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Jum Nakao

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The Creators Project: How did you first become interested in fashion?

Jum Nakao: At first I was always interested in working with interfaces, making and creating means to interfere with reality and daily life. I always imagined that I would do something in technology.

What was your background before you became a fashion designer?

I took a special high school course that focused on electronics. I then decided to end the course and started thinking of some kind of interface, some way of dressing people that established a dialogue. Then I realized that clothes worked as this interface between people and the world. They are what occupies the space between our skin and what others see. So I decided I wanted to better understand how to build clothes and the relationship between the thread, the trace, the pattern, and the human body. Then I started working as a tailor for two years, making clothes for several types of bodies and understanding that everybody has a pattern, every defect has a solution—a process where you can, through more organic and straight lines, compensate and create new shapes. And then, trying to understand more about fashion, I started studying accessories, and began working as a jeweler.

This is interesting theoretically, but difficult to imagine in practice. Can you give us a real life example?

There is project that I developed for Oi when they launched in São Paulo. They wanted to cover the history of fashion in Brazil. I think that the history of fashion in Brazil is not something linear; it has many different facets. I thought of creating a surface, and they asked me to imagine a piece of clothing that was kind of like a projection surface. Then I thought of a multifaceted piece of clothing—a polygonal piece of clothing—so that when the projection washed over it, when it filled the piece of clothing with images, the images also looked kind of cubist and completely distorted, which highlighted that the clothing had many different aspects, each representing different types of Brazilian fashion.

Your paper fashion designs have garnered a lot of praise and attention. The process to manufacture them must be extremely complex.

For São Paulo’s Fashion Week in the summer of 2005, we spent 700 hours to make those clothes, and we used almost one ton of paper for something that lasted seven minutes. In the end, everything was torn up on the catwalk. We used vegetable paper and turned it into something sublime and fantastic with low- and high-relief carving, laces and manual cuts, origami, laser cuts. The idea of the project was to show that it does not matter what clothing is made of. People think that everything must be made in high definition, everything must be made in gold, everything must be made in brass, everything must be made in silk, but it doesn’t matter. It shows people that their values need to be reanalyzed, that materiality doesn’t matter. That is why we destroy everything, to show that there is something more important, something much more lasting than what people see and value at first sight.

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At a glance

Laser-cut fashion-as-art designer.

Location: São Paulo, Brazil
Profession: Fashion designer, engineer
Label: Jum Nakao
Website: JumNakao.com
Notables: Exhibition “The Enchanted World of Jum Nakao” (2008); Included in the "Showtime" international exhibition at Galliera - Fashion Museum of Paris (2006); paper runway show at São Paulo Fashion Week in 2004; former fashion director at Brazilian fashion house Zoomp; DVD documentary The Sewing of the Invisible (A Costura do Invisível) (2005)
Jum Nakao uses: PowerBook G4, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Laser technologies, Video projections onto dresses, Miniature model making, Industrial manufacturing for conceptual projects

Connect: Facebook; Flickr; YouTube