Popular conceptions of Japanese textile design usually focus on textiles similar to the sky-blue stenciled and embroidered silk seen in this 19th century kimono dressing gown. Made of natural fibers and featuring patterns and motifs borrowed from the natural world, these textiles are the work of skilled artisans trained in a variety of techniques, including weaving, dying, painting and embroidery. The resulting textiles are prized works of art, demonstrating the importance of textile traditions and workmanship to Japanese culture.
Lovely as they are, these textiles are only one branch of textile creation in Japan. In the early 1980s (just as Japanese fashion designers emerged on the world stage) Japanese textile designers began experimenting with new, often synthetic, textiles. Capitalizing on Japan's strong history of textile design and manufacturing, designers used both traditional and invented techniques to create and manipulate new textiles into existence. Like their traditional predecessors, these textiles are produced using time and labor intensive techniques.