Aran Knit Production Diary August/Encounter with Vintage and Dye Factory
STORY | 2019/09/10
Despite such cloudy weather in July, August was extremely hot in Tokyo, and the sky was unbelievably clear. The scenery should be the same whether it's sunny or cloudy, but the impression changes depending on whether the sun shines or not. Everything is determined by the amount of light.
“I was originally interested in color.” With a piece of dyed fabric as a sample in hand, Yuki-san told me about it. Color also depends on the amount of light.
“When I was a student, when I tried using a pen with a cute shape, even boring studies seemed a little more fun. I wanted to become a miscellaneous goods designer, and as I studied textiles at university, I became interested in clothing as well.”
Yuki entered the Department of Production Design at Tama Art University, majoring in textiles. What I could learn there was roughly divided into "weaving", "dyeing" and "printing".
“The entrance exam for art university requires drawing as well as writing, but I was more interested in colors than in drawing patterns. and the thread got tangled so much that I was like, "I don't want to do this anymore!"Dyeing seemed to suit me better, and for me, it's the most free. I thought it was an expression."
Yuki had been interested in dyeing long before she took entrance exams for art college. In a home economics class, I had the opportunity to experience Itajime Shibori. Itajime shibori is a traditional tie-dyeing technique in which the material is tightly sandwiched between boards to prevent the dye from soaking in, creating a pattern in the shape of the board. The pattern is different from a print, and it is somewhat dull.
“When I was a student, I wasn’t interested in the shape of clothes, but it was interesting to see how the material itself changed when dyed. When pure white cloth was dyed, it suddenly changed to a vivid color, and I thought it was like magic. It was interesting to see how things changed like that, and when I was a university student I used to dye everything.”
In the beginning, I dyed the threads and fabrics I bought. Dying organza fabric, dyeing quilting cloth, dyeing leather—while dyeing various materials, I suddenly came up with the idea of dyeing vintage clothes. The dyed clothes had a different feel than before.
“It was fun to dye threads and cloth, but it was a material, so it felt vague,” recalls Yuki. “When it comes to clothes, I feel that it is close to my own life, and I feel like I can catch up with the image. It was interesting to approach it with the same approach, and that's how I became more and more devoted to dyeing vintage."
When I was a student, I worked in a university lab, and after graduating, I dyed cloth at the Industrial Technology Research Center in Nishitachikawa. It was a facility that supported manufacturing by small and medium-sized enterprises, and was fully equipped with knitting machines, a stove for dyeing cloth, and a large drying room. I used to go all the way to Nishi-Tachikawa with a car full of knitwear, but from 2014, I started outsourcing it to a dyeing factory.
“Dyeing is a very difficult task,” says Yuki. “When you say dyeing, I think everyone thinks of soaking in colored water, but there are many other processes. I finally dyed it, washed it, and dried it again—I thought it was physically impossible to keep doing that for dozens of clothes, so I decided to ask the factory to do it.”
At that time, he had just graduated from university, and there was no factory to which he had a connection. I searched on the internet and approached the factory that hit. “Because I still don't understand business etiquette, I think I probably sent a messed up email,” recalls Yuki. Most of the factories did not reply, but the only one who did reply was Uchida Dye Factory.
Visit the Uchida Dye Factory with Yuki. He usually communicates by e-mail and phone, so today is the third time he has visited the factory.
We originally ran a kimono shop in Kiryu.” That's what Koji Uchida, the president of Uchida Dye Factory, told me. The Uchida family has run a kimono shop for generations, but Sakuji Uchida left the kimono shop to his older brother and went to Tokyo to learn the technique of dyeing. It was 110 years ago that Uchida Dye Factory was established in Koishikawa, Yamate, Tokyo in 1907.
1935 Construction ceremony of Uchida Dye Factory
“Now this side is the main street, but in the past, the side facing the botanical garden was the main street, and the river was flowing. It used to be a kimono shop, so at first they were doing yarn dyeing for kimono, but they were evacuated to Kiryu due to the war and started a sock manufacturing business. It burned down while we were evacuating, so after the war, we had to start over from scratch.”
