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Many of us believe that a love of textiles is in our blood, but few can lay claim to as lengthy a textile lineage as Akihiko Izukura. Now CEO of Hinya Co., Ltd., a company founded in Kyoto by his grandfather, Izukura’s family has produced obis and kimonos for the Imperial Court of Japan for centuries. Today, Izukura designs four lines of clothing produced by Hinya in addition to teaching workshops and exhibiting internationally. His efforts have not only led to the ongoing production of traditional garments, but have also addressed the need to revive and reassess contemporary production techniques.

Instead of “selectively using what human society wants”, Izukura employs a Zero Waste policy, “using the valuable materials that nature provides, such as trees, grasses and insects; and fully utilizing every part.” As a result, the shapes of his garments are often dictated by the size of the fabric, rather than vice versa, with left over dyes recycled into powdered ash, which finds its way into ceramic glasses and handmade paper.

All of this came about through Izukura’s interest in the very roots of textiles. Not content to follow in his family’s footsteps, he embarked upon a considerable research project and self-education and traced the beginnings of textiles back to the braided and twined fabrics that preceded weaving. Today he blends his knowledge of the two in garments such as his signature Kara Kumi dress, a flattering sleeveless sheath, named after a complex twining technique – thought to be the oldest known to mankind – that is incorporated into the neckline.

Silk, a material Izukura maintains helped alleviate a skin allergy he suffered early in life, is at the heart of this work. His approach is steeped in a deep regard for the life that is taken in the process of harvesting silk – something that even the most hardened fur critic can find themselves turning a blind eye to. Inspired to make the most of the materials available, what some may refer to as the “waste” from the cocoon – short, less luxurious fibres left over after the long silk threads have been harvested – are used to make things such as toe socks. If silk socks sound a bit decadent, Izukura cites the fibre’s ability to absorb moisture and neutralize perspiration as reasons why it is so kind to our skin.

Clothing is far from all Izukura has turned his attention to. He regularly performs the Senshoku-do or Ceremony of Traditional Dyeing and Weaving, which he conceived over a decade ago. During the ceremony the host pours liquid dye into a bowl, into which each guest dips a piece of cloth, causing a gradual dilution of the dye colour as the ceremony progresses. He is also an installation artist, creating giant sculptures that engulf the viewer in fabric. Such philosophical and ephemeral interests in the textile may seem to clash with work such as his current collaboration with the American label Donna Karan, but Izukura has found a harmony that manages to balance these seemingly conflicting outlets: “I’m not interested in creating more superb items than anyone else, rather in making things that express my true self.” Jessica Hemmings

His approach is steeped in a deep regard for the life that is taken in the process of harvesting silk – something that even the most hardened fur critic can find themselves turning a blind eye to.

jima irotake Moto


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Man for all seasons


Colour played a central role in courtly life

The literature of the day comments the layered silk garments which were

The five to twenty individual silk robes arranged in precisely chosen chromatic layers were known as irome no kasane. The colours of a particular ensemble announced the wearer’s court rank, impressed others with the sophistication of colour combinations, and acted as a visual commentary on the transient seasons.

In Heian Japan the four seasons were divided into 24 ‘sub-seasons’, further broken down into 72 ‘subsub-seasons.’ Each incremental change of season, or every five days, was associated with a particular flower, poem, song and a distinct colour palette. To properly acknowledge the micro-metamorphosing of nature, and to gain attention at court, the Heian courtier’s kasane needed to be a delicate visual allusion to a particular moment in the natural world.

For Sachio Yoshioka a fifth-generation master dyer in Kyoto, Japan, it is this complex and profoundly poetical Heian Period aesthetic system – the weaving together of colour, literature, nature and persona – that serves as the platform and inspiration for utilizing ancient techniques to dye with botanical colours and natural mordants. Yoshioka’s expertise in traditional dyeing techniques is on par with his expertise in Japanese literature. At Waseda University in Tokyo, Yoshioka received a degree in ‘Literary Writing’ and he during Japan’s Heian Period (794-1192 AD).

extensively on colour, describing in detail de rigueur for members of the Imperial court.

has read Murasaki Shikibu’s Heian classic, ‘The Tale of Genji’ three times in its entirety, in the original language. From 1976 until taking over his family’s dyeing business, Yoshioka was a publisher of art books, mainly titles related to traditional textile art. His publishing house is aptly named, ‘Shikosha,’ or ‘purple and red.’

