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Dress in Shibori and Feel Shibori
Traditional, elaborate and artistic Wearable Art

Shibori-zome, or tie dyeing is a technique common to a number of Asian cultures, including Indonesia, India and China. However, for many, the combination of superfine silk and an exquisite sense of proportion and design make Japanese tiedyeing work the most highly praised.

It is said that shibori-zome or tie-dyeing techniques entered Japan via China from India in the 7th century. But historical evidence shows that the technique was already locally practiced when more advanced Indian methods developed in Japan. In the Edo period, Kanoko-shibori, one of the patterns of shibori-zome, became the dominant form. Kanoko or ''baby deer'' refers to the fine spotted pattern associated with fawns. Kyo-kanoko, the Kyoto version of this technique, is characterized by an amazing sense of depth that results from a combination of several techniques (all done by hand).

In principle, shibori-zome tie-dye involves immersing cloth into a dye liquor to color it. Shibori's delicate patterns are expressed by leaving certain areas in the original color, often referred to as white, undyed or resist dyed. In other words, the beauty of a completed shibori pattern will be decided by how some parts are kept white.

The most typical way to make the pattern leaving white is to bind the cloth with thread so that the dye liquor doesn't reach certain parts. There are some binding techniques requiring extreme fingertip dexterity to manually produce individual beads of shirome (cloth with bindings before dyeing). Sometimes a craftsperson patiently makes extraordinary numbers of shirome reaching well beyond 100,000 bindings only on one cloth, taking several years to complete.

However, of course, this simple method alone is insufficient for creating the elaborate shibori patterns. During its long history, experienced and knowledgeable craftspeople contrived a variety of methods for creating different patterns.

There is a certain beauty only shibori-zome can depict that other fabric decoration methods such as painting and stencil dyeing can’t achieve. Elaborate and honed shiborizome techniques have been devised over generations, and passed down to today.

Tradition exists in innovations

Bunzaburo is an innovator of shibori. The first-generation owner, Bunzaburo, excelled at the simple and chic style of shibori which was artistic and ahead of the times in the conventional kimono manufacturing field. Next, the second-generation, Fumio, tried fusing traditional and modern forms as the lifestyle of Japanese people was undergoing major changes in those days. As a result, he started to apply shibori techniques into interior decoration and the fashion field as well.

Then, the business was handed over to the third-generation owner, Kazuo. He has been developing shibori even further to display a fusion of fashion and art. As a result, Bunzaburo is now attracting international attention with the effort of the next 4th generation.

The fourth generation, Kazuya Katayama, talks about how Bunzaburo will continue to develop its limitless potential into the new century creating one-of-a-kind shibori products.

KVG: How was your concept of “Wearable Art” born?

Kazuya: The most common effect of shibori tie-dye is tiny dot-like pattern with a slightly uneven surface like 3D. One day, we thought, ''Why don't we enjoy the unique form of shibori patterns on a larger scale?'' Our first challenge appeared as the Large Bai Shibori Scarf which has become one of our signature items today.

We received a lot of applause for the scarf's adventurous form. Some said the scarves were so artistic and they were happy that they could wear ''a piece of art'' on themselves. It was a breakthrough for Bunzaburo. From that time, we always ask ourselves, ''Is this product art or not.'' We want to make the wearers themselves become art with our shibori item.

Shirome: Cloth with bindings before dyeing
This is the plain fabric after ''Kukuri,'' or ''After tying'' which is one of the important shibori tie-dye processes. It is also called ''Shirome.'' The area to be kept white (undyed part) is bound with thread; every tiny knot is tied by hand carefully by an experienced craftsperson. After dying, the knots are all untied. As every single knot opens, the shibori pattern emerges like small, tightlyclosed buds blooming to form a gorgeous beauty. Releasing the buds of shibori is such a fascinating moment.

KVG: What is the best point about shiborizome, if you could only name one?

Kazuya: The beauty of shibori-zome is born completely accidentally. We can anticipate only roughly during the binding process how the final shibori will look and all we can do is let it appear as it does. I love shibori's soft spatial 3D effect which consists of curve lines. No identical shibori-zome exists in the world. No matter how experienced the craftsperson is, it is impossible to dye two shibori pieces exactly the same -it is an exquisite beauty of hand-made craft.

The most exciting moment, and probably slightly nervous one too, for the shibori craftspeople is when they unbind the knots and see what unfolds there. We hope that this excitement of the shibori's producer can reach the heart of the wearers.

Large Bai Shibori
Bai is a type of shellfish and this shibori is so named as its form looks like the shellfish. Bunzaburo’s variety of Bai Shibori fashion items attract many fashion lovers.

KVG: Bunzaburo has been very keen on developing your market internationally. Why and what is your goal?

Kazuya: It's a common (and scary) fact that the population of Japan is declining as is the number of people who wear kimono. At the same time, the number of skilled craftspeople is threatened. If we want to survive in our industry, we have to sell a certain quantity of products but it became obvious that we couldn't expect to reach this level within the domestic market. So, it was natural that we started to look at our opportunities in the international market.

What is more, we learned that our unique and outstanding shibori designs and colors were very appealing to non-Japanese people. It doesn't matter which nationality our customer is; we are happy if one loves our shibori and wears it.

Our future goal is open our independent store overseas. We dream that one day, Bunzaburo can become synonymous with shibori. I hope that Bunzaburo can become a pioneer of developing an international market and that we can stimulate the entire shibori industry.

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