Interview with 11.11's own Mia Morikawa

New 11.11 is now available at S&S and on our website! To accompany this release, we caught up with Mia Morikawa, one of the forces behind the brand.
We get into 11.11's deliberate approach to making clothing - taking everyone into account at all stages of production, and their focus on zero-waste design and manufacturing.

With new 11.11 touching down at S&S Oakland and hitting our website, we took some time to chat with Mia Morikawa, our main contact and one of the driving forces at 11.11, to get a better understanding of the brand's unique story and ethos.

We got into all that while Morikawa was busy with market weeks in Paris and New York, finding time wherever we could to talk about her natural dyes, and the many ways in which textiles are like wine.

Standard & Strange: First off, where does 11:11 come from, the name?

Mia Morikawa: In numerology, one is a master number. It represents a sort of quest to repeat and refine – to be committed to learning and building consciousness. It’s said that 11:11 is a portal to evolving consciousness, an angel number, that noticing it is an indication of increased awareness. From a graphic point of view, it can be a fractal of stripes and dots – when placed in a repeat pattern. The name is kind of mysterious and doesn’t really have a hard definition of what it means. It’s pretty special to meet people whose birthday falls on 11/11 - it often feels like we are turned into the same frequency. Members of the same club.


S&S: I like the term you use, “marginal fabric pieces.” Tell me about some of the techniques that are used to create zero-waste designs.

Spending time visiting cotton farms and developing a fabric from the fiber state, it becomes very apparent that the off-cuts are valuable. When garments are produced in volume, those remnant fabric pieces pile up over time. Throwing those pieces away would be like throwing time and resources out the window and would also be disrespectful to the farmers who grew the cotton, the spinners, and the weavers who transformed it into fabric. My favorite products come from recentering remnant fabric. Traditional Kantha features patches of worn textile mended together in straight running stitches to reinforce tattered and worn fabric – often saris – infusing it with renewed life and character. 11.11’s take on the traditional technique features hand-quilting tonal patches in a curvilinear pattern reminiscent of the movement of ripples on water. The stitches are so close together that they have more of an embroidered quality to them. These pieces add a warm handmade accent to interiors, are functional as throws and quilts, and can be installed on a wall as textile art. Excited that our Kantha hand-quilted collection is launching soon at Standard & Strange.

S&S: What is one of the unique ways you use remnant fabric?

MM: Zero waste as an approach can be seen as a design strategy, but it’s also a reflection of the intelligence of natural systems: how materials take shape, decompose, return to earth, and join new cycles of life. Waste and ‘throwing away’ isn’t really part of the language of the natural world. When the patches for the quilts are being prepared, hard edges or angles are rounded off. All of the little leftover scraps get aggregated by color & are pulped into paper. This is the final stage of assigning value to every last thread. The paper is used for hang tags and for paper in our line of stationary and notebooks.

S&S: Do you have a favorite natural dye you work with?

MM: Definitely appreciate colors that have depth, richness, and vibrancy to them. These usually come from the mixing and layering up of color and pH shifting to discover new shades. Our ochre comes from pomegranate skin and myrobalan flower petals. We have a turquoise–teal color that comes from mixing ochre and indigo – it’s part of Standard and Strange's upcoming delivery in the spring, which I feel very warm towards. Our indigo and iron denim also achieves inky darkness and depth because the yarns are dyed and then woven so the color feels more embedded into the fabric. Natural dyeing has a science to it but there is definitely also an element of alchemy. The combinations of ingredients can often behave in surprising & unexpected ways.

S&S: It seems obvious, but the people making 11.11 are as important as the quality of the material and designs themselves. Who are the people making 11.11 in India?