In 1987 Yoshioka assumed control of the family dye works that dates to the early Edo Period (1603-1867 AD). He was determined to steer the business back toward tradition: Yoshioka would only dye with vegetal dyes and natural mordants in order to create a spectrum of colours that revived the courtly colours of the ancient Nara (710-794 AD) and Heian Periods. Yoshioka says simply, ‘when you think of colour, you think of the Heian Period—they used natural dyes and produced the finest colors.’ He adds, ‘The space that the (Heian) female authors devoted to the descriptions, and the attention paid to colours on paper, clothing and flowers, leads one to the conclusion that life at court was extremely colour conscious. In a single text, ‘The Tale of Genji’ there are more than 80 different names of colors.’

The arsenal of natural dyestuffs that give colour to cloth at Yoshioka dye works reads like an entry from Sei Shonagon’s ‘The Pillow Book”: safflower, gardenia seed, gromwell root, sappenwood, clove, walnut, betel nut





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In the UK high street and throughout Europe the Western fashion system of two seasonal collections a year is being supplanted by ever faster fashion cycles. This ‘fast fashion’ appeals to young consumers brought up in a speedobsessed information-saturated urban environment, but largely ignores a different kind of customer...

Fashion does exist that is built on lasting quality and an aesthetic which endures beyond one season; that appeals particularly to the growing demographic of older people, including the highly sophisticated design-aware ‘baby–boomer’ generation. This older consumer is far more demanding and confident than previous generations: they respond to timeless, understated clothes with high design values.

Other factors reinforce this dissatisfaction with style at a high speed. There is a growing sensitivity to the diverse range of living circumstances around the world, precipitated by a series of shattering events and natural disasters in the last few years. Where does fashion sit amongst all of this? Growing awareness of malpractice has led to calls for transparency in production, and increased appreciation of ethical and environmentally concerned values, craft traditions and the harnessing of indigenous skills. There are several textile-led fashion companies working across Asia, mainly from a base in Japan, who offer a more responsible and slower fashion, one which connects with the traditions and skills of Asian textile practices whilst remaining firmly commercial. This form of fashion exists in direct contrast to both fast fashion and major designer brands: the creation of apparently simple yet sophisticated clothes which utilise textiles of the purest form, capitalising on the skills and knowledge of traditional weavers, embroiderers and hand workers across many Asian countries. These clothes do not change significantly with seasonal fashion, but sit alongside it: not anti, they are parallel with fashion, not dependent on catwalks or major advertising budgets, yet quietly aspirational. It’s an evolutionary design sensibility rather than one of radical change.

As fashion awareness becomes global, and both avant-garde and mainstream western design receive greater publicity in Asian countries, there has been a reciprocal movement which works by word of mouth and low- key promotion, sold in exclusive gallery-style outlets such as Egg and Livingstone Studio in London, Colette in Paris, 10 Corso Como in Milan. The popularity of clothing inspired by ancient textile traditions is reflected amongst Asian producers by a conscious effort to recreate and update traditional clothing for the modern consumer.

TenTen A supportive and close relationship to hand craft makers was evident in the work of Tokyo-based label TenTen by the late Yoshiko Nishimura. This inspiring designer produced one of the first collections to be featured in the V&A's Fashion in Motion events. Nishimura's clothes were produced under her own direction by weavers and embroiderers throughout Asia, including the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and India, without the use of middle men or agents. After a career spent designing in the commercial arena, Nishimura rejected the rapid turnover of the mainstream industry and decided to slow down. In natural fibres, mainly silk and cotton overworked with delicate drawn threadwork or hand embroidery, her clothes featured traditional oriental dragons or her own versions of floral patterns – motifs that could take up to a month to complete. Each design was diligently researched by Nishimura and she built up personal relationships with village producers enabling them to produce work of the highest quality at a natural pace.

Jurgen Lehl The textile traditions and practices of Japan are imbued with such history and have been reinforced by Japan's period of isolation from external influences, that designers are able to tap into this heritage and utilise ancient techniques. The creativity of craftspeople and makers is used to great advantage, combining rural craft skills with modern technology to achieve stunning results.

01, 02, 03, 04 Jurgen Lehl

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The winding road from Kaili city climbs and falls between coal-dust mountains, hillocks of river-dredged shingle, timber yards, landslide scars, and smoke plumes belched from long grey chimneys; it is easy to miss the red smudges of wild azalea blossom fringing terraced slopes of Guizhou Province in Spring.

