Originating in Europe, linen is beloved by people young and old for its durability and adaptability The more you use it, the softer it becomes.
Antique linen carries the history of the families that have used it.
Are there such kinds of linen here in Japan?
How can silk-centric techniques be applied to new materials??
These days around 90% of fabric production is linen, but it wasn’t always that way. Even in the year 2000, linen was not well known in Japan, but that was when Tenjin decided to challenge the norm. Before Tenjin, most craftsmen wove tie fabrics with silk, but that was starting to become less profitable as the lifestyle trends of salarymen moved towards “Casual Friday” and “Business Casual”, where ties are less prevalent. If the recession continued and cheap foreign-made materials stayed in circulation, they wouldn’t be able to turn a profit even if they were produced domestically.
It was at this time that a man named Shinji Kobayashi decided to launch his own brand. His sister and her husband loved linen, so he started weaving with hemp, a material he was unfamiliar with. However, the looms he'd used so far do not have the "ears'', or the right and left tips, of antique linen. An old shuttle loom runs the weft threads back and forth such that the threads entangle at both ends, creating "ears" that cannot be unraveled without sewing. On the other hand, the high-speed looms generally used nowadays cut the end of each weft thread, making those “ears” impossible. That is why Shinji daringly introduced an old shuttle loom. It is slow to weave, but unlike a high-speed loom that stretches the weft threads, it does not apply too much tension, making for a gentler weave. The result was a brand called ALDIN, for which his sister was in charge of design.
Back when Tenjin weaved ties, their products passed through many wholesalers before finally arriving at department store shelves., Even a tie that sells for 10,000 yen at a department store costs only a few hundred yen when the fabric is sold wholesale. However, linen was a new material. Shinji thought that he could deliver to consumers directly, and he wanted more people to know about his passion and products. Shinji went to JR for negotiations, and afterward, they decided to set up a sales floor at Ecute Tachikawa along the Chuo Line leading to Yamanashi. The next step was finding a fellow textile company to share the display with, as in 2012, the weaving community was not well established yet.
Shinji then consulted with Mr. Igarashi of "Shikenjo". It was just three years after the Fujiyama Textile Project collaboration with Tokyo Zokei University started, and several weavers started their own brand who, when pitched the idea of this display, were eager to participate. This is essentially how the "Yamanashi Hataori Travel" project itself started, where weavers interact directly with the consumers. The craftsmen can introduce and sell their own products. This initiative attracted attention from major department stores, and although it did not open any new business, it did spark more events, mainly in Tokyo.
Shinji says it’s been about 10 years since the Fujiyama Textile Project and Yamanashi Hataori Travel initiative helped establish connections between weavers who once were but rivals. A few years ago, the weaver community had a barbecue together for the first time. At that time, Ms. Miyoshi Kagami of Hikari Textile said, "I would never have imagined a day like this would come! Today is truly a great day." The connection between weavers has developed further, and now a celebration of weaving called the "Hataorimachi Festival” is held every autumn.
Weavers who found their original brand, that is, their “life’s purpose” or “ikigai”, now cooperate. The forgotten Hataorimachi name is coming back, and writing a new history for itself.