I first came across Ota Shirts at a pop-up in an East Tokyo plant shop on a melty hot day in June. The colors and shapes of the garments hanging amongst the lush greenery caught my eye and like a magnet I was drawn in. The collection seemed like a happy and well-groomed family. There was a sense of unity between each vest, shirt, and pair of pants. Not to mention the colors. Creamy lilac, the freshest watermelon pink, and puritan white (there was no way I was going to be able to keep that clean.) The fabrics were soft and fresh.
Ota san was quiet and helpful, and humbly shared that he made and designed all the clothes himself and that each of the fabrics were from different parts of Japan. A luxurious polyester from Fukui, a silk from Yamagata, and ‘fallen’ cotton (cotton offcuts) from his hometown, Aisai City in Aichi.
Ota san grew up in the Bishu production area, a region that spans parts of Aichi and Gifu prefectures that boasts ideal conditions for the whole textile making process. He started Ota Shirts in 2019.
“I was born in a textile-producing area and there was a textile mill near my house where I used to play. I recall hearing that the fabric woven there was shipped around the world and as a child I found it fascinating that fashion originated here.”
Growing up he noticed that the people in the area rarely wore these textiles. “Ever since I was little, I haven’t seen many people wearing local fabrics, and I’ve always wished that more people would wear them. The fact is that these fabrics are extremely expensive and the brands that sell them are set the prices too high for the locals.”
Ota san started Ota Shirts with the goal to make locally-made textiles more commonplace, and uses the fabric he finds around Japan as the starting point for his designs.
“In recent years, due to the fast fashion trend and impacts from coronavirus, the domestic textile industry has been in decline. One of the ways to improve this situation is to use fabrics from the Bishu region and other good domestic production areas. I’ve decided to make the locality of Japan the focus of my work.”
As a self-taught sewer and designer and one-man operation, Ota Shirts has limited runs but also creates bespoke pieces for clients. Every element is carefully considered and it’s clear that he is passionate about his work and the industry. Fortunately once you discover Ota’s mix of locality, beauty, simplicity and tradesmanship you’ll never be able to buy fast fashion again.