The second batch of discoveries from our jaunt through Liberty Fairs is indigo-drenched. Indigo is a native plant in Japan and the history of Indigo dye on the small eastern island runs deep, back to the 10th century. The technique boomed during the Edo period (1192-1333) due to the dye’s ability to cling well to cotton, the popular fabric of the lower classes at the time. By the early 1900’s almost 1400 acres were covered in indigo crop in Japan, now a mere 70 acres. The process of dyeing naturally is laborious, time-consuming and is carried on by skilled artisans. Traditionally Sukumo leaves, wheat bran, sake, hardwood ash and lime are combined in vats and fermented to produce the ocean hue. In Japanese culture the dye has been believed to contain protective properties from warning off insects and snakes in fields to sparing firemen burns. Out of the hundreds of booths at Liberty Fairs two stood out to us: Blue Blue Japan and Koromo.
Blue Blue Japan began in 1993 and designer Kenji Tsuji has been designing there since 2006. His designs usually contain bold, graphic interpretations of traditional Japanese motifs and patterns (waves, the sun, Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, etc.). When his pieces aren’t emblazoned with beautiful images they are simple and highlight the beauty of traditional indigo dye. Many of the shirts are made with a tie dye technique called Shibori or have a dip dyed ombre fade. The construction of the garments is based on farm work wear. You can find Blue Blue Japan products at Union Made Goods, Mr Porter, and Hickoree’s. Read more about Kenji at mrporter.com.
Designer Kenji Tsuji
Embroidered satin bomber in blue and black
Indigo ombre sweatshirt
Koromo also had our hearts racing and mouths gaping. Koromo’s designs are focused on traditional Japanese sewing and patching techniques. The collection shown at Liberty Fair was heavy on boro patchwork and sashiko stitching. In the words of the company, “Craftsmanship is a sensory realm, and just as a wild stitch can be more attractive than a neatly aligned seam the heart may throb more for rough nonconformity than for pristine fabric. The flavor found only in old items interwoven with the thread of time and the newest model loom that produces exactly what you want are both infinitely precious partners.” We couldn’t agree more.
Below this tattered patched jacket read a sign “This 100 year old fabric is Aizome (Indigo dyed cloth). The well used areas of the fabric are where it has been hand sewn over and over again. The clothes have been made out of this fabric as is. In times when things were scarce in Japan even a little fabric was considered precious. This preciousness is found in this cloth.”
Traditional Japanese stitching technique, sashiko, used on button detail.
Last but not least, live shibori-style tie-dyeing at Liberty Fairs by Goodlife Clothing.
For more photos, style inspiration, and information on denim and indigo techniques check out the Denim Therapy Tumblr and Pinterest pages.
All photographs credited to the author.
—Emily B. McIntosh
Tags: aizome, Blue Blue Japan, boro, designer, dye, indigo, Japanese denim, japanese indigo, Japanese style, Koromo, Liberty Fairs, market week, patchwork, sashiko, shibori, style, tie dye, Traditional
A very cool exhibition is coming to NYC in June, thanks to globe-trotting photographer Eric Kvatek (known for shooting the lookbooks of brands like PRPS and Kapital). It’s called Japanese Indigo: Boro, and showcases his Japanese indigo textiles from as far back as the early 1800s. The exhibition will be held at Mondo Cane in Tribeca, June 21st—July 12th, with an opening party for denim heads to kick it off.
—Michelle Christina Larsen
Tags: antique textiles, eric kvatek, exhibition, japanese indigo, japanese textiles, Kapital, PRPS