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Passions of Artisans We ask Rin crossing participant manufacturers about their wishes regarding manufacturing.

Home > Passions of Artisans #54 ROoRING GSK

#054 ROoRING GSK:Karakuri®Weave [Fukuoka]2016/12/16

As a creator of Karakuri® Weave, who weaves bonds both between people and between people and the region <Karakuri® Weave>

Pursuing the creation of a local industry based on techniques cultivated in sewing factories

As we traveled the countryside of the Chikugo region, which lies astride the gentle Chikugo River in the south of Fukuoka Prefecture, we came across a building with a large woven shop curtain: the ROoRING showroom and workshop, and the site of this instalment's report. The Kurume kasuri style of cloth was developed around 200 years ago, and it stands alongside Iyo kasuri and Bingo kasuri as one of Japan's three major varieties of kasuri cloth. Kurume kasuri is a product of the Chikugo region, primarily in the city of Kurume, and the cloth is known for its use of dyed threads to create a beautiful contrast of white and indigo-dyed navy blue. Until the late 1960s, the town of Tachiarai too was the site of numerous factories dedicated to the craft—cultivating indigo and dying the kasuri threads, weaving the kasuri cloth, and sewing goods from the cloth.

The green fields of Tachiarai, situated in the countryside near the Chikugo river, with a view of the Mino Mountain Range in the distance.

Company representative Mr. Toshihiko Sanefuji, who gives "walking a path in life filled with the warmth that exists between people" as a key concept.

"Dyed thread is sturdy, and indigo-dyed thread in particular is resilient and has pest-repelling properties that keep insects and even snakes away, making Kurume kasuri perfect for clothing. My grandmother's generation was involved in dyeing and weaving Kurume kasuri, and my father's generation was mainly involved in sewing," says Mr. Toshihiko Sanefuji, the representative of the company.

These Kurume kasuri looms are unique to the Chikugo region.

 

Until about 45 years ago, Tachiarai was also the site of indigo production—the raw indigo was cultivated, used for dye, and carried into the Kurume kasuri weaving process.

At the sewing factory that preceded ROoRING, artisans would be contracted to make garments to order, creating a variety of items suited for modern life. "Kasuri was originally used for kimono and for monpe-style pants worn in agricultural work, but those quickly became a rarity as the times changed. Until about twenty years ago, we were still busy with sewing work as we'd expanded into other clothing like ties, shirts, and some small articles. However, we could see that the old ways were reaching their limit, and that if we continued on this course, we'd lose our local industry. With that sense of urgency, we established a new company, and embarked on the development of a unique textile that would serve as the next step. That was about 21 years ago," said Mr. Sanefuji, reflecting on the past.

Developing an original textile that utilized the techniques and experience of the kasuri industry

After starting ROoRING in 1995, Mr. Sanefuji first set his sights on developing all-new, original products. The result was Karakuri® Weave, an original textile developed over three years of research that explored the properties of Kurume kasuri.

Superfine cotton threads treated in accordance with the principles of kasuri technique are spun together by artisans to develop the unique thread.

 

The spun thread is delicate and can only be woven using shuttle looms.

The new textile uses a variety of methods to weave unique threads spun together from kasuri-style dyed thread and single-color thread. This novel technique creates textiles with a unique feel and original designs.
"To complete the textile, a great many experienced artisans engaged in a constant process of trial and error: the artisans who dye the kasuri thread, those who spin the thread, and those who weave the delicate thread using shuttle looms. It wasn't just based on the rolling of thread that we named our company ROoRING—we also had the cultivation of warm connections between people, and between people and nature, in mind," said Mr. Sanefuji. Through the work of many, the company was able to discover the potential of a new textile that was different from Kurume kasuri.

The cloth pieces carefully woven on the shuttle looms are all ROoRING originals.

To prevent the perpendicular lines of the cloth's pattern from becoming misaligned, patterns are carefully placed on individual pieces before cutting without layering them. For certain items, the cloth can be layered for a rough cut that is then sewn.

The delicate textile, woven from superfine cotton threads that are spun lightly to let them breathe, requires the appropriate technique to cut and sew it. This provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the skill of the artisans that was cultivated through many years of working in the sewing factory. The soft, delicate Karakuri® Weave textiles cannot be piled up in several layers and cut in one go. Instead, to keep the perpendicular lines of the pattern resulting from kasuri threads from becoming misaligned, patterns are placed on each individual piece of cloth before carefully cutting them piece by piece, and the sewing is also done individually by hand. This attention to quality, which demands that the finished product be suitable for long-term use, is a part of the skill that comes from being an experienced artisan. However, unlike before, the artisans no longer focused solely on sewing for contract work. Instead, ROoRING remade itself as a manufacturer for the entire process of creating original items, from planning and development of textiles, to product design, and finally sewing the items.

The sewing is done by five artisans who make each piece carefully by hand. Many of the items are complicated in their structure and call for experienced technique.

Creating a new tradition born from sophisticated techniques and free inspiration

 

The L'Tercet® Poncho, with its trefoil design, is an innovative product that can be worn as a poncho or wrapped around the neck as a scarf, allowing for variety of styles.

In the following 18 years, Karakuri® Weave has been expanded upon in a variety of ways, resulting in five variations going up to Karakuri® V. Additionally, the original items that took advantage of the properties of the textile have also been extended from basic items such as shirts and pants to a rich collection of unique, innovative items, such as hunting caps that can be washed at home, and trefoil-design scarves and ponchos. Utility model rights have been obtained for these novel products, and they have become the focus of attention.

The unique brand mark for Karakuri® Weave, an original textile created from special threads.

Karakuri® Weave is made from dyed thread and retains its color well, making it suitable for cleaning at home. These hunting caps develop character the more you wash them, and come in many varieties.

Karakuri® Weave shirts, which are popular with the staff at the Tachiarai town office. The company is taking feedback on details such as how well the shirts fit, and using this to develop the next generation of products.

 

The showroom and store on the first floor of the sewing factory. TV appearances have had a major effect, and there are many customers who come to the store directly during their travels—including those coming from as far as Hokkaido or Hong Kong.

The company has also been actively involved in increasing brand awareness with work such as its display at an exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight about five years ago. Every effort has been put into communicating the value of Karakuri® Weave as a made-in-Chikugo dyed textile through publicity, TV appearances, and more. As a result, customers have come to visit ROoRING from far and wide, and direct orders have increased.

"It's a valuable opportunity to get objective opinions from people in other industries and designers when we exhibit at trade fairs and exhibitions exclusive to Rin crossing registered buyers. In the future, I'd like to team up with local creators and keep exhibiting in various places, and I'm also particularly interested in the idea of exhibiting at regional department stores in a Rin crossing production," commented Mr. Sanefuji with enthusiasm.

During our visit, staff from the regional development section of the Tachiarai town office came to deliver a certificate and new business cards to Mr. Sanefuji, who has been certified as an official "Tachiarai Cheer Ambassador."

Mr. Sanefuji's vision for the next five years is to firmly establish the company's brands and make them into a sustainable local industry that encourages the younger generations to work in Tachiarai.
He is working toward developing the region with not only Karakuri® Weave, but also through cooperation with local government as well. Perhaps the traditional craftsmanship inherited from the Kurume kasuri industry will foster a new evolution in Tachiarai, and give birth to a new tradition situated in the fertile natural environment of Chikugo.

ROoRING GSK

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