Julia Abe's debut collection release and first U.S solo exhibition.
A note from Avery:
8 years ago when Prom was just a collection of artists in Tokyo, I met a really shy girl in Harajuku. I didn’t know much about her other than she was at the start of her modeling career and she liked to stay in the corner doodling in her notebook. We ended up shooting a campaign together and became friends. Just out of pure coincidence, we were both traveling from Tokyo to LA on the same date and decided to share a flight. This was really the first chance I had to get to know her and hear about how her unique background as a dual national of Brazil and Japan had impacted her outlook and influenced her artwork. Throughout the years we both tried our best to keep in touch but you know how life is. I always kept up to date with her career as a model and her development as a young artist though.
Fast forward almost a decade later, I started to reach out to all the talented people I have worked with throughout the years to make something timeless together and Julia’s name was at the top of my list for this new chapter in Prom. Respect the カラス (The Japanese word for crow) is the name of our collaboration that started out as a conversation about the compromises creatives have to make in the fashion industry and our shared experience of the contrast between acceptance and alienation foreigners experience while living in Japan. For the collection, Julia created art pieces in various mediums around this concept and worked together with the Prom team to develop apparel pieces that incorporate her illustrations. This is her first solo exhibition in the United States and Prom’s first exhibition in Los Angeles.
Julia has done a lot of interviews and they always ask the same questions, so this time I wanted to let Julia talk about everything in her own words.
A note from Julia:
Up the hill from the Futako river an elevatorless, 80s apartment complex sits across the street from a sento. This is how I can best describe the scene of my old neighborhood, Setagaya. The other room in my 2LDK apartment was converted into my atelier after my roommate moved out. An organized mess of different tones of purple, pink, orange and turquoise. A pile of unfolded clothes in the corner juxtaposed to the gifts from Fendi, Prada, Coach and Nike highlights the contrast between my modeling career and my personal life.
When modeling, I’m always surrounded by people. Makeup artists, stylists and PR managers all working in unison to make sure that the way I look and move best represents their brand. I can “act” as myself as long as the "act" conforms to the standards of how female models are supposed to act in Japan. Underneath this “act” there is also the core me. The me that thinks I don’t care what other thinks but actually cares very much. A sensitive over thinker. This is the contrast that spills out onto my canvases.
Some say my work is a mixture of Tim Burton and Takashi Murakami and I wouldn’t disagree. In fact both of those artists inspire me a lot. Tim Burton in particular was my favorite growing up. On my 8th Christmas my parents gave me Sally and Jack plushes from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I remember seeing his stop-motion animations and feeling that the imperfections of the lines and lighting resonate with how I felt about myself. I feel fortunate I had opportunities to check out his exhibitions; I fell more in love with his work after seeing his early on sketches. This changed my perspective on my own sketches. I went from seeing them as doodles to completed artwork.
People tell me that the characters I draw are me. I can see the similarities but they're all different entities - or maybe just different versions of myself. The majority of my sketches are either genderless or female characters, I get a sense of comfort drawing girls with their breast out that have no shame or timidity in their facial expressions.
xWhen I was still 19 I had my first solo exhibition. The creative director of Stussy Japan, Shin Okishima, hosted the event at his Tokyo based gallery, SO. Shin remains my guardian angel to this day, he has always been a supporter of my modeling career and believed in my journey as an artist. I still remember all the details of that day -I waited for my train at Ichigao station trying to balance a stack of 30 x 40 inch canvases and a bag full of A3 sketches on the platform. The hour long commute to Shibuya station was followed by a nervous uphill walk to the gallery. I initially felt overwhelmed but ultimately motivated seeing my friends and family show up to support. The fact that my father showed up had a huge impact on me.
I was always trying to come up with new ways to present my artwork so I started a spree of live painting events around central Tokyo. Social settings can be pretty heavy for me and live painting meant I could just focus on my work and not have to talk to anyone. This allowed me to put my social awkwardness on pause and get lost in my art. One thing I really want to do is use live painting as a vehicle to create larger pieces. I also want to create more abstract works, they allow me to refresh and explore techniques and colors outside of my comfort zone.
I was wasting last summer away in my apartment when out of the blue Avery reached out and asked to collaborate on a capsule collection with Prom. He told me he wanted to make timeless products that are more art pieces than apparel products.I packed a suitcase, flew to LA and we immediately got to work on the collection. We kept a conversation going throughout the design process on how our mutual experience of living in Japan while being perceived as outsiders had affected our life trajectory. These discussions influenced the sketches which ultimately shaped the collection. For the look book it was important for me to capture the timeless aspect of the pieces. Instead of casting models I casted friends. Friends of Avery and myself who have had a strong impact on our lives and careers.
Even before the collection was completed we knew that we wanted Angella Choe to shoot the lookbook, she has a unique ability to capture naivety and honesty in a person and this aligned with the concept of the project.
The Respect the カラス exhibition is scheduled for 10/29. Although the characters on the clothes are colorful, the pieces for the exhibition are predominantly monotone. Some paintings are entirely charchol, a medium that is very new to me but already a favorite. You’ll also see some acrylic paintings and crayon sketches. I’m sure the public will be able to connect to at least one of the characters since they are all based off people around me!
Respect the カラス
Julia Abe Solo Exhibition and Apparel Collection Launch
10.29 - 10.31
11am - 7pm
321 S. Robertson
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Photography by Angella Choe