. I was just scared of any monetary risk.” When asked if she’s a pragmatist, she pointed to her husband and said he is more “realistic”. Who is the dreamer then? Both laughed.

Ametsubi SS 2018 lookbookAmetsubi spring/summer 2018 look book. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

About a year after they left Domus Academy, Mr Ebihara and Ms Soon decided to firm up the plans for Ametsubi, and in September of 2014, the couple registered the company here. Before that, Ms Soon made a trip to Japan and contemplated living in the land of cherry blossoms. It could also be where the Ametsubi design studio would be based. A  couple of months later, everything the couple had in Milan was shipped eastwards, but it was not to Tokyo, where their friends had thought they would take up residency, but to Mr Ebihara’s family home in the prefecture of Ibaraki, known for plum trees.

Ibaraki-ken is 150 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, edged along the pacific coast. It would take about two hours by train to arrive at the heart of the capital city in the south. The decision to situate the Ametsubi office here is primarily to avoid Tokyo’s exorbitant rentals, no doubt a forbidding cost to a new fashion business. In Ibaraki-ken, the young Ebiharas were given a small house, “that sat on my grandfather’s land,” Keita Ebihara shared. His wife had earlier told us—with discernible pride—that he had taken upon himself to fit-out the design studio, and that included “building our own draughting table. And a cage for my pet hedgehog!” The studio consists of their living quarters too, which both happily said is upstairs.

Would a business card without a Tokyo address diminish the prestige of the brand? “We don’t think so,” Ms Soon said, “but being based away from Japan’s fashion centre has its negatives and positives. The positives: we’re undisturbed. Our creation is very pure, in that sense. We are not influenced by the [urban] environment, or ‘Tokyo Street’ [a trend]. We do not make Tokyo collection—there is a movement in Tokyo recently for young designers that is known locally as Tokyo colley, which is quite street, well ‘Tokyo Street’—there’s no other way to describe it.” This isn’t the mad-cap street style once seen in Harajuku’s Takeshita-dori or the less manic, Americanised get-ups of those who hang out in the so-called ura-Harajuku (backstreets). With Instagram eating into most young people’s lives, street displays—once a Sunday joy—are no longer necessary and are, in fact, oddly old-fashioned. ‘Tokyo Street’ is unmistakably post-kawaii, too; it’s a milder incarnation of its former self, its previous madness.

“The negatives,” Ms Soon continued, “means we have to travel a lot as we have to have our meetings in Tokyo and other towns, no one is going to come to us.” Mr Ebihara added, “We have to communicate with the patterner and fabric suppliers.” “And we can’t stay out too late, or it would be hard for us to go back. Our meeting usually starts early. If it’s at 8.30 in the morning, we have to leave by 5 or 5.30.” The social aspects of the business cannot be disregarded and not being in the heart of the action is a negative too. Ms Soon said, “It just means we have to try harder to be spoken about.”

Ametsubi SS 2018 G1Images from the Ametsubi spring/summer 2017 look book. Photos: Ametsubi

Talking about a brand with something to talk about is a starting point that’s easy to initiate. Between the evolution of a spark of interest and the full social media onslaught, however, few will get to know the developmental grind the Ebiharas have to go through to see a collection to fruition. Despite the outward simplicity of the clothes, much thought is given to every shape, every line, every seam, every detail, every fabric. Textiles are of a particular interest to the couple. Although their brand is still in its early years, they have started developing their own fabrics. Ms Soon was pleased to show us a sheer, salt-washed, water-resistant, polyester taffeta that they have co-developed with a mill and was even more delighted when she presented a lightweight poly-blend jacquard of repeated patterns of a somewhat pixilated motif mapped on a grit that they have designed, describing how it all came about and animatedly explaining the workings of a weaving loom fitted with a paper, patterning mechanism.

The passion became even more palpable as she went on to explain the origins of another motif that appeared in another jacquard, this time designed specifically to use as lining for their coats, jackets, and outerwear. “We wanted to do something that is like the old lining the British tailors used in suit jackets,” she explained, “but we did not want to use a medallion pattern, or a paisley.” As they are wont to explore unlikely sources, the Ebiharas started looking at something rather removed from fashion: cymatics. This is, simply put, the excitation of modes (a pattern of motion) in, say, water when a drop hits its surface. The water droplet image is not lost in its association with the name Ametsubi. But, more than that, Ms Soon, a self-confessed geek (“I love data and numbers”), was specific enough to say that the particular nodal pattern they have picked is based on the A-tone vibration of 220/230 gigahertz. This is mind-blowing stuff. And she wanted this water reference to be worn close to the body, hence the lining, “which touches the skin”, presumably to help the wearer feel, if not stay, cool. But how did this came about? “He just gave me some key words,” she continued, “such as ‘frequency’ and ‘harmony’ and ‘symbolism’; words like these,” tailing off with a giggle.  Yes, the mind boggles.

While all the thinking, research, and long hours of developmental work are not immediately identified in their designs, as equally lengthy time spent on embroidery does, Ametsubi is steep in detailed, but un-showy crafting that has a tradition that goes back to early Helmut Lang and Raf Simons. Ms Soon said, “When we’re asked to describe our clothes, we call them ‘high daily’.” The elevated positioning of their wearable designs adds up, as much has gone into making clothes that suits various body shapes. The Ebiharas took out a shirt—always a key item—from their spring/summer 2017 season to illustrate: It is designed without a yoke, with a back panel placed in such a way that a bias effect falls over the shoulder, allowing it to accommodate shoulders of any broadness and thickness. The same idea is applied to a jacket, only now, seams are manipulated to better accommodate the arm, and extra-long facing is added to the ends of the sleeve so that you can fold the sleeve up as a turn-back cuff to better accommodate different arm lengths of customers.  Even when they’re working in the relative remoteness of Ibaraki-ken, they’re sights are set on the very real world further afield.

We started following Ametsubi in 2015 when they showed during the inaugural Fashion Graduate Italia, a presentation of the best graduate collections from all the fashion schools in Italy, much like London Graduate Fashion Week that Ms Soon had participated in, three years earlier. Although there were only five looks, they impressed us with a sophisticated simplicity that was clearly built on far more complex ideas, unlike anything their fellow graduates were doing. At that time, Ms Soon was quoted saying, “We wanted to do something that could merge our cultures together, and merge our experiences in Milan. We focused on the details, as well as the shapes.” Although that may not satisfy those who need more by way of backstory or front-side flourish, we could see that Keita Ebihara and Elizabeth Soon were onto something a lot more tangible, a lot more unconnected with what was buzzy at that time. Which, inexplicably, reminds us of Mama Cass singing, “You gotta make your own kind of music; sing your own special song; make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along.”

Photos (except where indicated): Ametsubi