MM: There's a cooperative of ladies that reside in Kutch, Gujarat. It's a desert, dry region. The same region where the cotton that we work with is grown. They're a semi-nomadic community of shepherds. The region is sort of a Mecca of traditional life and craft - it’s well known for embroidery, bandani, which is a miniature tie-dye, mirror work. We’ve collaborated with them for about 10 years now - each year, the number of artisans that we work with increases - we are now up to 400. We recently did a financial audit, and over the past decade 50% of our total earnings as a company has been redistributed to remotely located artisan communities.

A purchase can be a profound act of solidarity and in the case of 11.11, each one builds power in indigenous communities, placing funds in the hands of women & artisans engaged in traditional regenerative farming practices and heritage textile technologies.

S&S: On the topic of the people, is each piece 11.11 made fully traceable back to the producer?

MM: Yes, that’s correct each piece is fully traceable. If we don’t know who made our clothes or where they come from, then that disconnection can cultivate an out-of-site / out-of-mind situation.

Reconnecting with place & processes making them visible creates the possibility of care. By now, we have produced over 50,000 units - each item is associated with a unique number. That unique number is paired with a set of data: who has worked on it, the hours it took to produce, and the materials it’s made of.

S&S: Elsewhere, you have compared textiles to wine, with its own terroir. I really love this idea of textiles as recording this hyper-local and specific history. Also, like wine, textiles have this insanely rich and very human history.

MM: Yes, that’s true. The farm-to-table pathway runs parallel to the seed-to-stitch journey. Cotton farmers and makers of textiles are stewards of land and culture in a similar way that vineyards and winemakers represent regional specialties.

If you go to a wine tasting, the language used to describe wine can seem high-brow and can add a sort of reverence for the fact that growing, fermenting grapes, and transforming them into wine is a slow process that requires skill and knowledge.

When we speak to the qualities and properties of a textile, our zero-count hand-spun yarn has a low twist, a lofted character, and a dry hand. Increasing our textile lexicon to find more nuanced ways of describing the characteristics of fabric is definitely part of our practice.

Since the beginning of civilization, cloth and clothing have offered a sense of warmth, protection, and security. As society evolves, our relationship with textiles also continues to change.

Our connection to clothes starts when we are born and persists until our last days…

Most major milestones of life are marked with ceremonial cloth - at birth, babies are swaddled in a baby blanket. Birthdays and holidays are often marked with new clothing. Getting married and wearing wedding attire – like a dress, a veil, a sari, a kimono, or a suit — all have their own cultural context when it comes to clothes and clothing. When we die, there are burial shrouds - bodies are wrapped in cloth and cremated or dressed in a favorite outfit and laid to rest.

Textiles and clothing are endlessly fascinating as vehicles of communication that express our identities before we even utter a word.

S&S: It feels like so much fashion now – fast or otherwise – works so hard to smooth out the imperfections of textiles, and by extension, this removes the human touch. Why do you like working with such deeply human textiles?

MM: Hand-spun variegated thick to thin yarn, reminds us that the cotton was transformed by a human being - a person with a unique energetic signature that translates to a kind of intimacy that doesn’t exist in industrially made products.

Like a sip of wine or a music track, fabric has the ability to sensorially transport. The texture of our fabric reminds us of the origins of the material, that it comes from cotton, which is a plant that once was a seed that grew from soil and holds the properties of the cotton varietal and the landscape it comes from.

Vandana Shiva says that industrial farming has dismantled the soul of our soil, and industrial manufacturing has resulted in a similar disconnect in regard to clothing, culture & the environment.

We definitely offer a small batch, slow-made solution in resistance to fast fashion. Resistance movements are often attempts to carve out spaces for us to remake ourselves, to find wholeness and health to repair from ancestral/systemic trauma. Care is palpable when wearing our pieces.

11.11 clothing feels good to wear; the pieces reconnect us to what it means to be human and alive, to be complex and imperfect. We have had a certain amount of longevity because we are passionate about making, wearing & representing 11.11 - sharing this work and connecting to people who appreciate it is both a pleasure & a privilege.

By Charles McFarlane

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