I am merely a Sashiko practitioner who enjoys stitching. Neither did I start introducing Sashiko to advocate the current social issues, nor I plan to be a lobbyist for one particular movement. However, the more I talk about Sashiko, the more I realize the people would like to learn both “why we do Sashiko” and “How to do Sashiko”. This is a blog post of my idea of the potential social shift: The “wealthy” society of Mass Production and Mass Consumption to the “caring” society of Some Production and Some Consumption.
*This blog post is Atsushi’s personal philosophy, mainly translated from his Japanese blog post here.
Our (Sashi.Co) Basic Concept
As I mentioned above, Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya is a group of Sashiko artisans who loves Sashiko and re-purposing the Japanese vintage Fabric. Upcycle Stitches LLC is a legal entity to introduce Sashiko in the USA established by Atsushi, who moved to the USA in 2014.
Our goal and concept are quite simple: to enjoy Sashiko.
We are not like the typical company which aims to achieve certain growth and/or to comes up with the innovations to change the world.
Keiko loves the Japanese Vintage Fabric. Whenever she finds the beautiful Japanese fabric, especially those are not in a good enough shape to be used as the fabric, she talks to the fabric saying “I will bring you back to the main stage again.” This story is a beginning of Sashi.Co. and it is a project to support Keiko’s idea and her production.
My (Atsushi’s) idea to support Keiko’s activities was to introduce Sashiko. The more people enjoy Sashiko, the more support Keiko would receive directly or indirectly. Meanwhile, I enjoy Sashiko myself, I try to introduce Sashiko in English as a form of voices from the surviving artisans (instead of an interpretation or translation of books).
In order to introduce Sashiko, we have to know what Sashiko is.
As I keep writing in this blog, the Sashiko has not become the way of art yet. Unlike the other Japanese way of arts, such as Tea Ceremony or Ikebana (Flower Arrangement), Sashiko doesn’t have the mainstream (main family) to lead the culture. This is because Sashiko was too ordinary for the Japanese. When Japan was a poor nation, many Japanese performed Sashiko in each location. The poorer the people there, the more they had to do Sashiko, to merely make their days better.
The more I think, study, and research about Sashiko, the deeper questions and inquires I receive from the audience. Although I used to say, “I am not qualified to answer those deep and big questions”, it may be the time for me to start facing it as a Sashiko “Repair” Artist.
Is Sashiko Antithesis for the Pollution in Fashion?
In 2017, I had a great opportunity to talk about Sashiko in Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC (FIT).
It was the time that I just started introducing Sashiko in public, and to be honest, I wasn’t ready to face to the future stars in Fashion Industry. I have some regret that I would have done better. I still remember a brilliant question from one of the audience.
“What do you think of the Pollution in Fashion Industry? Can Sashiko be a part of the solution?”
I didn’t answer this questions very well.
I even said that it is too big of a problem to even mention my opinion. I am ashamed of this answer. I could have shared my personal philosophy regarding Sashiko and the social issues instead of letting myself down in front of the future Fashion stars who will contribute to the Fashion industry.
Therefore, I am doing it online now.
I am merely introducing my understanding of Sashiko. However, my understanding of Sashiko and its culture include the hope of Sashiko that I would like you to know. It isn’t me to solve the social issues. However, I can be part of the movement by sharing my personal opinions based on my experience in Sashiko.
Society of Mass Production and Mass Consumption
Throughout the Industrial Revolution, the concept of Assembly line with machines took over the hand-crafting manufactures. Thanks to this huge revolution, we get a benefit of having the mass-produced items with reasonable pricing. With the capitalism, the more the factory make the product, the less cost it takes to make a single item, then the more profit and the better distribution. The world had changed throughout this revolution and globalization. The current society is sustained by the economic system of mass production and mass consumption.
I get benefit from this revolution. I am writing this blog post with iMac, which is mass produced. Without the PC, I cannot even update my blog post. Everyone in this society is benefited from the revolution.
*The Japanese had a similar assembly line “without” machines in the Past, and the items and culture are called Mingei. It will require another blog post to share.
One of the key factors of Capitalism is the circulation of items and money. The more items move the more money moves. In order to move the items in mass production, the manufactures and company encouraged us to use and dispose of the items as quickly as possible: mass consumption.
It is a bit ironic, but the more we throw away the items, the more our life get wealthier (at least, it looks like that). When all of us stop replacing (throwing things away) the items, then this economy may corrupt. I enjoy the lifestyle that I can get pretty much everything I need by clicking the button online. This is the benefit we get from the capitalism and circulation.
The problem is, though, that “How long can we continue this circulation?”
Some (most) of the natural resources are limited. Not all the “trash” aren’t trash. Recycling can be pretty costly, and there is the risk of recycling the item from the scratch. When we find the alternative resources, would this society continue forever?
Sashiko Beauty in Sustainability
The word “Sustainability” gets pretty popular in last 10 years or so.
