In Narumi, a village steeped in the tradition of shibori, artisans with decades of experience dye our scarves by hand. The technique involves stitching, folding or clamping the fabric before it is dyed, which results in designs that are like time-lapse photographs, recording shape and pressure instead of light—each one is uniquely rendered.
We’ve worked with our supplier Asai Shibori since 2007 to source 100,000 scarves from the artisans of Fujisawa, one of only four dyehouses left in an area once known for the tradition. Today, the scarves are first hand stitched, folded and tied by workers at the King Sun factory in China. Clamping, a technique that gives some of our scarves a linear pattern, is still done at Fujisawa, but to have the scarves fully produced in Japan would cost up to five times more.
At EILEEN FISHER, we source shibori from India and China as well as Japan, but the creative skills of the artisans in Narumi are not easily matched. Accuracy is key when it comes to replicating a design for production. Our textile designer Stefani Mar uses the example of an omelet to illustrate. “Any cook can make a good one, but not just anyone can replicate ten more of the same quality,” she says.
The two artisans at Fujisawa have perfected their color formulas over forty years, working strictly from memory. Like chefs, they watch the progress of the dyes using the tools of their “kitchen,” drying off portions of the fabric against a heat pipe to check it against a color card. Currently, there are no apprentices at the dyehouse to pass the knowledge to—or even to write down the recipes.
We’re currently partnering with Fujisawa to adopt dyes formulated with safer chemistry. It’s a big ask because it means they’ll have to reinvent their kitchens and learn precision with a whole new set of ingredients. But we’re committed to preserving the tradition, and better dyes will help ensure shibori has a sustainable future—for generations to come.