September 23, 2015

at a quiet corner of mandarin gallery, you’ll find yourself inexplicably drawn to the warm, wooden interiors of a certain boutique, shelves lined neatly with home items and furniture from japan. charming, minimalist, quirky, lifestyle store atomi has them all, curated to perfection. beyond just knick knacks though, we find out that it has its eye on something else: an exclusive in-house clothing line. made in okayama, japan, with traditional techniques and clever details, these shirts definitely deserve a closer look. By Amelia Tan

Button-down shirts have a bad rep. They’re a tad bland. Boring. “Classic”, if you will, though we’ve still got plenty of love for them: pair them with a preppy sweater or leather jacket, do the whole Alexa Chung with denim dungarees, or switch things up with a statement necklace. Still, the ones in atomi’s new collection look so good that you’d wanna wear them as simply as possible, no embellishments, they’re the star of your outfit.

Oh, one more thing – you might have to steal them from your boyfriend’s closet.

The first of their inaugural fashion line sees a menswear collaboration with fellow local, made-in-japan fashion label, biro, an ideal pairing since both brands are passionate about Japanese design. This means, in atomi’s own words, “quality, craftsmanship, attention to detail and the artisans who create them”, while still maintaining a minimalist aesthetic.

This is similar to the curated range of products that atomi brings in. Thanks to the store’s co-founders, and husband-and-wife team, Andrew Tan and Mitsuko Murano, you won’t need to make a trip to Japan, because everything’s housed under one roof, including those that may be hard to find elsewhere. Think stylish kitchen ware by Toshiyuki Kita, enamel-coated Kaico pots and kettles (our editor has a few of those), or Suzugami, a paper-like tin plate that you can bend or fold like origami.

It’s worth noting that the clothing line isn’t the first time the store has ventured into in-house items – a series of jackets and shirts came out last year, and Tan has also designed cuff links, specially made in Japan. Those were lovingly handmade by a Japanese artist, and only a few pieces of each brightly-coloured glass design were available.

This time though, it’s an entire new range, starting with the short-sleeved shirt. “We wanted to create our own in-house clothing that resounds with our belief of combining Japanese design with a comfortable lifestyle. This is a wearable piece that is the epitome of quality and design, just like our lifestyle and furniture products.”

There’s a lot to take in, but just like our sense of awe while watching the sushi master work his magic in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, we can’t help but marvel at the effort that goes into each shirt. Naturally, a pleasing comparison is made between the shirts and atomi’s wooden pieces – just as a fine piece of wood ages well, so does the high-quality chambray that gets better with time. When worn, you’ll be able to feel the light fabric, soft against your skin, and unlike more economical versions, the original workwear attire can last a long time while withstanding multiple washes.

Then, there are the traditional techniques: a triple chain-stitching construction using WWII machines that only skilled artisans can operate, and selvedge sleeves woven on an old traditional shuttle loom, the kind you might find depicted on woodblock prints. The meticulous choice of selvedge hems is deliberate as it’s a nod to both Japanese craft, known for their superior understanding of selvedge denim, and a commitment to quality since the technique prevents the edge of the sleeve from unraveling.

And while all these sound like incredibly serious stuff, there are a lot of thoughtful details that make the shirt perfect for a casual day out. Other than a cut that allows room for movement, its rounded collar gives a more relaxed feel, and for the perfectionists, this sits nicely alongside a matching rounded pocket. These blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details may be lost when looking at your overall outfit, but those are something both local brands are glad to pay close attention to. So much for the “simple” collared shirt then.

The biro for atomi collection’s short-sleeved shirts, in red and white, price upon request. Available from October, exclusively at Mandarin Gallery, #04-27.

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