Boro lies somewhere between fashion and art. Born out of necessity and passed down through generations, these pieces of clothing were originally made with an instinctive patchwork technique, by rural Japanese women looking to clothe and protect their families on low budgets.
Traditional to Japan, the craft of boro parallels with the Indian tradition of kantha, another quilt-like process that uses up scraps of used material found around the house, and re-works them into beautiful blankets that keep family members warm during cold seasons. This close, personal connection stitched into the fabrics made sure that people held boro garments and kantha blankets in high regard, and as a result many of them were passed down through generations as precious, priceless heirlooms.
The ancient art form of boro is still being discovered today, as people throughout Japan continue to find family textiles from years ago. A new exhibition, Textile Memories: The World of Boro, now open at Atsukobarouh in Tokyo, reveals the intricate histories found in these textiles, and goes so far as to ask: in today's political landscape, is time for Japan to return to this slowed down, up-cycled, and restorative attitude?
To read more about Japan's rich textile history, pick up a copy of the latest issue of Selvedge, 81: Japan Blue.