National

Models strut in 'washi' garments to celebrate UNESCO listing

Kyodo

A town in Saitama Prefecture known for its “washi” industry has held a fashion show featuring garments made from the traditional handmade paper to celebrate its addition to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List last November.

The show Wednesday in the town of Ogawa, co-organized with the neighboring municipality of Higashi-Chichibu, focused on the washi brand known as “hosokawashi,” and attracted about 650 spectators. Both municipalities are known for their “tesuki” (made by hand) craftsmanship.

The show showcased pieces from kimono-shaped gowns to modern coats. The materials were marbled with dyes such as persimmon juice and black ink, and softened to make them feel like cloth. The clothing line was designed and made by Taki Okajima, a Tokyo-based designer. known for producing art using washi and cotton fabrics. Okajima’s works were presented by amateur models recruited from clothing and design schools in Tokyo.

“It’s warm and light and I like the design,” said Kosuke Kondo, a 22-year-old student at a fashion school in Tokyo who was one of the models strutting the catwalk.

“It made me realize I should appreciate traditional Japanese art,” he said.

Saitama Prefecture is one of the three areas in Japan where the traditional art of washi has been passed down. The other two are in Gifu and Shimane prefectures.

Hosokawashi secured UNESCO recognition in November along with the “sekishubanshi” brand from Shimane, and “honminoshi” from Gifu