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Traditional textiles add flair to contemporary clothes

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                                <strong>“The wisdom of the common people from various regions has been preserved in tsumugi and other art forms.”</strong>
                                <strong>Shunsuke Teranishi</strong>
                                <em>Mizen designer and pattern maker, pictured above</em>


    “The wisdom of the common people from various regions has been preserved in tsumugi and other art forms.”

    Shunsuke Teranishi

    Mizen designer and pattern maker, pictured above

A project to create modern clothing using traditional Japanese textiles is making a splash. Mizen, led by Shunsuke Teranishi, features the fabric of 12 producers across the country.

Teranishi, 43, who once worked at Hermes, said he realized the one-of-a-kind charm of Japanese handicrafts through his work and time in Europe. Now, he will offer Japan- made luxury items in which artisans play a leading role.

The Mizen shop in Tokyo’s Minami-Aoyama district is filled with a variety of clothing made with tanmono, a bolt of Japanese fabric. The lineup of attire includes a jacket made with Ushikubi tsumugi, a silk fabric with a distinctive texture traditionally produced in Hakusan, Ishikawa prefecture; and a sleeveless top featuring Kogin-zashi embroidery designs that originated in Aomori prefecture.

“The wisdom of the common people from various regions has been preserved in tsumugi and other art forms,” Teranishi said.

The company produces fashion items on a made-to-order basis. The most distinctive aspect of Mizen’s products is the tailoring that makes the most of the tanmono’s relatively narrow 15-inch width.

“There are many restrictions in making clothes using the narrow fabric, but it is important to do so partly to protect craftsmanship,” Teranishi said.

After studying architecture at Kyoto University, Teranishi worked for the Yohji Yamamoto fashion brand before moving to Italy at the age of 28. He began working as a designer and pattern maker at Hermes when he was 35, something he had longed to do. But he came to realize he wanted to do something useful for society.

Teranishi said that early on in his career, his focus was on Europe. But he came to understand how deeply he identified with his Japanese culture. At a Paris exhibit, he learned about Ushikubi tsumugi, made with hand-reeled threads created from double cocoons made by two silkworms. Teranishi was fascinated with the beautiful colors of the fabrics.

Soon after, he began using his vacations to visit production areas of traditional textiles in Japan.

“If I make clothes rich in Japanese handiwork that even Japanese people don’t know much about, I can create something that can only be made in Japan and only be made by me. This will be helpful for areas producing the works and be meaningful for society,” he said.

At Mizen, which opened its doors last year, customers choose the design of the garment picking materials. The project has been well received. Prices for a jacket start at about $1,380 (200,000 yen).

The clothes come with a label stating the fabric’s place of origin, and customers are informed of the dyeing and weaving techniques.

While the products are pricey, they embody the reliability of handiwork. When asked what defines a Japan-made luxury item, Teranishi said, “It is the feeling of the presence of people or the desire to support others. I believe such connections with others will be the future of luxury.”

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