Every time I host a Sashiko workshop in NYC, I hear the word of BORO.
The word of “BORO” became famous in these 15 years or so. People in the art industry discovered the beauty of Japanese vintage fabric, especially those were used and repaired repeatedly. As a Japanese who grew up with a lot of textile in the traditional Sashiko family, I remember the trend with BORO was somewhat surprising.
In Japanese, the word Boro (襤褸）means;
- A piece of useless fabric after using repeatedly
- Torn cloth with holes and patches. Squalid garment. (Usually, the negative image with the word of Boro)
The Japanese sometimes call it Ranru with the same Japanese written character. Ranru means a garment with many damages, tears, and patches.
The contemporary BORO culture spotlight not only the ordinary Japanese definition as old garments but also the vintage fabrics with many patches and repairs. Many Boro pieces are found in forms of Kimono, Noragi (Japanese style outer Jacket), Futon (Japanese style blanket), Shikimono (Japanese style rug) and so on. They look dirty comparing to the new fabric, but the color created by hundreds of years of time and the combination of patches with repairing are beautiful. BORO sometimes looks like an abstract painting.
At Random Beauty?
Some people say that Boro is a product of at random chance. The people found out the beauty in Boros in the 21 century. It was lucky for the textile culture of Japan that the BORO was discovered. The unique culture of Japan, such as Mottainai (regret concerning waste) contributed to the process of creating Boros.
Yes. The Japanese had a unique culture of saving and appreciating not only the fabric but also everything around them. Speaking of Mottainai culture in fabric, a mother told a daughter that, if she has a large piece of fabric enough to wrap 3 soybeans, she should keep the piece so she will be able to repair the other fabric. In the process of economical growth in Japan, some Boros were thrown away because of its nature… it is literally a piece of filthy, useless, and fragile fabric. I agree that the Japanese didn’t introduce the artistic aspect in Boros. However, I do not think that the BORO is a product of at random chance or accidental art. They tried to be beautiful.
Boro is Designed fabric by ordinary farmers.
I think, and I know, that the process of creating Boro requires a lot of thinking and designing. If Japanese people only needed to mend the fabric, why didn’t they use mono-color thread and plain solid color fabric…? Using simple thread and one colored fabric throughout their life would have their family finance much easier. Instead, they designed the Boro to enjoy her/him more fashion in their limited resource.
The ordinary farmers in Japan tried to enjoy the fashion and arts within the capacity of what they can. This is human nature to dress their up. The fashion sense of Japanese people is the origin of Boros, I believe.
BORO as the result of Sashiko
The Japanese people created BORO by repeating the process of mending the fabric. I believe that we call the process of mending “Sashiko.” Sashiko is not only a form of hand-stitching but also the process of stitching with focusing on design and function simultaneously.
Many people are interested in Sashiko as a technique to make decorative stitching. Sashiko became more decorative stitching after the Japanese started enjoying enough amount of fabrics and threads. However, as a Sashiko artisan, I would like to introduce the beauty of mending, and the aspect of Sashiko which can make your garments more special.
My mother Keiko started the project called Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya to revive the old fabric to contemporary fashion/art by Sashiko. It is impossible to make “new BORO” in this century because the BORO requires the color fade-out with hundreds of years and repeated repairing the fabric. What Keiko focus now is to find the Boro (or Boro like, vintage, and antique fabric) and repair the BORO. We believe this is one of our responsibilities to pass down the culture to next generation as Sashiko artisans.
Learn Sashiko, share your Sashiko project, and let’s enjoy Boro-like fashion starting in 21st century.
We are a team to make Boro-to-be in the next Century.
One of my goal of this website is to make Sashiko open-source matter. I want as many people as possible to know what Sashiko is, enjoy the process of stitching, and feel satisfied by the result. We have some online tutorials and online store to start learning Sashiko.
The Sashiko doesn’t limit your project by rules or regulation. You can do whatever you want. My hobby is to mend jeans, and many people enjoyed my Sashiko mending workshop in NYC.
By the way, when I say I wear a garment with mending, people may think that I am against to the mass consumption society.
They may think I care the ecology more than the fashion. Some may think I am in need of… and saving money for food. It is wrong. Again, I believe it is human instinct to make us attractive throughout fashion, and the mending with cool fabric can be a good way to attract the others. I am proud of my ancestor, who cared the fashion no matter how in need they were.
I hope you can join our team to make “Boro to be” in the next century.
Although I don’t know if our descendants find it beautiful or not, as long as we enjoy the process of appreciating the fabric, I am pretty sure this trend will be another fashion culture in 2xxx.
What you need to join our team are simple of two mindsets.
Passion for the fashion and appreciation for the fabric.