While demand for kimonos has decreased to a tenth of the size it was 30 years ago, Kyoto-based textile company Hosoo, specializing in Nishijin weaves, is making quite a name in the luxury brand market. Top-notch brands such as Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton have requested Hosoo to decorate the interior of their gorgeous boutiques.
Hosoo, founded in 1688, has been manufacturing Nishijin weaves (high-grade silk textiles born in Kyoto), which date back to over 1,200 years ago. Nearly 20 processes are involved in creating the weaves, and specialized artisans are gathered within a 7 km radius of Kamigyo-ku of Kyoto.
The company began to diversify its business and receive orders from international brands after it created an original loom that can weave textiles with a width of 150 cm. The design of the loom was based on one specializing in the weaving of 32 cm-width textiles used for obi (sash of kimono). By being able to create textiles in a bigger size, the company was able to diversify its product range to interior goods and western clothing. Since 2010, the company has been increasing the number of wide looms by one each year, and now operates five. By taking on new challenges, Hosoo was able to expand the roles of Nishijin weaves to provide textiles for runway shows and the interior of prestigious global boutiques.
Another crucial turning point was when the company decided to entrust the creative process to designers and artists. Eight years ago, the company exhibited a cushion in Japanese patterns at an international fair. A department store placed an order for the cushions, but the amount was small. As Hosoo was trying to think of new and better tactics to reach out to the global market, it received an offer from the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris to exhibit the brand’s forte, obis. When the same exhibit opened in New York, the beauty of the Nishijin-weave obis caught the eyes of a particular artist.
The name of the artist is Peter Marino, an American architect known for the store designs of luxury brands such as Dior and Chanel. In May 2009, Marino sent an email to Hosoo, and it was decided that the company’s textiles would be used for the walls and interior of the next store design handled by the architect. “One of the intrinsic techniques of Nishijin-weave is the process of gluing gold leaf and silver foil onto Japanese paper using lacquer. We then cut the paper into pieces that are thinner than a strand of hair and weave them into the textile. The gold and silver threads shine through the multiple layers and emphasize the charms of the brands’ products that are arrayed in the stores,” explained Masataka Hosoo, the brand director of the company.
Hosoo is open to doing business with anyone who shares the same values. For the 2012-13 A/W Paris collections, the company collaborated with Japanese brand Miharayasuhiro. Men’s suits using Hosoo’s Nishijin weave textiles were presented for Miharayasuhiro’s show, which captivated various international media.
“By marketing the Nishijin weaves overseas, we are able to provide elements of surprise. Although the weaves have been around for 1,200 years, they’d never left Japan. The same can be said for many of the other traditional Japanese crafts. Our mission is to make sure that the sounds of the looms weaving Nishijin textiles continue for generations to come,” added Hosoo.