A passion for Japanese Cotton Clothing

The Japanese are well known for their unique sense of style and design. They have a clean, minimalistic approach and attention to detail which is well suited to today’s fashion trends. One of the things that separates Japanese fashion from the rest is the use of beautiful, unique fabrics that are made to last.

TRADITIONAL JAPANESE FABRICS

The Kimono is one of the most well-known national dress items in the world, and for many westerners, represents Japanese fashion. Fabric for Kimono was produced in materials including cotton, wool and famously silk. Silk kimono fabric, hand-painted and made into stunning kimonos is symbolic of Japan. However, only high born classes were allowed by law to wear silk clothing in traditional Japan. Instead, working people wore clothing made from hemp or cotton.

JAPANESE COTTON PRODUCTION

After the introduction of cotton cultivation from China in the 16th century, cotton spinning became a cottage industry. Japanese peasant women worked at home to produce small and exclusive amounts of homemade cotton fabric. The introduction of mass production mills in the late 19th century did not immediately create access to affordable cotton for the local market. Milled cotton was considered much finer and higher quality than homespun fabric, and so remained out of reach of most of the population.

The high cost of cotton created a market for second hand fabric, particularly in the cooler climates of Northern Japan. Used indigo dyed cotton fabric was bought from traders and reused for household items including warm jackets and futon covers. The fabric was made warmer and stronger by stitching layers together with sashiko stitching. You can imagine how soft and warm these upcycled cotton fabrics were, protecting farmers and fishermen from the elements.
The wide availability of indigo-dyed fabric arose from it being one of the best methods to dye cotton with, as it was colourfast and faded slowly. Native indigo weed (tade plant) was fermented to create the indigo die then mixed with other ingredients in a vat and fermented for a week. Fabric was dipped many times in the dying process, up to 40 times to create the darkest colours.

MODERN JAPANESE FABRICS

Traditional textiles continue to flourish in modern Japan, with government programs encouraging the preservation of traditional arts and crafts.

When modern milling was introduced in the 1880s, Osaka was given the nickname “The Manchester of the Orient” due to the 20 cotton spinning factories that quickly arose in the area. By 1912, cotton spinning made up half of all Japanese industry. On the outbreak of WWI the UK, which at the time was the world’s largest cotton producer, halted supply. This created the opportunity for Japan’s cotton product exports to expand to fill the void and production increased dramatically in the interwar years. After the devastation of WWII the industry recovered and by 1951, Japan was again the leading cotton fabric exporter in the world.
Modern 100% cotton Japanese fabric is distinguished from other cottons by its discernible grain, lovely draping and beautiful prints.

HOW WE SOURCE OUR JAPANESE FABRICS

At Japonica Collection we love Japanese fabric for its beauty, quality and sustainable production techniques. We wanted to bring Japanese cotton to Australian lovers of quality, long lasting fashion. Australia is a well-known producer of fibres such as wool and cotton, but at this time we have very little in the way of fabric production in our country. We need to look globally for our fabric supplies. Australia’s free trade agreement with Japan has allowed us to source the fabric we love from Japan, without the need to buy in the volumes demanded of mass production.

Having the time to search for something different or individually made is a luxury for many. Our aim is to find fabrics with a difference to add to our collection. The world of Japanese fabric is an inspirational starting point. Our first collection features 100% cotton Japanese fabrics, in a variety of stripes, plains and some more recognisable Japanese prints. Our fabric collection would not be complete without a summer weight, blue, Japanese denim from the land of indigo dye.

Depending on customer response, we aim to build on our range over time and incorporate new and different prints and plains as we find them. Keeping up to date with fabric trends is part of the process, but moreover we have focused on sourcing classic colours for our wearable styles. Japonica Collection aims to support high quality, lasting pieces rather than fast fashion.

Japonica Collection is proud to work with Australian makers for the production of our garments, as we are passionate about supporting and nurturing local talent. There is a growing awareness of the clothing industry ‘maker movement’. Our aim to is to build a local, niche market, clothing businesses that is known for its quality.
See our ready to wear range using Japanese Cotton.