Japanese ‘boro’ patchwork: born of necessity, rediscovered as fashion

Talking about style is a bit like talking music: it may go on pretty much, and if you are discussing about Billie Holiday or the Ramones or NWA it is still the identical conversation. The exact same is true of discussions about Rei Kawakubo kimonos and the girls of Harajuku. Just as music is the poetry of rebellion and struggle fashion is the story of boundless creativity and craftsmanship. In both instances, if you prefer it, you like it. They are increasingly looking to their catalogue for inspiration while designers have bestowed drapey streetwear and recreations of denim around the world. One of their most rediscoveries is ‘boro’, the craft of patchwork that is in the process of migrating to style staple out of museum piece.

“Literally ‘boro boro’ means tattered or worn out,” states Yumi Fukayama, whose newest Boro ruling began as an online catalog of her classic patchworked coats and has since grown into an outerwear and accessories manufacturer. A alliance with the denim manufacturer Denham saw woven neckerchiefs and her crafting components from bits of fabric, but she also does a brisk business over Instagram and by means of a small number of merchants. Boro started out of necessity where cotton was in short supply Fukayama clarifies with whatever pieces of cloth they could find, and farmers could patch their linen and hemp clothing. It is a innovation borne of the Japanese philosophy ‘mottainai’, which translates as “too good to waste.” These were utilitarian clothes — the opposite of style — thanks to the attribute obsession of Japan with refinement and craft, they became objects of beauty all the same.

Fukayama is not the only one in Japan to become mesmerized by the boro aesthetic. Really, Visvim, a brand and John Mayer whose designs combine traditional craftsmanship and Americana inspired her interest. It continues to incorporate the style, and was one to adopt boro. One of Visvim’s mainstay slouchy cardigans and denim jeans, limited-run, hand sewn boro bits, recently including a coat stuffed with goose down and lined in a print are frequently released by it. In the Tokyo store, which feels like the house of a very crafty hermit, boro vests of Kapital, pants and coats hang from the walls onto hangers. Composed of the network of fabrics, these clothes are so assembled that it is impossible to tell the stains begin and where the base layer ends. Like the bits of Visvim, hand patchs these, every one pieced together from bits of denim, bandanas and blankets, each one special.

It is ironic that in a country that reveres shirts and dungarees as much as this one, their own workwear wasn’t only unpopular but disregarded by many Japanese. “They did not really listen to it or believe it was a very precious thing, so that they really threw it out,” says Fukayama, that managed to save some of her own family’s bits before they ended up in the landfill. “This was worn by farmers, and is a sign of poverty,” she explains. “It is not a wonderful connotation as it means that you are from a poor family{}” Much like the 1950s Levis that used to be accessible flea markets — and now sell for thousands of dollars to collectors — boro that is authentic is becoming more difficult to find. As title tags such as Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe embrace the design, the effect of boro spreads wider appearing printed onto backpacks and shoes, and stitched onto tops.

While Fukayama is enjoying boro’s rising appreciation she’s also wary of its commodification. Boro speaks to a time, place and individuals who contributed to the identity of Japan just as workwear is imbued with the tales of gold miners and the cowboys, bikers who shaped American culture. Production and cheap imitationscould rob this bit of what makes it special of background. “I don’t need something with a great deal of Japanese culture behind it to become quickly style and be forgotten,” she says. “They’re a part of a person’s story and I wish to keep them prized for this uniqueness they have.” The concerns of Fukayama will be familiar to anyone who’s heard a song repurposed to sell phone programs or automobiles . Meanwhile, Fukayama continues scouring for scraps of cloth in flea markets and shopscreating her patchworks for people who love the artistry and creativity of design.

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