EVA: Demure, according to the Google translation, means “reserved, modest and shy”. When you look at the Demure pieces, they are anything but. How did you come up with the name for your brand and what’s the meaning behind the name for you?
YUKI: “To me, Demure stands for understated and reserved. But mostly, I want it to stand for making people really comfortable in what they are wearing. I want my hats to give people the feeling that they can be comfortable in their own skin.”
How did you first get into making hats?
“I always knew I wanted to do something with my hands. My mother’s family worked with fabrics and my dad’s family were wood carpenters. So I come from a family that worked with their hands all the time. Whilst living in London I approached this lady who was a hatmaker. I asked her if she could teach me her trade and the rest is history. After having been her apprentice for 7 years, I started making custom pieces. So I had been making hats for a while before Demure was founded in 2016.”
Do you still learn something new when you are working on a piece now?
“Yes, absolutely, I am still learning.”
You mention on your website that you still work with authentic methods when you are creating your hats. Do you ever incorporate modern techniques as well?
“Sometimes I do incorporate new techniques. But I still prefer to work in the traditional ways. Making an invisible stitch, or sewing something really tight by hand are details that are hard to achieve with a machine. It’s definitely possible. But someone who knows these things or has the same knowledge as I have will see the difference. Even if it’s a small difference, it’s still a difference.”
Would you say you are a perfectionist then?
“Maybe. I used to really push myself when something didn’t work out. More recently I have learned to just let it go. I also don’t really like the word ‘perfect’ or ‘perfectionist’ because the more I look at something that I made, the more details I notice and the more flaws I find. If you say you’re perfect, you can’t improve. Then I wouldn’t have to continue making any more hats.”
Can you tell me more about the way you work?
“For starters, I don’t make sketches. Everything I do is all in my head. The thing I don’t really like about a sketch is when something doesn’t work out, you’re then stuck with the sketch. When I start working on something new, I like to choose the material first. See the way it flows, moves or changes. And from there I see what comes to mind. The teacher of a friend of mine, from his art school, said to him: ‘let the material speak to you’. I do this too.”
Are you inspired by your Japanese background? How do you think that comes back into your work?
“Japan is not really an influence for me, but some people have said so. I just don’t see it. I also haven’t lived in Japan for a lot of years.”
June 20, 2022
text EVA VAN BOVEN
interview EVA VAN BOVEN
photography YUKI ISSHIKI
Comfort is the underlying layer behind the work of Yuki Isshiki. As a headwear designer and a hatmaker she uses a classic couture approach with a focus on the individual. After learning from the best and making a name for herself, she is now based in Amsterdam with her label Demure. Garment Magazine sat down to talk about her work and love for hats.
This is a publication from Garment Magazine, made by students from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. You can find The Future Through Headwear issue in stores on the 29th of June!
Maybe you incorporate certain small elements unconsciously into your designs?
What are some of your other inspirations?
“I am inspired by everything. I try to not look at trends at all, but sometimes certain elements or a small detail of a trend can be a source for inspiration. "
Where do you think this comes from? Because I think it is quite a unique approach.
“One unique thing about headwear is that it sits right on your face. When you wear a hat it becomes a part of your face. One small detail can make a big difference. I have noticed that people are always really conscious about this. They always say that they have a big head or a large face. But that’s not true. I want to take those feelings away, make them feel comfortable. It also stems from my own insecurities. It has taken me a long time to decide to show and do my own thing. What I am trying to do is to help people feel comfortable / ‘demure’ about the core part of themselves, the part that is underneath all the layers that people have within them. This, so that you are not fussed about what you look like in the eyes of others or worried about which layers to put out / wear. But personally, if someone is to find a hat which speaks directly to them and lives happily ever after, I couldn’t be happier. Even if they were to never come back.”
What has been the favourite piece of headwear you have ever made?
“Not one in particular. But when I see that a customer is happy with their hat and it fits right, that is a special moment for me. That is actually my favourite.”
Do you have anyone you would still love to make a headwear piece for?
“No one in particular, but mostly just people in general, that have similar values as mine. If I were to do an event or bring people together, I think not one person would look the same but that they would all become friends. So, to answer your question, no. I don’t have anyone in particular I would like to make a piece for, just people who appreciate what I do and if I can make them feel good then I have done my job.” With Demure, I make what I want to make. I don’t want to do what others are already doing because then my customer might as well go to Zara.”
You prefer to sit down with someone before you create a headwear piece for them. Why is that?
“With a consultation, I want to see how a person is, what they are wearing and what their favourite colour is. If that colour doesn’t suit them we can see together what a colour close to their favourite one is. I take all of that into account because that already tells me so much about what kind of person they are. I want to encourage them to try on different hats. So that they can see that a lot of things actually suit them and they might even end up going for something they wouldn’t have gone for initially. This is how I hope to take away those layers of insecurity that people might have.“
You are pretty active on social media. Is that because you like to be there or does it serve a different purpose as well?
“I share a lot of political things on my social media. For example, I’m a big Bernie Sanders fan. I post a lot about him in my stories. And people have messaged me, saying they don’t know anything about hats but because they also are big Bernie fans and found this out about me, they now want to learn more about hats as well. You also want people to understand why they would pay €150 or more for a piece. That’s why I explain so much on my website and on my social media. To give people an insight into the material, the design process and the techniques that I use. This way I hope to help them better understand the value of a Demure headwear piece."