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Wearing the tradition and new possibilities of Tango Chirimen. Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt [Craftsman Interview]

On June 13, 2022, renacnatta will release a collection “Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt” using Tango Chirimen. This is a new type of wrap skirt that changes its expression depending on the unevenness that is the charm of Tango Chirimen.

Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt product page

When you hear the word “chirimen,” you may imagine Japanese patterns. However, the skirt this time is dyed in a dull color to bring out the beauty of the chirimen to the fullest.

In addition, the polyester used for the skirt this time says, "Because it shrinks more tightly than silk, it conveys the fun of chirimen well." At the same time, it is also characterized by its shape memory, so it does not easily wrinkle and lose its shape. It can be washed at home and is easy to care for, making it perfect for everyday use.

Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt aims to create a new tradition by combining Tango Chirimen, which has been producing textiles for over 1,300 years, and Renakunatta's approach.

We were able to create this skirt because we teamed up with Hayato Usui, the 3rd generation owner of Usui Orimono, the manufacturer of Tango Chirimen. Mr. Usui is expanding new possibilities for chirimen by making use of the techniques that have been passed down over generations.

We asked Ms. Usui, who was in charge of manufacturing the fabric for the Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt, about the possibilities of chirimen, saying, "There were some struggles, but I think we were able to create an interesting fabric."

1300 years of tradition and one person's challenge

Kyoto Prefecture's Tango region is Japan's largest producer of kimono silk fabrics. It is said that textiles have been made here for about 1,300 years.

Tango's climate, with its high rainfall and high humidity, is perfect for the production of silk fabrics. It is said that the reason why the city prospered as a textile production area is that it has abundant water, which is indispensable for the production of textiles, and is close to Kyoto City, where textiles are finished into final products.

Usui Textile Co., Ltd. was founded in 1952 in Tango. Currently, it is rare in Tango, where the division of labor is progressing, and we are engaged in both twisting (twisting) threads and weaving (seishoku), which finishes the threads into fabric.

At the Usui Textile factory. The process of weaving twisted yarn.

“Originally, I didn’t like chirimen.”

Mr. Usui is currently the 3rd generation owner of Usui Textile. He says he never wanted to take over the family business. I didn't even think about working in Tango, so I was working in another industry in Kanto.

However, it was in 2019 that he returned to Tango after the birth of his child, thinking, "Maybe I should go back to my hometown and help out with the family business."

“My knowledge of chirimen started from scratch. Perhaps because of that, from the point of view of someone who has been in the textile industry for a long time, it is costly and time-consuming, and I am doing things that I don’t normally do. I didn't know anything, so maybe I was able to challenge more and more."

The surface of crepe. It is characterized by unevenness called "Shibo".

The challenge is to face the possibilities of chirimen. In the background, there was a change in my thoughts on chirimen.

“About three years after I came back to Tango, I finally came to understand the goodness of chirimen. It took me three years even if I worked on it every day, so I think it would take more time for ordinary people.

The goodness of chirimen cannot be conveyed only by the thoughts and commitment of the creator. In order to get people interested, just by looking at it, it's "interesting! I think you need a fabric that makes you think

Mr. Usui discovered the fun of chirimen. It was in the unique process of chirimen that "shrinks" the woven fabric.

“With other fabrics, you can imagine the finished product from the weaving stage. But with chirimen, you can’t know what it will look like until you shrink it after weaving it. I like that kind of manufacturing process.”

The process of "refining" that shrinks the dough is unique to chirimen.

I want to expand the possibilities of chirimen

By the way, when you hear the word “chirimen,” what kind of use comes to mind?

Most of the chirimen woven in Tango are made into kimonos in Kyoto. In addition to kimono, it has been used in scenes related to the image of "wa", such as fukusa and furoshiki, and small items printed with Japanese patterns.

For Usui Orimono, which produces such chirimen, the main customers are apparel and wholesalers. It is said that most of the customers after that were seniors.

“However, I think that chirimen is a fabric that could be more widely used. For example, if you dye it in one color, it becomes modern. I feel that the image is too advanced.

We should be able to deliver the fun of fabrics to other generations. In order to increase the number of "entrances" for chirimen to be known, Usui started exploring possibilities other than kimono, such as bags and interiors.

“Chirimen is generally soft, but Usui Orimono is able to make hard crepe by twisting polyester tightly together. I make small items that are easy to use.”

This pouch was jointly developed by three companies, including Usui Orimono , with the hope that the local Tango people would pick up chirimen. The motif of milk cartons known in Tango is popular, and many of them are purchased locally.

