There is something crafty about repairing old clothes. There are some frequent spots that have damage, such as the collar of a jacket or the knee on a pair of jeans. Others are entirely unique to an individuals’ life. It is kinda like reading a journal entry with the people’s names redacted.
The tricky part is figuring out how to best repair an entire garment repair by repair. Mentally there has to be a game plan, a theme. There may be a point on a piece of clothing that helps determine a starting point, but usually it’s just experimenting with a stitched together narrative. Piece by piece, repair by repair the theme begins to take shape.
Eventually you find a place to end. With this post I wanted to share where I ended. Some of these repairs are small and simple, others were time-consuming. This is a short journey of hobos, mechanics, and nomad bikers.
There are also these Kapitalcentury denim repairs. Since the vertical sashiko threads stand out, the repair stitching looked good horizontal, and blended. The contrasting colors mix well, indigo and grey; grey, brown, and indigo. It was important to keep the texture consistent, to keep a rough and tough looking fabric.
We have been hard at work thinking up new ideas. We have changed direction slightly, and Narita-san had a great idea of making beach vests out of various fabrics.
This first one we have come up with is made from a hikeshibanten or “firefighter jacket”. These are worn by volunteer firefighters as a durable work over-jacket. They are usually reinforced with sashiko to give them durability. They are usually marked with some town naming or some sort of slogan. The one we used for the vest has a huge kanji on the back. With the kamon “family crest” this fabric has some interesting details.
The construction is a pattern cut from a jacket that Narita-san turned into a prototype beach vest. The trim is made from strips of dead stock indigo cotton fabric sewn together. The trim along with the base fabric will age and fade as it is washed and worn. This beach vest has 4 pockets like the original, however the pockets are big enough for a phone or any daily carry items. The sashiko fabric is lightweight and tough.
Expect to see more versions of these. This one is available on my Etsy store.
There have been more that enough things going on at this hectic time of the year, among them is getting ready for a debut at Inspiration LA this February. I will be introducing folks to two of my friends this year. The first is Narita-san from Brown Tabby in Osaka.
The theme is hoboro a portmanteau of “hobo” and “boro”. So you will see plenty of denim and indigo fabrics, plus plenty of eccentric stitching. There are a few secret surprises that you can look forward to at the show. Take a look at the hat clutch bags, hobo hat and overalls, and boro-bow-ties.
I have been gathering worn out, and faded items over the past few years. Narita-san and I have teamed up to bring these items back to life with a more shibui feel to them. Through detailed repairs we bring out the faded beauty of each item, their individual stories become apparent by keeping the stains and scars. We also add some more function to them by stitching pockets and altering the length of some items. All items and future items are/will be available on my new Etsy site. Kishoten…, means: introduction, development, turn… and the conclusion is up to each customer. From the Japanese 起承転結.
The first item we have completed is this noragi. I wanted to keep the original repairs and fabric on this piece, so we shortened the length and added pockets to the font side. The addition of a blanket pin acts as a closure, to keep the rustic theme.
The second item is this Red Cross Army vest. The worsted wool in Army green has a mother-made feel to it. Probably because these were hand-knit by housewives and volunteers during the two world wars. This one had several holes in it. So we used some old sock yarn and hand-darned each hold. This adds a little colorful contrast to the otherwise mute khaki green.
The third is my personal favorite. I found a Harley Davidson dude’s Lee Storm Rider. There was a lot of wear and damage to the entire piece that made it very unique. We cut out the back panel and put in a repurposed Chimayo fabric from a Kapital vest. The holes we are all patched with indigo thread. The collar features a nice contrast green corduroy patch, and the blanket lining inside was patched with fabric from a Warner Brothers Costume Department tunic.
The natural rustic charm, unintentional refinement: these are what give Okinawa its unique aesthetic. In part 1 and part 2 of this series I wanted to share the unique elements of Naha through its subtleness and weathered spirit. In both posts there is one element essential that has been quietly overlooked: the colors of this unique region.
While walking through the streets one can’t help but feel the folk art seeping into the structures. The spirit of the people in this region is quite different from mainland Japan. I see it in the street art, and in the casual maintenance of buildings and vehicles. The colors are sometimes vivid and tropical and at others a deep refined beauty. The surroundings of the artists inspire patterns on pottery, the feeling is rough and warm. While surprising reds burst out from hidden passages. The local nature is in the city, and in the folk art.
衣 or Koromo is an extraordinary clothing and accessories company based in Kyoto. I am sure there are so many other companies that aspire to be this excellent. This company stands out from the crowd because their concepts are based on the simple idea of learning from the past. In Japanese they use the four character idiom “温故知新”.
On the day I visited the factory they were working on this vest. They have a wide variety of products and material, but I was lucky enough to see how they use this old fabric. The old stitches remain and worn-out holes are repaired; the old beauty remains and the mendings add an unintended refinement. See: Shibui
They not only collect and reuse amazing ranru, and boro fabrics, but also use traditional techniques in their design. For example: they use resist dyeing techniques with Ise-gami, a traditional craftsman-made stencil paper, instead of silk-screening. The designs are not only unique but the customer can walk away with a folk-craft. Walking into their factory, or even one of their stores is like getting a lesson in Japanese textile folk-crafts. The customer gets a chance to experience with all their senses, the lessons of the past. And spread that knowledge by wearing their products.
I really like that Koromo gives a second life to these textile treasures, by preserving the techniques and knowledge by integrating them into the product. It creates an interaction between the craftsperson and the designer, with the customer. At first glance one can get an appreciation for the skill, and workmanship that goes into these goods.