Traditional Japanese techniques get new twist at department stores

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

(c) 2015, The Japan News/ Yomiuri.

TOKYO — Department stores are drawing on Japan's sophisticated dyeing and weaving techniques to create unique original products for summer, including soft jackets and casual sandals made with traditional kimono fabrics.

Isetan Haneda Store in Haneda Airport offers casual wear and shoes made of sweatshirt material, including blue and gray hoodies and sneakers. The material is made by a company in Wakayama Prefecture, a national production center for knit fabrics, using thread three times thicker than usual and special knitting methods to produce airy fabric that is soft to touch on its back side.

Isetan Mitsukoshi launched full-scale sales of these products under the brand name "V::room_NAVY" among its spring/summer products for this year. The jackets retail for ¥24,840 (about $199) including tax.

The same material is used in slip-on sneakers made with no strings by Moonstar Co., a shoe maker based in Kurume. Sold under the V::room_NAVY brand name, the sneakers cost 14,580 yen, including tax, and are also available at the Isetan Shinjuku Main Store and other outlets.

Starting this year, Isetan Mitsukoshi plans to introduce products and services based on Japanese tradition and a sense of beauty under the theme "this is japan." to the world. "We want to introduce products that can be clearly traced to where and how they're produced, not just that they're made in Japan," project buyer Yasunobu Ikeda said.

Last spring, Takashimaya Co. began developing products utilizing traditional Japanese techniques under the label "Nippon Monogatari (story)." So far it has developed more than 100 products, including clothing, household goods and foodstuffs.

For this summer, Takashimaya has introduced resort sandals using cloth from Chiso, a long-established Kyo-Yuzen dyeing store. U.S. sandal maker Island Slipper, based in Hawaii, created the sandals using traditional Yuzen dyeing cloths with such traditional patterns as plover birds and flower baskets. One pair costs 18,360 yen including tax.

A Takashimaya official said they worked to lend the cloth new appeal by adding contemporary tastes and fashion to a traditional technique.

Matsuya Ginza department store in Tokyo started developing original stoles and other products utilizing domestic techniques several years ago. A factory in Yonezawa, for example, produces stoles using a technique called "Futsu-ori" (wind through weaving), creating two-layer silk stoles with shiny thread visible between the layers. The stoles cost 15,500 yen, excluding tax.

Matsuya Ginza also carries stoles made with a ripple processing technique, which creates gradations of colors in the fabric as well as ripples. This technique was developed in cooperation with a workshop in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture. The rippled stoles cost 14,000 yen, excluding tax.

"The number of highly skilled producers is decreasing. We want to let people know about their value by promoting their products on a commercial basis," an executive in charge said.

Consumers want things that have value to them, not that are simply expensive or functional, according to Nobuyuki Ota, chief executive officer of Cool Japan Fund Inc., a public-private fund promoting Japanese culture, products and services overseas.

"As a result, Japanese people have become interested in made-in-Japan materials that are strongly admired overseas," Ota said. "To maintain the production activities of Japanese artisans, I hope retail stores will continue such projects from a long-term perspective."

bc-fashion-japan (TPN)