Yarn spun using a traditional handwheel
As an ethnic minority, the Buyi tribe inhabits the southwest province of Guizhou, China. Traditionally known to be an agricultural tribe, many of them still live with customs and practices passed down from ancient times; making their living by cultivating rice, wheat, corn, millet and sugarcane.
Among their garments and folk costumes, rōketsuzome (a traditional wax-resist textile dyeing technique, akin to well-known "batik") and elaborate hand-embroidery can be often found. Buyi also harvest plants used as raw materials for their natural dyes and fabric materials; yarn is spun from cotton, woven into cloth. Rōketsu dyeing, indigo dyeing and patterned embroidery are adopted to complete daily goods and ritual wares.
left: 0120105008015 JAMA STRIPE PANTS BUYI (H.W.), rihgt: 0120105008014 JUMBO EIGER SANCTION SHORTS (H.W.)
Hand-weaving process and tool
Featured this season, this striped fabric is produced following traditional hand-weaving and indigo dyeing techniques still practiced by Buyi grandmothers in the Qiannan Buyi(Buyei) and Miao Autonomous Prefecture located in the south-eastern part of Guizhou.
Weaving tools used for these fabrics such as spinning wheels and hand-turned looms are still handmade today and require manual operation, making this complete process truly handcrafted. The production is of course very low and is rarely used for commercial purposes.
Considering the efforts from sowing seeds to harvesting fields of plants, and the time and labor to create these textiles, one can easily come to realize the significant value and importance of this fabric for the Buyi people.
The natural dye created from indigo plants; the entire dyeing process done by hand.
Traditional hand-spinning and hand-woven culture is still being passed down between generations of women in each family; these woven fabrics are used mainly for daily items such as everyday clothing, bedding, and traditional costumes that are still worn today.
While this handcrafted fabric is rooted in daily life; plain and rustic, the meticulous efforts involved in making it, creates a certain warmth and character not found in mass-produced products. It could be said that the prayers for the health and safety of families by generations live on in the soul of these fabrics.
left: 0120105013017 NEW HOPE II JKT (H.W.), right: 0120105011007 MAINSAIL SHIRT L/S BUYI (H.W.)
Hand-operated loom for weaving CEVIAN-ORI
Weft yarns of thinly split Kurotani Washi paper. The textile is woven maintaining the natural form of the washi thread, purposely creating an uneven finish.
Since ancient times in Kyoto prefecture, the city of Ayabe has held a long tradition of highly skilled weavers; its history in thread and textile craftsmanship has made it home to one of Japan's leading fabric companies, and an original paper cloth, known as CEVIAN-ORI.
In 1976, a former employee of Gunze, Keiji Umehara developed this fabric while studying yarns and combining another traditional craft from northern Ayabe, Kurotani Washi; weaving the Japanese paper as a weft yarn. The texture and appearance, and thus name, pays homage to the beauty of the Yuragawa river's currents which flow through the city. Originally, Umehara had been inspired to use Kurotani paper, upon discovering archives dated 700 years ago about the town's Ankokuji Temple, noting the documents had hardly deteriorated whilst maintaining its glossy finish peculiar to washi. Through repeated experimentation, Kurotani Washi was incorporated as a thread, woven manually into a fabric; inventing not only a eye-catching texture, but also a lasting, highly durable and anti-bacterial fabric with highly-breathable properties.
A 50-year old CEVIAN-ORI monk's work robe.
Almost 50 years later, texture of CEVIAN-ORI remains mainly unchanged. Yuji Asada, grandson of Umehara, now inherits the craft expertise, and he aims to share the beauty of CEVIAN-ORI to a wider audience.
The process for weaving the textile takes a considerably long time; great care and skill is required as not to tear the delicate Japanese paper. (The impressively low daily production average is about 8cm per hour or 60cm per day.) Attempts at increasing the productivity via use of mechanical power have failed to replicate the same texture finish, as the washi yarns are often cut and finished poorly.
Furthermore, the dedicated time and effort by hand adds an attractive unevenness and durability to the fabric, which can even practically be washed in the same way as cotton cloth.
left: 0120105013023 THORSON ALBACORE (C/NY), right: 0120101001002 GETA STRIPES
Learning from and making use of original and reliable age-old craftsmanship skills, we are able to create new things by also innovating a combination of these ideas and techniques.
Traditional craftsmanship being incorporated into modern product development shouldn't be considered superior simply due to its history, but rather, appreciating the interesting and well-considered approaches that create uniquely rich and timeless beauty in products.
Photo(BUYI): Angel Chang