Kimono, Boro & Indigo

During 2017 we invested more into our up-cycled products ~ made predominantly from Japanese Kimono and Indigo.

The long, slow process of making one of these garments meant supporting small, local manufacturers and producing more consciously.

The tedious process of sourcing the fabric has lead us to learning more about the history of these unique textile which we will share here.

The Storied History of the Japanese Boro

 ‘Boro’ originated in rural Japan between 1850 and 1950. The technique was developed by humble peasant farmers of the era, out of the necessity to stay warm during periods of extreme temperatures and poverty.

The technique is layers upon layers of patch worked cotton (or hemp) cloth stitched and mended over time using the Sashikomethod. Due to the demand for Cotton at this time, nothing was wasted, everything salvaged. This was the creation of a garment, which would be passed down, to represent generations of impoverished farming families.

The term is derived from Japanese boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired.

– International Quilt Study Centre, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2009

During the post war period, Japan’s society started shifting towards modernization and this traditional folk craft was gladly left behind by it’s originators. To the working class Japanese, Boro garments are an embarrassing reminder of their former struggles.

Today, antique indigo cottons and Boro garments are highly sought after by young designers and collectors who see great beauty in the technique’s history and effect.

An image from ‘Boro – The Fabric of Life’ Boisbuchet exhibition 2013

Could Boro be an important lesson for the modern, fast fashion world ?

We encourage our customers to ‘hand down’ or repair their Good sport garments rather than replacing.

There are no rules when it comes to you Boro patch-working or Sashiko stitching. Give it a go !

Here are a few tips to use as guidance…

You will need:

  • Japanese Sashiko thread
  • Offcuts or scraps of woven fabric
  • Sashiko or darning needle
  • A ruler if & fabric pen/chalk if you like to be precise.
  • A steady hand and some creativity

There is no right or wrong way to do it.

Be creative with your stitching, don’t feel limited to one design.

If the thread is too heavy try splitting it in half.

Secure your thread well at both start and finish so your hard work does not unravel.

If you are finding it hard to keep the cloth flat, you can try using a bit of fusing or interfacing between layers.

Use scraps of fabric rather than buying some especially.

Take your time and enjoy this ancient process.

The History of Recycling Kimonos

Kimono used to be everyday wear for most Japanese women until Western clothing became popular in the postwar period. They are now kept mostly for special occasions such as weddings, tea ceremonies and festivals.

Due to these modern formalities thousands of kimonos were often left unused with possible exposure to damage in many homes across Japan.

Luckily, the careful and gentle construction of a kimono means it is easily de-constructed and re-used – the antithesis of fast fashion in terms of production and consumption.

“We live in a society of mass production and mass consumption. But it’s important to use things for their entire effective lifetimes because I believe the tendency to waste things affects people’s minds.”

– Kenichi Nakamura, president of Tokyo Yamaki Co., which runs Tansuya, Japan’s largest used kimono chain.

Old kimonos have often been reused, commonly made into hiyoku, haori or kimonos for children. Altered or disassembled and re-sewn to hide flaws or stains. Patch-worked to gain lifespan, or in our case re-constructed into  modern, wearable silhouettes.

Historically, expert craftsmen skilfully un-picked and selvaged the silk thread from old kimono and rewove it into a new textile in the width of a “heko obi” for men’s kimono, using a recycling weaving method called “saki-ori”

 -The Tohoku-standard

This kind of respect for textiles and aversion to waste is something we rarely see in todays fast fashion era.

– Finding the running thread on a Chirimen crepe kimono with Cherry Motif.

-Unpicking a Silk crepe Kimono and finding 500 Yen hidden in an enclosed seam… most likely a gift from the original creator of this kimono to the next person who handled it’s special silk. Me !

– A pile of Kimono silks and Indigo, washed and ready for pressing.