Eley Kishimoto, a fashion brand founded by couple duo Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto, is the subject of the third book published by Parsnips Archive featuring images by the London-based Japanese photographer Kumi Saito, who passed away in December 2020 from cancer.
Best known for being appointed the creative directors of Cacharel in 2007, Eley and Kishimoto met in 1989 while both interning in New York. They got married and launched Eley Kishimoto in 1992. Since then, they have created prints for other houses including Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Jil Sander, and Marc Jacobs.
The brand launched its womenswear collection in 1996 and showed during London Fashion Week on and off between 2001 and 2010. It has also created numerous products featuring its print designs, such as wallpaper, glassware, and crockery.
The book comprises images of catwalk shows and events, and close-up shots of printed textiles and portraits taken by Saito, who was the in-house photographer for Eley Kishimoto between 2001 and 2016, the year the brand’s studio closed.
In an interview with WWD, Kishimoto said “Perhaps there is no one who knew our work better than Saito.
“She shot every single piece of work we ever created, be it on a brightly lit catwalk or scattered around everywhere in our workshop – I think you can see it in the book. She was a good friend, but with a camera in her hands, the level of her professional commitment came second to none. At the end of a long day of lookbook shoot, hours after models have gone home, she would still be shooting stills of socks with the same zeal that she had with the first outfit in the morning,” she added.
Kishimoto noted that the “staggering amount” of archive photographs Saito left is “not only important as the record of her achievement as a photographer, but also invaluable as a cultural documentation of certain era to be shared.”
“I wish readers of all generations to enjoy this series of books and spread the wealth of Saito’s work. I am humbly touched that our work is noted with print-worthy value,” added Kishimoto.
Eely, meanwhile, praised her “meticulous nature to capture everything and anything we did.
“We knew after shooting she would be editing for days to get the right pictures from the abundance she took. She fit right in and was part of us as we developed – she was family. There was very little that Saito did not manage to capture from our activities, she wanted to capture everything even when we did not need to document it,” he recalled.
The duo both noted that “the book is something that we cherish at this point in our career.”
“We have not paid much attention to collating everything and showing off our archive work well at all. This book manages to capture the essence of what we achieved over 30 years of work very intimately through Saito’s lens,” they added.
Born in Yamagata, a city in northern Japan, Saito studied photography at Tokyo’s Kuwasawa Design School while working as an assistant for Minsei Tominaga and Studio Ebis. She moved to London in 1994 and began to contribute to Japanese magazines, fashion brands, department stores, and a wide range of media.
Last year, the first book curated from Saito’s archive, titled “Have I Met You Before? London Street Style From Fashion Week 2001-2018,” was published by Parsnips Archive and edited by Saito’s longtime friend and fashion journalist Mina Wakatski, who also runs London’s famed Japanese-style French pastry shop Lanka on Finchley Road.
In curating this book, Wakatski said the result is “a rare book that introduces one brand’s archive for over 30 years along with photos by one photographer. As a journalist who has covered every show and most of the events that appeared in this book, I am so happy to have the opportunity to bring them all together.”
One of the highlights of this book for Wakatski is the image of the Eley Kishimoto studio.
“These were taken by Kumi just before it closed in 2016, not neither for magazines nor the brand, but for herself,” said Wakatski.
Cuminatlaing to the official launch on Sept. 15, a panel discussion about the book and the legacy of Saito and Eley Kishimoto will take place at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum on Sept. 7.