Kyoto is home to some of the most reputable artisans in Japan, if not the world, and for this installment of HYPEBEAST Road Trips Japan, we visit with one of the most famous weavers in the Nishijin area, the House of HOSOO. Our opportunity was extremely rewarding given the opportunity to meet with the family responsible behind the intersection of contemporary fashion and a traditional Japanese art.
A Legacy Started by Kimonos and Obis
For over 1,200 years, the Hosoo family has been weaving silk kimonos and obis. Utilizing Nishijin, a centuries-old yarn dyeing and weaving technique, they became widely acknowledged for their exceptional skills with traditional Japanese 3D weaving methods and for applying richly textured Nishijin to contemporary design popularized by the samurai class, high-ranking monks and Imperial Courts of Kyoto. In 1688, they set up shop and created the House of HOSOO as their main workshop and residence; and for the past 325 years, this is where they have remained and continue to produce their prized fabrics.
In the late ’90s the kimono market was at its peak, and Hosoo thrived, but at the turn of the century, demand for the traditional garbs all but disappeared. For the oldest, unbroken line of traditional weavers, something had to change.
Masataka Hosoo and Evolving the Family Business
Thirty-five-year-old Masataka Hosoo spent his youth dreaming of becoming a professional musician. Playing punk rock well into his college years, even while earning a degree in economics, Masataka found a balance between non-conformity and tradition. After graduating, Masataka traveled the world, but the weaver’s blood in his veins called him back to the family business. His return would bring about the change that the Hosoo so badly needed.
His first order of business was to bring contemporary business methods to the Hosoo. The archaic, traditional looms of the past could not produce fabric in the volume required to satisfy the needs of the market. Wider looms were adopted in order to produce cloth that was conducive for everyday use. The modernization of their methods, however, did not detract from the Hosoo’s legacy of excellence. Rather, Masataka focused on creating new, innovative fabrics that would enhance the inherent beauty of their painstaking craftsmanship. Like the master craftsmen of old, Masataka would accept no compromise in the Hosoo way.
Within four years, 12th generation Masataka has evolved his family business from just a kimono and obi manufacturer to a producer of finely-crafted custom fabrics used by designers and architects all over the world. Their fabrics grace the interiors of Christian Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton boutiques worldwide, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, the Ritz Carlton in Germany, on the runways for Thom Browne and Mihara Yasuhiro, and an upcoming luggage collaboration for Yaushiro and Tumi. If that wasn’t enough, Masataka also founded GO ON, a joint collaboration between Kyoto craftspeople, who still utilize time-honored techniques in the creation of Japanese crafts and celebrates the heritage of tradition.
HYPEBEAST Road Trips aims to take you across the world and provide you insights into some of the lesser known cultural institutions relevant to our culture. Follow us as we examine and experience some of the most interesting entities across fashion, food, design and art through our HYPEBEAST Road Trips.We’d like to thank TUMI, Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, Onitsuka Tiger and Aoi Kyoto Stay.
“The modernization of their methods, however, did not detract from the Hosoo’s legacy of excellence. Rather, Masataka focused on creating new, innovative fabrics that would enhance the inherent beauty of their painstaking craftsmanship.”