Under an hour from Kaili city, the capital of the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong of southeast Guizhou, is Wengxiang, a rural village populated by Miao people. Here, beside a small corrugated shop, a group of teenage girls are gathered. One of them, Yang Kaiyan, knows just the right person to answer questions about natural dyes. Lee Jinyang appears, smiling in the doorway of her wooden house. She is the leader of the Wengxiang women’s group, and while she digs for garments in cupboards she explains that natural pigments – including indigo – are used to dye cloth only every few years or in preparation for ceremonial events. Synthetic dyes are cheaper, Lee Jinyang explains; they are also less time-consuming and the colours last a lifetime.

We walk outside, back into sunlight. Cradled in Lee Jinyang’s arms are several ceremonial outfits, including a chunky necklace and headdress with animals and flowers shaped from tin. Lee Jinyang decides she wants to show off her costumes and asks 15 year-old Yang Kaiyan to help. The request catches Yang off guard, and as she slides a pleated indigo skirt over her jeans, and an embroidered jacket over her red Adidas sweatshirt, an uncomfortable smile creeps across her face. The fact is, she isn’t sure how to position the heavy headdress, or where the jacket should loop and tie.

On the ground floor of the Kaili Museum are series of stalls laden with flimsy plastic sleeves of the latest CD and DVD releases. The museum holds some of the most beautiful textiles – dyed naturally, and mostly from indigo – in the world and over 30,000 people have visited the museum in the last five years: but the management must rent this space, ‘temporarily’, to traders to supplement their existence. Most of these ceremonial costumes and clothes of daily life belong to the Miao and Dong people of China. That such exquisite garments lie static, behind glass, is telling of the altered, perhaps even diluted, place they have inside a China which is now whistling, restlessly and ceaselessly, that collective tune to modernise.

Mrs Yang, one of the minority that marches to her own beat, is responsible for the collection and organisation of the displays of Miao and Dong textiles at Kaili Museum. In 1988 she began visiting villages of the autonomous people throughout Guizhou. Over the years she has learnt 14 different traditional embroidery techniques, and, piece-by-piece, established what could be one of the largest and most stunning collections of indigenous textiles in China. Next year she has the opportunity to exhibit her collection in Tokyo: but before she is given a visa and permission from the authorities, Mrs Yang must raise funds to cover the expense of a local government official to accompany her for the duration of her trip. At the moment at least, Mrs Yang is unlikely to travel.

From her home Mrs Yang offers workshops to tourist groups and art students from across China. It is

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INDULGE textiles to buy, collect or simply admire. 13 Natural ingredients Subtle shades and hues to ease you into summer. 36 Family ties Yuko Yamagata’s treasured collection of kimono spans four generations.

INDUSTRY from craft to commerce. 52 Hands on Mark Pollack discusses the changing face of textile design. 54 Mind trick The beauty of Nigel Atkinson’s textiles is no illusion. 62 Dodging and weaving The history of the Dovecot Studios.

ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives. 73 Colourful character Tricia Guild has given the nation the confidence to embrace bold colour. 96 Howzat? Madder red cricket balls are an unusual use for this natural dye. 75 Moral high horse Strange and sinister spring rituals.

CONCEPT textiles in fine art. 56 Standard bearer Gunta Stölzl represents textiles in the current Modernism exhibition at the V&A.

ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends. 24 Asian fusion These designers respect craftsmanship and revere age and experience. 40 River deep, mountain high Yohji Yamamoto continues his amazing fashion journey. 78 Youth movement Contemporary Japanese designers are riding a new wave of innovation.

COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed. 44 Replanting We used to see woad once in a blue moon but the recent revival in Europe may change that. 48 Less is more Les Indiennes produce beautiful hand-blocked fabrics by refining ancient techniques.

GLOBAL travel destinations and ethnographic textiles. 16 Crowning glory Eleanor Ford Coppola captures the incredible rituals of the Miao Long Horn people. 30 Why man made yarn Akihiko Izukura believes in the unifying power of textiles. 32 For everything a season Master colourist Sachio Yoshioka reveals the full spectrum of the dyer’s art. 66 Mood indigo Dyeing traditions in Southeast China.

INFORM the latest news, reviews and exhibition listings.

04 bias / contributors 07 news Trends and essential ideas 13 miscellany Kimono 82 read Pacific Pattern Dressed in Fiction The New English Dandy

Reading List 84 international listings Exhibitions, fairs and events 88 view Yohji Yamamoto Dream Shop Show Time Defining the Bamboo Aesthetic Quilt Art 20 Fashion and Bath

95 coming next The Travel issue: trains and boats and planes. 93 stockists 80 subscription offers Lucy Jane Batchelor cards for every new subscriber plus silk bracelets, keyrings and scarves, and 15% off the new Haat collection.


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