Ess. Laboratory

(Hoshika Oshimi and Tatsuyoshi Kawabata)

Ess. Laboratory combine two sets of unique skills – the tailoring skills of Oshimi with those of the visual artist and composer in Kawabata. The ‘Ess.’ in Ess. Laboratory stands for Experimental Surreal Style and the exploration of the subconscious through trial and enquiry pervades their design. To that end, Ess. Laboratory’s two ensembles in the exhibition seem to have been caught mid-way between this world and some fantastical narrative. Each seems to either rise from the floor or ooze into it, or appear part filthy or is it part bright and unsullied?

Vest coat is a floor-length, flesh-coloured kangaroo leather jerkin that has been carefully tailored but then washed and wrenched to take on the appearance of sun and age-wearied human skin. The finely crafted white shirt which sits underneath has literally been left in the sun, painted with tea and shredded. These uniquely constructed garments expose Ess. Laboratory’s key themes: the juxtaposition between the real and the artificial, between disfigurement and embellishment and the friction between reality and the subconscious that results in surprise. Equally, they interrogate the sometimes dubious and traumatic side of Surrealism. In their white dress of a fantastical fifteen layers of circular fabric, seemingly (shockingly?) muddied from the hem upwards, the designers hint at the fashionable female body as one caught at the crossroads of convulsive eroticism and indeterminate spectatorship. Ess. Laboratory explore an alternate reality and, through their design, create garments to clothe us for the journey there.