In Japan, craftsmanship has always been looked upon with great respect. Within the Kimono industry itself, there are a range of techniques and disciplines. One of our visits to heritage Kimono makers during our last trip to Japan was with the Ogura family of Ogura Some-gei, who keeps the tradition of Edo Yuzen living. In observing this family-run, father and son operation, their technique in Kimono crafts is derived from aspects that are "un-changed" or timeless; something that has been done the same way for many many years. But as with many small craft industries, very few craftsmen have been able to pass their skill to next generation. Fortunately, Ogura Teiyu, the father, was able to pass his knowledge and skills to his son, Takashi, which keeps the core of Japanese creation and craftsmanship culture alive. We have been extremely fortunate to have spent some time with them.
Yuzen (hand-painted patterns) originated in Kyoto in the late 17th century during the Edo period. It is regarded as the foremost representation of Japanese Kimono design. Today, Kyoto, Kaga (present-day Ishikawa Prefecture) and Tokyo are the three places renowned for Yuzen. Yuzen begin in Tokyo about one century after the art itself had already originated. At that time, Edo (present-day Tokyo) was the center of Samurai politics and the center of the nation's prosperity, after being transferred from Kyoto. Many dyers who worked for the feudal lords moved to "downtown Edo" by the rivers to continue their craftsmanship.
There are numerous steps involved in the Yuzen process. Firstly, the fabric that is manufactured elsewhere, usually in Kyoto or Shiga Prefecture, is brought to Tokyo. It is temporarily sewn for fitting and lines for patterns are drawn on it as originally designed. It is then painted in blue ink made from the dayflower called "aobana". These lines will completely disappear when the fabric is washed later. These lines/outlines are then traced with a kind of glue substance made from rice or rubber, so that the dyes will not run into the other areas. Then, colors are placed on the patterns. This is the most important step of the entire process, in which consideration is given to coloring and coordinating the colors that are to be used, and the properties of the dyes.
After the pattern painting is completed, the whole blot of material is steamed which improves the color of the fabric and sets the dyed areas. The colored parts are then covered with the "glue substance", so that they are not damaged in the next step. During the next step, the background dye is evenly applied to the whole cloth with a big brush but the “glue substance” preserves the design.
After dyeing the background, the fabric is again steamed for about an hour, and then it is washed out. The "glue substance" is completely washed off this time. After the dyeing process is finished, gold and/or silver leaves are often attached to parts of the design and/or some parts of the product are embroided. This finishes off the product before being released for retail. In addition, when "kamon" which means family crest, should appear on the product, the product will go under the process of "monso-uwae”, the process in which the family crest is painted by hand on the finished item.
There is a movement amongst consumers that is becoming more drawn to handmade, hand crafted products. At Faburiq, we aim to satify that need by combining two traditional skills to create something extraordinary. Timeworn fabrics from Japan and classical tailoring from the USA; rejuvenated and living harmoniously as the modern man's accessory.
Author: Aruña Quiroga