With traditional boro gaining more popularity these days, we familiarize ourselves with the age old Japanese repair technique and a couple of brands that are utilizing the patchwork style in their collections.
A visit to Somerset House London for the Beg Boro Transform exhibition.
During the Edo period (1603-1868) Japanese commoners were only permitted to wear clothes that were dyed blue, brown, grey or black. Cotton had been cultivated in southern Japan from the sixteenth century but it was considered a luxury fabric and could only be afforded by the better off urban populace. It was warmer and lighter than the cloth woven from homespun nettle, ramie or hemp. Discarded, ‘worn out’ cotton garments from the south were valued enough to be collected by merchants whose boats plied their trade up the northern coast. It was there they found a ready market. Fragments were purchased and pieced into layered clothes and futon covers by the rural poor for whom cotton cloth was rare and expensive. The making of Boro cloths and clothes continued into and beyond the Meiji period (1868-1912) Text by Andy Christian.
Samantha Allan is a UK-based artist, curator and co-founder of The Shop Floor Project, an award-winning space which works with contemporary designer/makers and museums to develop collections, exhibitions and workshops.
Mottainai and boro boro are two terms in Japanese philosophy which seem to perfectly contextualise Boro: The Fabric of Life, exhibited at Domaine de Boisbuchet. Mottainai is a term which conveys a deep sense of regret concerning waste whilst the phrase boro boro celebrates the beauty in something frayed, decaying or repaired and provides the exhibition with its title.
The majority of the textiles are sourced from the collection of New York based gallerist Stephen Szczepanek who also co-curated the exhibition. His gallery, Sri Threads, is an ever changing collection of astonishingly repaired antique Japanese folk textiles.
There could be a tendency to romanticise these textiles yet, as Szczepanek explains, this art of repair did not begin as an abstract philosophy but was born of necessity: “Boro textiles were the domain of the ordinary man and represented a collective, impoverished past.
These textiles may have their origins in austerity and utilitarian design but the sophistication of the repeated repair, often by several successive generations, means each piece is completely unique and as such gives the fabric a sculptural and considered presence.