The people with concerns about the social (environmental) issues start advocating the risk of the current society, and many waste and pollution got reviewed and improved. The fabric shopping bags (in Japan) to replace the plastic shopping bag is a great way to save the unnecessary waste. It is very important to “care” of the environment and take action within a capacity of what we can do.
Please do not take me wrong.
I am not saying we all should go to the extreme side of environmentalists. I don’t think I can stop using the plastic bottle, and I will keep using online store although I know the packaging is the complete waste of resources.
What I am writing right now is that we can “care” in our own field. We do not even have to “fix” the problem. By caring about the issue, and spreading the “care”, we as collective human being will ease the social issues, I believe. So, what I am saying is; “Mass Production and Mass Consumption to Some Production and Some Consumption”.
And there is a beauty in Sustainability with Sashiko. You may know it, already, the BORO is the ultimate result of Sustainable Textile Culture with countless repetition of Sashiko Stitching. The Japanese in a few hundreds years ago kept repairing the fabric by necessity, and now we enjoy the beauty from it.
In order to share the beauty of Boro & Upcycle Fabric, I decided to not to purchase any new cloth.
This is purely my “Social Experiment” and I am not trying to implement this crazy idea to the others. I just want to see if we can do such a thing as repurposing and recycling what we have instead of replacing it. If everyone follows this, it will be Mass Production and Mass Consumption to Zero Production and Zero Consumption. I don’t want to do that because Some production and Some consumption is the base of New Fashion and Design. Also, going to the extreme is not following the Sashiko mindset. Please do not misunderstand what I am writing here.
I just enjoy, that the my old torn socks may be form of art in the year of 2200.
Sometimes, repairing doesn’t make sense at all
The idea of “Repairing the cloths instead of replacing them” contradict to the current mindset based on capitalism and circulation economy. It is much financially correct if you can replace your pair of jeans with $60.00 or so while it takes 20 hours of mending it. If you have a job earning the minimum wage in the USA, it is cheaper to replace the jean than getting it repaired by yourself or asking someone to do that.
This economical contradiction is the main reason I suffered so much in Sashiko Family. I kept wondering the meaning of keeping the Sashiko. If this is not economically right, why do I have to keep doing that?
This is my reply to the comment on our Instagram regarding the split mindset (philosophy).
I am sincere with you. Although I was raised in a Sashiko family, I have been struggling to find out the “meaningful” of Sashiko. In the economically wealthy society, repairing the item doesn’t make sense financially and economically. You can get a pair of good jeans less than $60, while you would need to spend either 20 hours to do so. It does not make sense from the modern mindset (I would like to avoid “western” here since the modern Japanese are like it too.) It is not all about cost and returns. Sashiko isn’t about “saving” the environment. It is about the appreciation to what we have already… That is my ‘temporary’ answer to what I love to do, Sashiko. I am working on writing an article about it. I will share it when I complete. I appreciate your comment. I feel sometimes I should replace things I have. My mother in law once cried when I was wearing the torn pants that I didn’t have enough money to replace. lol. I am doing it as a social experiment. Let’s see how it goes 🙂 Keep in touch!
Similar to Sashiko, the topic of “Replace or Repair” is not “right” or “wrong”. It is the matter of preferences, and the mindset will fall in between both extreme sides.
Some Production and Some Consumption
What I would like to share is NOT to make a society of “Mass Production and Mass Consumption” an evil exist. I get to benefit from it, and I believe you get to benefit from it. So, my points are pretty much two of these below.
- Appreciate what we have first. Then decide to replace it or repair it. Enjoy the process of repairing it by “caring” others and yourself (ourselves).
- Mass Production and Mass Consumption to Some Production and Some Consumption. A shift of mindset that “concept of the profit of manufacture is the purpose of activity” to “We all can benefit even with caring the environment.”
I hope it makes sense. I will keep reviewing & proofreading if I am describing myself appropriately.
Fashion Industry and Sashiko
At last, but not least, I would like to think of Fashion.
I need to study and learn more about Fashion to make a comment about it, but I can share my thoughts from the standing point as the Sashiko professional.
In my definition of Fashion, I understand that the Fashion is something to create and provide the “New Values” throughout styling. The origin of the trend is the fashion, and both excentric art styling and fast fashion connecting to our daily life are both Fashions.
So, can the idea of “Appreciating the Fabric” be the new value in the Fashion industry?
I believe it can. In fact, the Boro became popular based on this concept, I believe.
The problem (concern) is that the value of “appreciating Fabric” create the low circulation of production. When the circulation go slower, the capitalists will get less return. If we all start saying, “Let’s replace the cloth and repair it for decades”, the apparel businesses will not be happy much because the customer stop buying new clothes. When the cloth isn’t selling well, they may stop producing the new clothes. This isn’t what I am trying to introduce.
I am doing the social experiment of “not buying any cloth” to see how it goes as the personal project. The idea of “not buying anything” can destroy the Fashion culture, and it is probably too extreme.
Therefore. I would like to share the idea of Some Production and Some Consumption, and “caring society” is the ideal place I would like to reach to.
Published on June 14th, 2016