Japanese is a language that uses a lot of filler words—nanka, ano ne, uun, ano, sou des ka?, sou sou—small, highly inflected expressions that depend on context to girth their meaning. Sou sou is an expression that usually indicates recognition or validation: yes, yes.
Sou Sou is a Kyoto-based textile company that took sou sou—a phrase their website calls a “metonymy of Japan itself,” a case of translation glitch yielding eager hyperbole—and made it into one of the more interesting brands in Japan today.
The founder of Sou Sou, designer Katsuji Wakisaka, was the first Japanese designer to ever work for the Finnish textile company Marimekko, a brand known for its bold flower prints. Unlike other mainstream Japanese fashion brands, Sou Sou typically doesn’t strive for minimalism, but instead embraces funky, colorful patterns, and a diverse array of styles.
On Kyoto’s Shinkyogoku-dori is kind of a mini-mall of Sou Sou stores, each selling their own distinct wares. Sou Sou has many sub-brands: their ongoing collaboration with le coq sportif is a collection of “downtown cycling and daily wear,” easy-to-wear clothes that celebrate bicycling both in France and Kyoto. They have a children’s brand Warabe, which features some adorable kimono-inspired tops for kids. Koromo and Kei’i are two shops that specialize in ready-to-wear Japanese-inspired clothing.
But their new line Sou Sou Gyou is different from these other collections. Sleek and dark, these clothes are an indication that the brand is moving toward solid colors and lush, deep patterns.
In the world of calligraphy, gyou is a Japanese word that indicates a style that falls somewhere between the loose and precise qualities of sou and shin. Gyou is the Goldilocks of style, perfectly situated, “just right” between too formal and too casual.
Some of the new pieces are quite bold in their silhouettes. For women, the Chu-e Awase is a long vest, meant for layering over an outfit. The Mitate and Round Sleeve dresses have the dramatic curves of a kimono freed from the stiffness of an obi.
In the collection for men, the Tenjiku Cotton Gyo Kimono shirts feel traditional without being stuffy, while the Circular Mantle jacket and Worsted Kimono sleeve shirt defiantly break out of the standard, no-nonsense jackets of typical menswear.
The oversized fit of all these garments could easily fall into shapelessness, but it’s reigned in by sharp, restrained colors and prints—the ultimate state of gyou.
SouSou Kikoromo Womenswear
Address: 583-6, Nakanocho, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 604-8042, Japan Phone: +81-75-221-0020 Business hours: 11:00am to 8:00pm
SouSou Keii Menswear
Address: 569-8, Nakanocho, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 604-8042, Japan Phone: +81-75-213-2526 Business hours: 11:00am to 8:00pm
SouSou Tabi Footwear
Address: 583-3, Nakanocho, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 604-8042, Japan Phone: +81-75-212-8005 Business hours: 11:00am to 8:00pm