Taking kimono silk to the next fashion level

TAIPEI — Japanese have been living in Taiwan for more than a decade. fashionShunsuke Teranishi was a designer who worked in Tokyo, Milan, and Paris for top Japanese and European apparel brands. In 2016, however, his career took a dramatic change when he was introduced into the world of ushikubi-tsumugi (cow’sneck silk), an exquisite variety in kimono fabric. fashionExhibition in Paris

That show — the biennial Premiere Vision exhibition — was an eye-opener for Teranishi, an architect-turned-designer who was then working for Paris-based Hermes as the only Asian designer in the women’s wear team, following earlier jobs at Yohji Yamamoto in Tokyo and with Carol Christian Poell and Agnona in Milan.

Teranishi was captivated by the vibrant color and intricate weaving of silk, which was displayed at the Hakusan Kubou Museum in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture. He also became aware about the challenges facing the modern kimono industry in Japan and its craftspeople.

Kimonos were once worn by Japanese women and men as an everyday wear. However, Western-style clothing took over in the 20th century. This shift was accelerated by World War II. Since the 1970s, retail sales have plummeted while craftsmen struggled to find apprentices because the market was shrinking and the wages were no longer attractive to young people. Factories that made regular cotton kimonos closed or switched to denim production.

Statista, a German market research and consumer data provider, estimates Japan’s retail sales for regular kimonos dropped to 238 Billion Yen ($2.1 Billion) in 2020 from 310 Billion yen in 2010. The traditional silk kimono is still used as an elaborate formal wear for special occasions and ceremonies.

Arlnata’s husband-and-wife co-founders Shunsuke Teranishi, left, and Chien-tsu Chen. (Courtesy Arlnata

Teranishi and Chien-tsu Chen, a Taiwanese couple, set out to increase silk-making through enhancing the international profile for kimonos. fashionDesigner, started working with Yuki Takumugi, Ushikubi and Oshima Tamugi, Japan’s largest indigenous producers of woven fabric suitable for kimonos. Arlnata was a ready-to wear brand that specializes in Western-style clothing and silk kimono fabrics. The couple moved to Japan in December 2018 and presented their first collection in April 2019.

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Ushikubi Tsumugi’s fabric dates back over 800 years. It is hand-made at the foot Mount Kusan in Ishikawa using silk thread reeled out of rare double cocoons that impart a slubbed appearance with apparent imperfections. Yuki-tsumugi, a luxury silk fabric made from Yuki and Oyama located on the Kinu River north to Tokyo, is UNESCO’s oldest. These techniques produce a light, warm, raw silk with a distinctive stiffness and softness.

Oshima Tsumugi Silk, also dating back to around 1,300 Years, is made in Kagoshima and on Amami Oshima. The largest island in Amami Archipelago between Kyushu & Okinawa, Amami Oshima uses the iron-rich natural clay as a dye, creating threads of beautiful, luminous black. Arlnata also works closely with Tamiya Raden (a Kyotango-based firm that developed a method for weaving with mother-of pearl inlays using shells mounted onto washi (Japanese papers) and then shredded before being hand-woven into fabric. Show pieces by Tamiya Raden have been featured by luxury brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Harry Winston.

Yuki Tsumugi is a 1,300-year old luxury silk fabric that UNESCO has listed as part of the intangible cultural legacy of humanity. It is made using techniques that produce a light, warm, raw silk with a characteristic stiffness. (Courtesy Arlnata).

“Kyotango is a sericulture (silkworm cultivation) and silk industry hub [from which] fabrics … are shipped to Kyoto for dying and embroidering. Its pivotal role is equivalent to that of Como, which underpins the upscale silk industry of Italy,”Chen. “In the Western,” Chen said. fashionMaterials and weaving techniques in the world are very similar, even in luxury fabrics. However, the texture and versatility of tsumugi cloth are different. They are a new way to see the world. fashion.”

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Tailoring Western-style outfits with tsumugi cloth can be a challenge. A typical roll of kimono fabric is normally 38 cm to 41 cm wide and 12 meters long, Chen said, while Western fabric rolls vary from 90 cm to 152 cm wide, and from 50 meters to 200 meters long. Pattern-making for kimonos is simpler than for Western-style clothing, but the narrow width means that machine cutting can damage the fabric.

To avoid this problem Arlnata uses a craftswoman from Kyotango who is well-versed in tailoring Western-style clothes with kimono fabrics, said Chen, a former designer in Berlin and Milan for Saverio Palatella and Agnona and in Paris for Carven, a French couture label and Shiatzy Chen, a Taiwanese luxury fashion house.

Oshima Tsumugi silk, which dates back around 1,300 years, is made in Kagoshima Prefecture and on Amami Oshima, the largest island in the Amami archipelago between Kyushu and Okinawa, using the island’s iron-rich natural mud as a dye to create threads of beautiful and luminous black. (Courtesy Arlnata).

Rain can easily damage some tsumugi fabric fabrics, so a protective coating should be applied during production. To make a variety of patterns and to keep the cloth warm in winter, designers combine tsumugi with knit fabric. Silk is delicate and elastic. It can be difficult to weave with elastic materials like knit. Special knitting machines are needed to create silk. “kimono silk cashmere”Scarves, capses, and other Western-style clothes.

Teranishi Chen says they are determined to avoid the business model of European haute couture. fashionThese houses host up to six public events per year, and are the site of frequent launches of new collections. This can lead to significant waste of material and quality reductions, which can reduce designers’ passion. fashion.

“Each roll tsumugi silk fabric will take artisans 6 months to a full year to produce.” Chen said. “Our goal is not to mass produce, but to have people appreciate the intricate and time-consuming art of the craftpeople.

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Arlnata is a partner with Tamiya Raden. Tamiya Raden is a Kyotango-based business that invented a method of weaving using mother-of-pearl inserts using shells mounted on washi. The fabric is then shredded and hand-woven. (Courtesy Arlnata).

Arlnata sells direct to consumers. Prices range from 34,000 yen to breathable and washable silk summer Tshirts to 810,000 for large coats. Teranishi and Chen claim that their main market is middle-aged professionals who are looking for elegant, traditional silk clothing.

In Tokyo’s Isetan Shinjuku, a new collection will be displayed in August. In 2022, a Kagoshima exhibition will feature Arlnata’s clothes. The company has higher goals than Hermes. It wants to create a luxury lifestyle brand that is comparable in quality and uses Japan’s craft skills in many industries, including lacquerwork.

Chen stated that this business model can be used by other Japanese craft-based producers.

“Europeans … tend to identify strongly with, and take pride in, their homegrown brands,”She added that Japan’s creativity and craft skills make it well-positioned to compete in international markets. She cited the success of Japanese brands like Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons. “Japan has all it takes to nurture more of the most upscale luxurious fashion brands,”Chen said.

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