The Gentle Superwoman Sacai’s designer Chitose Abe

  • During the opening of her “Let’s Play Around” pop-up store at JOYCE Lee Gardens, Chitose Abe, designer of Japanese label Sacai, speaks to us about love, family and living a balanced life.
    It’s Chitose Abe’s second visit to Hong Kong and she is clearly thrilled to be back.

    “Everyone is so dressed up here! I’m so excited about people’s dress sense and love of fashion. It makes me want to go shopping straight away!” says the designer looking chic, clad in designs from her spring/summer collection.

    Her comment may come as a surprise considering that many Hong Kong hipsters look to Japan for the latest trends, but Abe disagrees.

    “Oh no, you guys have gone beyond us. The Japanese don’t really dress up even if it’s for different activities during the day or at night.”

    "I’ve always loved fashion. My mother used to get upset with the way I dressed because I was very much into avant garde fashion such as
    Comme des Garcons. She refused to go out with me, and sometimes even cried! But to me, fashion is an important part of my life; it’s a way of expressing myself."

    Indeed a relaxed dress code is a modern approach to fashion that Abe wholeheartedly embraces. This has become a core part of her design philosophy, along with a talent for juxtaposing the masculine and feminine, the functional and decorational. She elaborates on this concept with the help of her outfit.

    “This biker jacket looks like a classic biker jacket from the front, but it’s got ruffles along the back of the waist to create a peplum effect. The ribbon skirt is constructed with lots of two-faced ribbons. The top is in navy cotton, the bottom is in emerald satin, so as you walk, the movement shows off different aspects of the pieces,” she says.

    Her seemingly simple designs consist of complicated structures and fabric combinations. In fact much of her tailoring skills were honed during her years working with Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe.

    “We have a very special relationship. I still call Ms. Kawakubo ‘boss’, although she keeps saying to me, ‘No, I’m not your boss anymore.’ They influenced me in every way,” she says.

    Sacai is best known for its simple but feminine knitwear, often mixed with delicate lacework. As such JOYCE and Sacai collaborated on an exclusive pop-up store where customers can create their own Sacai knitwear, choosing details including buttons, colour, embroideries and monogramming.

    “I began my own label with knitwear because I could do it all by myself but then became a signature. We have been with JOYCE for seven years and I’m grateful for the support, so I want to reintroduce this classic to our Hong Kong customers,” she explains.

    It has been a few busy years for Abe. Sacai opened a flagship store in Aoyama in Tokyo, and has been showing during Paris Fashion Week for a few seasons. These efforts have put Sacai on an international platform.

    “We are still working on raising the profile of the company, but we would like to reach more people hence why we decided to show in Paris and open a store. We are also planning to launch an accessories line to expand on the company’s portfolio,” she says.

    Apart from being a businesswoman, designer and company leader, Abe is also mother to a 15 year-old daughter and insists on living her life as a full-time working mother.

    “I get up at 6am, prepare a bento box for my daughter then arrive the office at 10am, sometimes work till 12am. Sometimes I finish at 7pm and come home to have supper with my daughter. In the weekend, I love shopping with her and squeeze in a personal training session to stay fit. I love this way of life,” she says, smiling.

    Her dedication and discipline in living such a fruitful life is truly admirable. However, Abe says the main driving force to this day is her passion for fashion.

    “I’ve always loved fashion. My mother used to get upset with the way I dressed because I was very much into avant garde fashion such as Comme des Garcons. She refused to go out with me, and sometimes even cried! But to me, fashion is an important part of my life; it’s a way of expressing myself. Some women would choose to be housewives and look after their families - I just have to work and I have to work in fashion.”

    The Sacai “Let’s Play Around” pop-up stores are at JOYCE Lee Gardens and *Pacific Place until 2nd April, 2013.

    *The pop-up programme will launch at JOYCE Pacific Place from 26th March to 2nd April


    Interview by Lucienne Leung-Davies