A Visual Anthology of Aizawa Dye Co.

Located in Yashio, Saitama Prefecture Japan and founded in 1906 the Aizawa Dye Co. specializes in creating indigo-dyed products such as Happi, Noren, and Tapestry.

(Batch dyeing of Hanten / Monpe fabrics)

1. Tell us a little bit about the company.

We have been in the dyeing business since 1906. Our specialty is Aizome (indigo-dyed) textiles with patterns created by traditional katazome printing techniques. While some of our business comes from producing custom made uniforms for retail workers in Japan, our primary production and sales are focused on festival outfits and apparel.

(Indigo dyeing in progress at the dye factory)

2. Aizawa Dye Co. specializes in creating indigo-dyed products such as Happi, Noren, and Tapestry. What inspires this creation and why?

Katazome printing used to be the primary technique for printing patterns on textiles, but when digital and screen printing were developed they quickly became the industry standard as those processes are faster and more cost efficient. Due to these industry changes we have not been able to pass our craft onto the next generation because the number of skilled craftspeople is rapidly declining. However despite the lack of new apprentices, our core customer base is both very strong and continues to grow, fueled by appreciation for historic craftsmanship and artisan techniques.

(Happi fabric hung to dry outside)

3. What do you hope to inspire in others with your pieces?

In Japan, there is a great appreciation for the unique fading process of indigo dyed clothing and blankets. We hope to pass this appreciation to our customers as their purchases look more and more beautiful over time as the dye changes to reflect its use.

(Getting ready to hang fabric to dry outside)

4. What is a typical day like when creating your products?

Because of our commitment to traditional dyeing techniques, our factory production can only function when the sun is out. We use the sun’s rays and naturally occurring winds to dry the products and enhance the natural color of the indigo dye. When the sun is not out we take the opportunity to work on our designs and prepare the natural indigo.

(Washing out excess indigo dye)

5. Tell us a bit about the special techniques you use, and why you use them.

Our craftspeople use three different dyeing techniques to differentiate us from other dye houses:

  1. Katazome dye:  型染の技法 Stencils cut from special mulberry paper and stained with persimmon allow for precision edging when printing letters and characters.
  2. Go-Ire: 呉入れ Soybean extract is applied to textiles prior to indigo dyeing, softening the fibers and allowing for deeper color when the indigo is applied.
  3. Edo-Moji: 江戸文字 Traditional Japanese typography invented during Edo era.

While many production facilities utilize just one of these techniques, our factory is among the very select few using all three under one roof.

(Katazome papers)

(Applying resist paste to fabric using Kata)

6. Will you be expanding the products that you carry in the future?

Yes. We’ve been working on modern Noren for use as wall hangings in the home. We are also fortunate enough to receive many requests for collaborations with other brands, and are excited about the possibility of applying our dying techniques to new fields and products.

(Studio space)

7. How does sustainability fit into the work that you do?

We utilize traditional cutting and sewing methods on Japanese fabric that measures only 17 inches wide, thus minimizing fabric waste. Additionally, We recycle many of the fabrics that did not dye properly to create patches and patchwork fabric.

(L: Tenugui fabric getting ready to be batch dyed R: Light-weight bandana fabric with resist paste pre-applied waiting to be dyed)

7. Where do you hope to see the company going in 10 years?

We have been perfecting the same dyeing techniques since 1907, and our goal is to continue preserving these techniques and spreading the beauty of Aizome dye. We would be very happy if ten years from now we’re continuing to work with customers who appreciate our dye techniques, craftsmanship, and the beauty of Japanese festival culture.

Shop our Aizawa collection here!