1955 Uchida dye factory second generation and his wife in front of the factory
Mr. Mitsuharu Uchida is the third generation owner, and since he was young, he lived like he was buried in his socks. From a young age, it was natural for him to help out in the family business, and even when he was a university student, he worked at a factory on his days off.
“At that time, there were only my father, mother, and two craftsmen. We have 25 people, but there was a time when we had a maximum of 44. At that time, there were craftsmen in their 60s and 70s, and there was a good teacher-student relationship, like, 'Look and learn.' I feel like I'm being replaced now."
Ever since she made an appointment in 2013, Yuki has been dyeing her knitwear and tote bags at Uchida Dye Factory. “Everyone at the factory is good people, and there are many young craftsmen,” says Yuki. The textile industry is aging, and many factories have been forced to close due to lack of successors.
“Many craftsmen are in their 40s, but they like clothes, so they look youthful,” laughs Mr. Uchida. “The craftsmen of that generation—the craftsmen who were told by older generations to ‘watch and learn’—have developed a desire to pass on the techniques they have learned to the next generation. I wanted to hire people in their 20s, so I started looking for people in their 20s.There were a few people who applied, and from this fall, we will be hiring three new people, so I think they will become a little younger. "
YUKI FUJISAWA's NEW VINTAGE creates new value by applying dye and foil to vintage materials. Creating new value by shining a light on things that have been handed down from ancient times from a different angle—that attitude is common to Uchida Dye Factory.
“In dyeing and printing, the techniques are fixed to some extent,” says Yuki. “However, there are many young craftsmen at the Uchida Dyeing Factory, and Mr. Uchida is also taking on new challenges. He showed me a sample and said, ``I'd like to try dyeing with this kind of gradation.'' The technique of opal dyeing, which he has been doing for several years, was shown a sample here, and he said, ``If you do this with a knit. I thought, 'That sounds interesting.'"
When specifying the dyeing color, we often ask for a color chart, but the color that is printed on paper and the color that is dyed on the cloth are slightly different. In order to convey the nuances in more detail, there were times when he sent cloth materials, and there were times when he sent colored stones.
“I think I was a little surprised when I sent the stone, but rather than just sending the purple paper, I think it would be better to send the purple stone with a slightly uneven feel to it to convey what I want to do. I think," said Yuki.
“I have a strong desire to understand those nuances,” says Uchida. “Yuki-san’s ideas are so unique that they are stimulating and fun, and I feel like new things are about to be born. "Isn't it?" Because the sensibility that flashes is sharpened, I also become serious and I'm a special existence."
"It's only natural to achieve what is written in the instructions, but there is also a desire to go beyond that," says Uchida.
“I would be happy if the customer was surprised when I delivered the finished product, but it is possible that such greediness may result in less than desired, so that is the difficult part. As we get to know each other, we come to understand that 'Isn't this what he wants?'
A computer color matching machine has been installed at the Uchida dyeing factory, and the machine analyzes the sent color sample and decides the dye composition. However, instead of leaving everything up to the machines, I spend my days thinking about how to get closer to what they want while searching for what they want.
“It makes me very happy,” says Yuki. “When dealing with vintage items, even if it is a white knit, the shade of white is slightly different for each piece. I always think that there is no.That's what I think is the most interesting thing.If you don't dye it yourself, but have the people at the factory dye it, you may end up with a finish that you didn't expect. I'm looking forward to it. That's why I'm always excited to see if it will arrive soon."
On the way home, Yuki-san gave Uchida-san a present. "To prevent heatstroke, please drink it together," he said, tomato juice. Inside the dyeing factory, the steam rising from the kettle makes it quite hot and humid. In the middle of Tokyo where the lingering summer heat is still lingering, the knitwear is being dyed for the coming winter.
words by Rinshi Hashimoto