Polyester and chirimen may seem like an unexpected combination, but polyester chirimen has been around for over 30 years. However, no matter how far you go, it has been treated as a "cheap version of silk". “But polyester has value that only polyester can provide,” says Usui.

Polyester shrinks more tightly than silk, so the fun of chirimen is well conveyed. Moreover, with polyester, after the woven fabric is shrunk, it can be stretched out again and its shape is remembered. and other natural fibers cannot achieve this.”

After shrinking and unfolding the chirimen, silk will shrink again if it is washed. However, in the case of polyester, once it has shrunk, it can be unfolded and its shape can be remembered, so it is possible to realize the unique expression of a fabric that has gone through the procedure of "extremely shrinking and expanding".

The tradition of Tango Chirimen and the characteristics of polyester. By combining the two, Mr. Usui is exploring ways to expand the possibilities of chirimen.

When Tango Chirimen and Renakunatta met

Through trial and error, Mr. Usui actively publishes experimental fabrics that cannot be mass-produced. We at Renac Natta were drawn to that challenging attitude.

Polyester chirimen is also used for the Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt. When Aika Okouchi, the representative of Renac Natta, visited Usui Orimono, she was fascinated by the textured texture of polyester chirimen, which led to the realization of this collaboration.

“Okochi-san was initially interested in using the fabric for a different purpose. I was surprised at first when I was told that I want to make a skirt.”

After that, the fabric was repeatedly improved so that it could be used for skirts, and the fabric of "Nijukoshi Quail Chirimen" was newly born.

The characteristic of this fabric is the embossed surface created by the quail weave. In addition to the height of the grain, which Usui Orimono specializes in, the grain is made larger by the process of “shrinking and expanding” that is possible only with polyester.

“Normally, chirimen shrinks by 20 to 30%, but this time, we have shrunk it by 70%. In terms of the width of the fabric, we have shortened it from 140cm to 40cm and expanded it to 80cm. If the fabric is large, it is difficult to expand the shrinked fabric and dye it after finishing the fabric.

In order from the top, before refining, after refining, the cloth is spread again and the width is adjusted.

Still, Mr. Usui laughed and said, "The bigger the texture, the more interesting it is, so it's good that we were able to create an interesting fabric." The Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt incorporates Mr. Usui's thoughts.

The expression of Tango Chirimen colors the daily life from the skirt

The Tango Chirimen technique that forms the Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt. As with other traditional crafts, Tango Chirimen is also facing issues of declining production and a lack of successors.

The production volume in the 1970s is now less than one-twentieth. As kimono can no longer be worn, demand has decreased, and coupled with the lack of successors, the decline in production is accelerating.

Nevertheless, the tradition of being a silk fabric production area for more than 1,300 years supports the pride of the production area as a pillar of Tango.

“Historically, Tango has been a subcontracted production area for Nishijin textiles, so all kinds of fabrics have been produced here . Now that the demand for silk fabrics has decreased, the weavers are trying to differentiate themselves. I try to weave a variety of fabrics, and the interestingness of fabrics is becoming more and more diverse.”

Still, if the number of creators decreases, the interest of the production area will also decrease. Mr. Usui, who felt a sense of crisis about this, sees potential in the project with Renac Natta.

“Until now, when we released items to the world, the names of 'Usui Orimono' and 'Tango Chirimen' rarely appeared on the surface. It's a pleasure.

I think that Renakunatta's use of Tango Chirimen, which tends to have an old-fashioned image, will bring a breath of fresh air to the production area."

The Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt was created with the desire to expand the possibilities of chirimen. Lastly, Mr. Usui told me about this charm that only Mr. Usui knows.

“I happened to notice that the late afternoon sun was shining into the factory, but the impression of this skirt changes depending on the time of day you wear it. When you look at it in the sunlight, the unevenness of the grain reflects the light diffusely, so the appearance changes. I personally think it would look great in the setting sun.”

The Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt, which embraces the traditions and challenges of Tango Chirimen. Please pick it up and feel the thoughts of Mr. Usui and the craftsmen of Tango.

Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt product page

A video showing how the Tango Mermaid Wrap Skirt is made is also available. Please take a look at how the chirimen shrinks.


■ Usui Textile Co., Ltd.
Official site /Instagram

Interviewed and written by: Yuriko Kikuchi
Photo: Misuzu Shibuya
Interview and editing: Eri Yoshida

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