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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Clothes Given a New Lease of Life With Black Dye

[From January Issue 2014]

201401-5

PANDA BLACK -REWEAR PROJECT 2013-
WWF Japan

Though there’s growing interest in ecology in Japan, in reality, all kinds of things are still being thrown away. It’s said that Japan’s rate of recycling clothing is particularly low. WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) Japan is raising awareness of this by promoting its “PANDA BLACK -REWEAR PROJECT 2013-.”

Even though its activities are guided by the policies of its international office, WWF Japan particularly focuses on consumer lifestyle. This is because, from a global perspective, Japan consumes a large amount of natural resources. WWF Japan is working with corporations and the government in order to prevent Japan from becoming too much of a burden on the global environment.

Stained or yellowed clothes are re-dyed black for the project, transforming them into new-looking items to be reused. Wearing the same items of clothing for a longer time lessens the impact on the Earth’s environment.

“The project got underway because of a suggestion made by a young duo – the designer SHIBATA Kenzo and copywriter MAKINO Keita,” says ONISHI Haruka, public relations officer at WWF Japan. “They told us they wanted to use their skills and abilities to benefit society. They wanted to do something with the WWF. I had a hunch that the idea of dyeing things black could become an innovative project, so I decided to go with it right away. I also thought it was good to focus on the color of black, which is used in WWF’s panda logo.”

Shibata and Makino found Kyoto Montsuki Co., Ltd., a company specializing in dyeing black montsuki. As it happened, Kyoto Montsuki, too, was thinking of starting up a re-dyeing business. Because of this good timing, the project was put into practice without a hitch.

“I think that people associate recycling and ecology with self-denial,” says Onishi. “Dyeing clothes black, however, gives it a fashionable and fun twist.” They are reused because they are fashionable and fun. Onishi believes the project can improve the image of recycling and ecology.

WWF Japan had a booth at this fall’s “Tokyo Designers Week 2013” where they exhibited clothes that had been dyed black. Onishi says, “A lot of people reacted by saying that dyeing stained clothes black, as opposed to bleaching them, was an interesting idea.”

Kyoto Montsuki, the company responsible for dyeing the clothes, has specialized in dyeing things black ever since its foundation in 1915. A montsuki is a black kimono emblazoned with a family crest that’s worn like a jacket over other clothes. It’s still worn today as formal attire for men.

Dyes made from natural fibers are used, so 100% cotton and hemp turn pitch black, while fabrics such as polyester turn grey. You can’t dye parts made with synthetic fibers, such as embossed designs, but they stand out and look fashionable. Clothes are priced at 2,000 to 5,000 yen an item, depending on their weight. A portion of the proceeds is donated to WWF Japan’s nature conservation activity funds.

Kyoto Montsuki is now getting a lot of inquiries about re-dyeing. It seems that the project has also opened a window for the art of dyeing montsuki, which was gradually slipping into obscurity, to be rediscovered.

PANDA BLACK -REWEAR PROJECT 2013-
Kyoto Montsuki Co., Ltd.
Email: kyotomontsuki@kmontsuki.co.jp


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