Swooping Crane Kanata Cowichan
"Swooping Crane" pattern design • Hang-tag design and illustration
Made famous in the movie "The Big Lebowski," the cowichan (cow-eh-chin) is a traditional hand-knit sweater by the Cowichan peoples of Canada. This cowichan was designed by me for New York menswear boutique No Man Walks Alone.
Most cowichans feature traditional images and patterns—buffalos, deer, etc. But I designed this one as an homage to Japanese sukajans, or souvenir jackets. Sukajans were gaudy jackets that American GIs brought back to the US after the Pacific Theater, and they often featured prominent patterns on the sleeve and a large image on the back.
I used a swooping crane, a symbol of longevity in many Asian cultures, as the main motif on the back, with smaller patterns of swallows and cherry blossoms along the sleeves and the front. The pattern on the bottom front is a traditional Japanese pattern featuring abacus beads (and the patterning on the hem is reminiscent of traditional Cowichan patterns). It's all tied together by using a dark blue yarn, reminiscent of indigo dye that is so important in Japan.
I wanted the design to be a combination of a lot of cultures, because this is what it is: a Vietnamese designer born in the Philippines designs a Canadian sweater with Japanese motifs based on jackets that Americans brought back from World War II.
Product photos courtesy of No Man Walks Alone.