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Traditional Japanese fabric adds flair to Western clothing

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shunsuke Teranishi

A project to make modern clothing with traditional Japanese textiles is making waves. The project, called Mizen, is led by Shunsuke Teranishi who has worked at a number of companies, including Hermes.

Teranishi said that through his work and during his stay in Europe, he realized the unique charm of Japanese crafts. Now he plans to offer a Japanese-made luxury item in which artisans play a leading role.

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Thanks to Mizen
A long coat made of Ushikubi tsumugi fabric and Raden-ori textile

The Mizen store in Tokyo’s Minami-Aoyama district is stocked with a variety of clothing made with tanmono, a piece of Japanese cloth. The products include a jacket made with Ushikubi tsumugi, a silk fabric with a distinctive texture traditionally produced in Hakusan, Ishikawa Prefecture, and a sleeveless top made with Kogin-zashi embroideries, originally from Aomori Prefecture.

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

The company works with twelve textile production centers across the country and makes fashion items to order. The most distinguishing feature of Mizen products is the customization that makes optimal use of the rather narrow tanmono’s width of 38 centimeters. This means that the same piece of fabric covers, for example, a jacket from front to back.

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Thanks to Mizen
A hat, sleeveless top and shorts made of fabric with Kogin-zashi embroidery

“There are many limitations in making clothes using the narrow fabric, but it is important to do this partly to protect the craftsmanship,” says Teranishi, 43.

After studying architecture at Kyoto University, Teranishi worked for Yohji Yamamoto before moving to Italy at the age of 28. At the age of 35, he started working as a designer and pattern maker at Hermes, something he longed to do, but gradually he began to hope to do something useful for society.

Teranishi said at the time that he had no interest in Japan and was influenced by Europe, but gradually developed a strong sense of belonging to Japan. He came across Ushikubi tsumugi at an exhibition in Paris and discovered that it was made with hand-coiled threads of tamamayu, a rare cocoon with two silkworm pupae inside. Teranishi was fascinated by the beautiful colors of the fabrics.

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

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

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Thanks to Mizen
Outfit made with tie-dyed Arimatsu shibori fabric

Teranishi returned to Japan in 2018 and started the Arlnata project in 2019, where customers first choose the tanmono before ordering clothing in the design of their choice.

At Mizen, founded last year, customers choose the designs of the clothes before deciding on the materials. The project has been well received due to the ease with which customers can visualize the final product. For a jacket, prices start at around ¥200,000.

The clothing is provided with a label showing the place of origin of the fabric and customers are informed in the store about the dyeing and weaving techniques.

The products are not cheap, but radiate the reliability of handmade work. When asked what defines a luxury item from Japan, Teranishi replied: “It is the feeling of being around people or the desire to support others. I believe such connections with others will be the future of luxury.”

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Thanks to Mizen
A cape and skirt made by combining Oshima tsumugi pongee and knit fabric
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