Jupebeast, manga-boho, relookage: these are today’s words. I was trawling for anything about Tsumori Chisato. She’s a Tokyo- based designer I discovered this May in the glorious archive called le Bon Marche. My Visa card procured one garment.

The strictness of black haberdashery, the slight sheen of the better, sturdy, mannish polished cottons of the last century, the utter frivolity of a very deeply scalloped knee-length hem, a structural use of self-piping, insouciance of a smock, a nudge towards deconstruction (the front button plackets extend to dangle 10 centimetres beneath the hem, slightly tickling the wearer’s upper calves), pearly grey flash of the long row of shirt buttons, a neck deeply vee’ed to expose the curve of a breast or some funky vintage debardeur, a hint of the priest, the suffragette, the middle-aged weekend painter of 1923 in her country retreat, a detourned scholar’s robe of Oxbridge vaguely, a nunnish flirt: I couldn’t name it. I loved it.

Its 13 vertical gores are deeply tucked onto simple shoulder yokes in both front and back, and it swings like a crumpled bell when I walk. Each gore finishes itself as one petal-like, piped scallop of the hem.

It makes me realize that I have never seriously considered the referential potential of a pocket. There is just one, structured into the seam of a left hand front gore. Here Chisato has begun roughly with the idea of a vertically tailored pocket, but she has made five little slashes into the fabric and sewn a little V shaped gusset into each slash, making of the pocket opening an outward-ruffling irregular invitation for the hand. Each gusset is topstitched to stiffen the ruffle. And the pocket is of more than adequate deepness. I keep a black Pacific beach pebble there.

It could be worn with high-tops, espadrilles, riding boots, polka-dot stiletto pumps, petticoats, torn jeans, lots of beads, striped stockings, a high necked blouse, gold sandals, knitted leggings, nothing, or a smoke-toned nylon Comme des Garcons irregularly dangling underskirt from 2001.

More simply put, it’s a knee length black sleeveless tunic or smock that immediately transforms the wearer to a 21st-century Djuna Barnes. On the basis of this single garment, I passionately recommend Tsumori Chisato.

All I could discover is that she worked for Issey Miyake from 1977 til 1990, that she started showing in Paris in 2001, and that she wears her hair long. The saleswoman at Bon Marche told me she’s popular with those wild Japanese manga girls, who do a sort of street cartoon Victorian hi-tech girly goth.

What would Deleuze have to say about it? Perhaps nothing, since her seams achieve an almost strict Nordic articulateness previously unimaginable among such baroque surplus of folds. Entirely unnecessary and useful, it hangs on its wooden hanger from a bookshelf, the shelf containing Ashbery, Bryher, Armantrout, and Bowles. The garment twists slightly to the right, as if in mid stride, and the left ruffled pocket splays out lasciviously.

Originally Published: June 29th, 2006

Poet Lisa Robertson was born in Toronto in 1961. She lived for many years in Vancouver, where she studied at Simon Fraser University, ran an independent bookstore, and was a collective member of the Kootenay School of Writing, a writer-run center for writing, publishing, and scholarship. While in Vancouver, Robertson...