23 May 2019

The Art of Shibori

Written by Published in Design

Photo by Kinsmen Photography

Photo by Kinsmen Photography




Photo by Kinsmen Photography

Japanese fashion designer Jun Nakamura is breathing new life into the traditional techniques of shibori with his unique and innovative approach to design

Think of Japan fashion and what springs to mind? Is it the traditional kimono with its intricate prints or perhaps it is the ultra-modern style seen on the streets of the uber-cool Harajuku district? Or perhaps it is both? A delicious fusion of tradition and contemporary style that celebrates heritage and innovation.

Japanese fashion designer Jun Nakamura is one of the inspirational new creatives spearheading this new fashion revolution. His innovative re-interpretation of the Japanese traditional technique of Shibori is quickly garnering acclaim and awareness.
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Jun is creating his designs alongside studying for his MA in Fashion Design Womenswear at Istituto Marangoni London. Having studied fashion design in Japan, he wanted to use some of traditional techniques used in kimono making in a new and innovative way.

“These techniques are quite unique and are processed by hand. Therefore, the idea of using Shibori’s 3D structure for shaping garments was not just a technical interest for me. That also meant using a traditional technique of making kimono for fashion, which was what I had wanted to try. “

Jun’s family own a kimono company back in Japan and Jun grew up learning the traditional techniques associated with the industry. Despite best endeavours, sadly both the kimono and the Shibori industry are showing signs of deterioration. He believes that the degeneration of both traditional industries can largely be attributed not only to decreasing demand but also that the previous makers are retiring from the industry and their specialist skills are being lost without the new generation of artisans to pass it on to.

it is increasingly likely that these traditional skills will be lost, so it has never been more important to for people like Jun to breathe new life into one of Japan’s most traditional techniques of Shibori and make it relevant for this generation and generations to come.

“I had an idea of using some Japanese traditional techniques of making kimono for fashion for a long time. However, I had never thought of using Shibori until I discovered a material called Dida from the Ivory Coast. I found it in an art library by chance. The structure of the material reminded me of Shibori and inspired me in creating unique shapes by using Shibori.”

Shibori is an ancient art, it originates from one of three types of Japanese ancient resist-dyed techniques called Kokechi. Jun explained:

“Artisans bind fabrics by thread before dyeing those, the thread prevents fabrics from being dyed and particular patterns appear depending on how they have been bound.

By the end of the tenth century in Japan, various kinds of Shibori patterns had been created. Typical examples of those created includes ones with regularly repeated patterns such as polka dots. There is also a group of textiles known as Tsujigahana, which shows particular flower patterns comprised of Shibori bits. This became fashionable around the 15th century and is still one of the most popular patterns that can be found on kimonos.”

The demand for Shibori is decreasing, but overall it remains popular in Japan but predominately on kimonos and on some fashion accessories such as wallets. Typically, these are not brought by the Japanese community, but by tourists in souvenir shops in the likes of the Kyoto prefecture.

Although Shibori is still practised worldwide, the Japanese Shibori industry is shrinking. Jun revealed:

“Shibori requires specific tools and only limited artisans can process it with those tools. According to my interviews with a Japanese artisan and people in the industry, Japanese Shibori artisans started to practise Shibori in their childhood like playing. Due to the rise of the labour cost the main manufacturing place was moved to Korea and then to China. Now the original artisans are between in their 60’s and 80’s and there are almost no next generation to pass this skill on both in Japan and China.”
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One of the main issues is that smaller companies can’t afford to hire and train young people as an artisan from the beginning. The proportion of these goods in the companies has been gradually increasing. However, there is a significant requirement to create more demand in order to employ and train young artisans.

Jun believes that the art of crafting is on the decrease in Japan and that perhaps the younger generation are more inclined to focus their attention into areas such as new technologies. He said:

“I think it is good to showcase Japanese traditional handicrafts abroad. This may result in growing more popularity of those goods back in Japan in the future. I think it is important to keep this heritage both via the original and new techniques. Then, by creating more distribution, I hope that we will have young artisans in the future.”

Jun is clearly a visionary and aspires to use the traditional Shibori handiwork in an innovative way.

“Tradition is very interesting, but I would rather like to create something which has a different appearance from original, still by using traditional methods.”

Jun is inspired by abstract art and cites the likes of David Kim Whittaker’s art pieces and Pablo Picasso’s ‘The Sculptor’ as key influences on his work. Jun uses textiles which have quite unique characteristics due to the Shibori process. His aim is to create a unique shape using a 3D structure that can be applied to printed fabrics which are not typically related to the traditional technique of Shibori.

Fusing tradition and modern aesthetics are of the utmost importance to Jun and this remains the ethos behind his work.

“I like traditional handicrafts and it is very interesting to acknowledge detailed processes and artisans’ skill behind those crafts. I believe the beauty of those traditional crafts are achieved only by experienced artisans’ hands. However, I would not like to use original appearances directly on my design. I would like to interpret the heritage in my own way and create something new which did not exist before. I think it is quite interesting to see something innovative which is created by artisans, using their traditional methods.”

BJun’s experimental contribution to the new wave of Shibori techniques is swiftly garnering attention and he has been invited to participate in the likes of Mittelmoda 25th Edition in Italy and Fashion Scout in 2018. He has also recently exhibited at Poliform UK too.

Sustainability is a consideration for Jun who is always looking for ways to utilise recycled materials where possible. He believes that developing a design cycle of including those second-hand garments of the brand into following seasons’ design could be an interesting development and could help reduce the ‘throwaway’ culture which is prevalent in the UK market.

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