> And thud.  I’m back down to earth.  After the celebrity hum-drum of Los Angeles, I’m on surer footing now that I’m back in Florence for Pitti Uomo.  I haven’t attended for two seasons and it’s reassuring that here in this behemothic menswear tradeshow, you’ll always be able to find stands that sell Princes of Wales checked suits with fabrics sourced from the finest of Italian mills, shoes crafted in the Pietmont mountains and handknits from Scotland.  In other words, craft and tradition will always matter in this world and the shifts in terms of seasonality are subtler than the roller coaster world of high fashion.  I quite enjoy the hunt for the special something in amongst the stacks of suit, denim and extreme sportswear brands that show at Pitti, which I’m ill-equipped to write about.

Day one yielded Suzusan.  It was their video (shown above) playing on an iPad, which caught my eye.  Japanese grannies sitting around twisting and knotting fabric, ready to by dyed, otherwise known as the ancient technique of shibori.  Great!  Right up my street…

Hiroyuki Murase is the fifth generation of the Murase family, based in Arimatsu, Nagoya in Japan.  There were once thousands of shibori artisans in Arimatsu, where shibori has been practised for over 400 years and became world-renowned for its high quality shibori textiles.  Every family will have their own specific techniques and the Murase family founded the Suzusan business over a century ago, and are one of the dwindling shibori houses left in Arimatsu.  Their shibori prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed by the fashion world.  The likes of Dior, Junya Watanabe and Calvin Klein have commissioned Suzusan for fabrics.  As seen in the Dior couture A/W 13-4 collection, the Murase family specialises in a shibori technique where the structural shape of the pointy “knots” are retained so that the surface is three-dimensional, puckered and almost “alive” in its appearance.

Hiroyuki, learning from his father Hiroshi Murase – a bona fide shibori master – and the other artisans in his hometown,  has now spread his wings to take the family business to a more accessible and contemporary level.  Having studied fine art in Surrey, he went on to set up a Suzusan arm in Germany in 2008, designing a ready to wear collection of scarves and sweaters, as well as a shibori lampshade collection called Luminaires, that utilise the techniques of his family in a way that can be worn and carried over into the 21st century.  Hiroyuki balances preservation with innovation deftly to prevent his family tradition from drifting into oblivion.

“My entire childhood, I was surrounded by shibori artisans.  Whenever I would visit their workshops, they let me play with their tools while watching them work.  They drew patterns, stitched, dyed and unraveled.  Skillfully they led their tools and fingers across the fabric, their hands were dancing with the textiles.  Time always seemed to pass slower around them.  Untouched by any hustle, they would work with greatest diligence, taking one step at a time.  Nowadays, twenty years later, I work with the same tools, some of them given to me by the artisans I spent my childhood around. Countless fingerprints mark the old tools, reminding me of them and the values they stand for.

I used to think there were four elements to creating something. The first being skill, then knowledge, experience and finally a sense of beauty. Not until later in life did I realise there was a fifth element: “love”.  We cannot produce large quantities.  We try out new things, sometimes we succeed, other times we fail.  Everything we produce is diligently made by hand, in our fast paced society.  So if you wonder why I do what I do, I say: Because I love to create.  Too many of the products nowadays are made without those 5 elements.  But I believe in this day and age there has to be someone who passionately creates by hand.  I hope you will be able to feel our values in our products.  Every piece is unique, every surface feels different. Out of time, skill, knowledge, experience, our sense of beauty and love we create forms, colours and patterns.” 

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dior4Suzusan’s work for Dior haute couture A/W 2013-4 collection

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Yohji2A scarf commissioned by Yohji Yamamoto where the letters are created by knotted sections that resist the dye

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Here are a few sneak peeks at Suzusan’s A/W 15-6 collection, designed in Germany by Hiroyuki.  The range includes beautifully dyed wool scarfs in varying yarns, taking shibori out of its traditional cotton and silk context.  Suzusan’s dyeing techniques are also applied to cashmere jumpers in subtle patterns that go against the grain of the familiar circular patterns.  So much of Pitti can seem like they’re piddling you craft for the pure sake of craft.   There’s no disputing that Hiroyuki and his family’s traditions deserve the attention of an audience beyond textile nerds and nostalgia-buffs.

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Comments (18)

  1. Haru says:

    Hey Susie ! It’s so nice to read this article because I love the textile of Suzusan!
    I wrote also about Suzusan on my blog 🙂

    Ah the designer is Hiroyuki and not Horoyuki 😉
    I just wanted to mention it ^^

    I sent him the URL of this post.
    Thanks for this inspiring post Susie!

  2. This technique is amazing!
    XOX, Gap.
    http://www.gaptoothedgirl.com

  3. Crystal Lattice says:

    Interesting technique yielding wonderful results.
    Xtal
    http://vapourphase.blogspot.co.uk/

  4. Great post! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Paige says:

    Wow this was awesome! Ive dabbled in shibori for uni before but seeing the intricacy of this work is amazing especially seeing it on catwalk; I got the impression when i was doing it was an old art form not yet quite brought into the 21st century of fashion but dior did it beautifully!

    x

    http://www.coralpaiges.blogspot.co.uk

  6. Merle Bryant says:

    Exquisite , so beautiful, I respect this Art immensely .Thank You for this information !

  7. Kazuko says:

    Breathtaking!

  8. I am so glad that shibori is receiving the appreciation it deserves! These ancient, traditional techniques, passed down through generations are precious. So right that ‘love’ is the fourth essential ingredient. The newer take – the 3D version, especially un-dyed has an etherial beauty.
    If anyone would like to come and learn these techniques, I am happy to show you. I have been teaching them for the past ten years or so. See my website http://www.indigosilks.co.uk

  9. Theresa says:

    I think I will never get tired of shibori.. it amazed me every time! I didn’t know Suzusan, the sweater and scarves are brilliant!

    http://t-title10.blogspot.co.uk

  10. May Noradee says:

    Breathtakingly beautiful textiles… Thank you for sharing this post. It’s wonderful to see an old, established craft such as shibori being brought into the 21st century with such love and care.

    Where can I buy those Suzusan scarves?

    http://maynoradeespace.blogspot.co.uk/

  11. Katja says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about weaving. Regards

  12. Jason says:

    I love the designs shown in the article. check out my fashion site. Thefemmecode.com

  13. […] bag, adorned with those distinctive resist patterns,.  I have been obsessed with shibori since discovering the work of Hiroyuki Murase of Suzuman and even in its simplest form, achieved by a line of […]

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