Though the textile industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has resulted in some interesting shifts in related businesses, notably a focus on more sustainable practices, including responsible consumption and production.
For nearly 80 years, Komatsu Matere has been developing new textiles and dyeing processes for numerous industries, from automobile upholstery to designer labels.
With such varied manufacturing comes inevitable quantities of leftover and cut-off fabric, something the company is addressing with mate-mono, its own brand of upcycled textile and minimum-waste goods.
“We had been exploring ways to utilize scraps and stocks of left-over fabrics at our factory for many years. But since the pandemic, it seemed all the more important to start putting plans into action,” says a Komatsu Matere representative. “Mate-mono was one of those ideas, which we decided to launch with the opening of mono-bo, a factory shop where customers can see and handle products in person.”
Mate-mono is the creation of an in-house design team clearly familiar with Komatsu Matere’s textiles and processes. Its first collection is a lineup of unusual bags, each designed to make the best use of the unique compositions, weaves or knits of various materials.
Soft fabric is heat-pressed into neat pleats or folds; synthetic suede is crushed to highlight texture; and mesh is dyed in vibrant colors to accentuate its translucency and sheen. Seamless 3D knitting is also used to create new zero-waste products.
Though they all look very different, each bag’s design is based on a square. Some are simple squares with slim handles; others have been manipulated into other shapes and forms by texture or folds. The stiff, seamless knit Konbu Horn, for example, is a flat square when not in use, but once pulled up by its handles, it pops into an octahedron handbag.
The off-cut materials used are ingeniously reimagined into surprising designs. A silken pleated tote bag turns out to be made from leftover curtain fabric, the straight lines of its radial folds inspired by the carbon fiber cables of Kengo Kuma’s exterior design for fa-bo, Komatsu Matere’s Ishikawa Prefecture head office.
Sheer, voluminous drawstring tote bags are sewn out of soccer pitch turf-protection mesh, then dyed vibrant colors after production to reduce waste materials. Even remnants from mask production have been imaginatively knitted into fringe-embellished bucket bags, while scraps of stretchy jersey are used as strings for labels.
The whole mate-mono collection is on display at mono-bo, Komatsu Matere’s new experiential retail space housed next to its fa-bo head office in Nomi. Here, the upcycling theme continues, with samples laid out on repurposed wooden textile transport pallets, rolls of textiles stored in recycled metal drums from the factory, and free shopping bags made from left-over materials.
Other Komatsu Matere innovations are also showcased, including its collection of anti-viral goods and, in the mono-bo mate-cafe area, Shigeru Ban-designed portable table partitions, a translucent gauze version of its anti-viral textile supported by cardboard tubes.
It is the laboratory space, though, that is a real draw for visitors. Housing fabric processing equipment, mate-lab offers customers an opportunity to learn more about the company’s design process and even take part in the shaping of the brand. Some bags can be custom-dyed, T shirts and other products printed or embroidered, and customer feedback encouraged.
“The fa-bo building is also being renovated and opens this summer,” says the representative about Komatsu Matere’s neighboring main textile laboratory, head office and exhibition space. “Combined with our work at mono-bo, we plan to design other attractive products that utilize the characteristics of our textiles based on visitors comments and feedback.”
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