The avant-garde kimono designer, Jotaro Saito, also pioneered to make kimono fabrics in universal 140cm width, breaking a tradition of hundreds of years. A roll of kimono and obi sash fabrics normally measures only 12 inches or 30cm, which limits the usage extremely no matter how beautiful the fabrics are. His studio developed an extensive fabric collection for residential and commercial interiors in various contents including rayon and polyester. The studio has all weaving and printing techniques you can imagine from hundreds of years of kimono making. One of their favourite motifs is cloud. It is, of course, one of Japanese (and Chinese) traditional patterns, however, the colours are fresh and the blurred edges look as if they sprinkled gold dust.
The energy in Saito’s studio seems contagious and amplified within the closed circle of craftsmen in Kyoto. Other workshops of different crafts, such as joinery and ironmongery get involved in the same projects with Saito and follow their path. The creations are often one-off pieces and gob-smackingly beautiful. I cannot make a standard collection with them as they would cost a fortune, however, I very much appreciated the opportunities to come across these craftsmen and add to my special sourcing book.
Masataka Hoso-o, a son of another kimono maker, is a good friend of Jotaro Saito, more like a little brother. He is a progressive thinker and also invested in weaving machines of wider width. While Saito went for a large commercial fabric collection, Masataka went the opposite. His studio uses mostly silk with gold and silver threads. Their signature weave is amazingly three dimensional; they weave fabrics with over-spun threads and let threads unspin by steaming. As the threads are already woven, some parts of the surface rise to make it three dimensional. They can also make bespoke fabrics from scratch if you provide them with a picture. Peter Marino has used their fabrics for Dior boutiques all over the world.
Masataka is also keen to encourage the next generation of craftsmen in Kyoto. He established “Beyond Kyoto” which provides private tours of Kyoto. It takes small groups of people to visit temples with beautiful gardens and artisan’s studios which are off limits to tourists.