Mottainai!

I didn’t want to add this to the last post on the Houston show since it’s a bit of a “Debbie Downer” (apologies to all Debbie’s out there), but I discovered something that I found very disappointing/disturbing (once again) at the show.  I walked the wholesale market on Sunday as I had to wait a couple of hours for the Ed office to open.

On the show floor, I saw that Moda is now producing, for February delivery, a line of fabrics called “Boro”. Now those of you regular readers of this blog probably know how I feel about this. We had a similar discussion when they came out with their “Shibori” fabric line. But this one is even MORE disturbing to me.  Is that possible? Why yes, yes it is.

Why is it that everything has to be bastardized for profit?  You might find my mindset a bit harsh but boro -really??  So now we are going to take the Japanese historical tradition of using scrap cloth to make utilitarian items for daily use and commercialize it to the point of PRINTING scanned images of boro on cotton sheeting for quilters to use in boro-esque quilt projects?  Are we really going there? And for quilters– who in general, have more scrap fabrics than any God of your choice!

I am really appalled at this.  Do they even understand the history of these fabrics? They wax poetically in their catalog about boro, but there is a certain dissonance I find disturbing. Boro was created out of poverty, a lack of having textiles for everyday needs. A certain need to use all that was at hand- to not waste.  Mottainai! Do not waste the resources you have! The ways that people in Japan found to creatively reuse what they did have is remarkable and noteworthy.  To take this and create a line of printed “boro” quilt fabrics just really is the height of irreverent insincerity in my opinion. It’s nothing more than the use of a term seen as a trend for profit. It’s actually quite the opposite of boro, which translates to tattered, ragged, torn or scrap fabrics.

We can celebrate boro by using what we already have, by stitching together the fabrics of our lives. We can study the boro fabrics so lovingly stitched by those who truly were stitching to survive cold winters in northern Japan. We can honor their resourcefulness by adopting the spirit of Mottainai in our everyday lives. Let’s do that instead.

29 thoughts on “Mottainai!

  1. vdbolyard

    Glennis, I am stunned. And as I looked at their PR I was surprised and also not…let’s make money out of pain, out of poverty, out of anything. Let’s make MONEY. As I look at the fabric swatches I’m saddened. I assume they’re printed to look like these lovely hand made fabrics, made beautiful and made with hard work. Ugh, it’s too early for me to put my words right, but you’re right to be appalled.

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  2. Kathleen M Stack

    I so hear you! The history gets lost. I constantly struggle to explain that my work is not some backyard project. We all need to raise awareness.

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      1. Kathleen M Stack

        On the one hand they keep it trendy but, real problem is getting people to understand the differences in value. So, we need to know how to market as well.reminds me of when I was in Indonesia and shop owners would show you how to tell differences in batiks.

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  3. jschubertdesigns

    This brings to mind something that made me sad/mad a few weeks ago. I was at work, talking to a customer, and noticed her mended blue jeans (done in a style that reminded me of Katrina Rodabaugh’s slow mending). I complimented her on her mending…..and she says “Oh, I didn’t do that…..they came that way! And then she proceeded to name a clothing brand (wish I could remember the brand). I was so taken back…..here was a company taking new jeans, ripping them, and then mending them (and not well) and passing them off as the new ‘chic’ .
    And the same thought passed through my mind…..that instead of honoring our clothing, lovingly patching/mending it to give it a long and useful life…..here was a company that just cared about “The Dollar” and a quick way to capitalize on something they see as a trend,

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      I’ve seen vids on the distressing of jeans and that wasteful process but not the pre-boro’d jeans. I have a couple pair of my 20 something son’s jeans I’ve been repairing for five years now. They just get better!

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  4. taichi2012

    Another example of “we have TOO MUCH –and therefore honor nothing. I hope that you put this on Facebook–it needs wide distribution. Janet Wright

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  5. Caryl Hancock

    I feel the same sick disgust as I did when treasured antique quilts were printed on poor cotton, poorly quilted and sold for big bucks. When traveling in Japan many years ago, I saw a wonderful jacket (and it fit me perfectly) that was called a “fireman’s” coat – so many layers of indigo patched together to protect the wearer. I was told I could barter, but that seemed so disrespectful of the textile, and I could not afford it. I still see that coat in my dreams! I hope it went to a good hone.

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  6. pat cooper

    I am not even sure what to say. I was practicing Sashiko stitches and Boro and I felt bad that I was using quilting scraps instead of ” real” scraps – and now they are printing “faux boro” what a comment on our lives – definitely a first world issue.

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  7. Liz A

    I share you angst, but here is a small bit of hope. My grandchildren love it when their pants or socks spring holes (honestly made). “Nana can mend it!” they cry. Their parents (my daughters) don’t get it, saying, “I can have new ones delivered in two days from Amazon Prime.” But the kids and I know better … and I dare to believe they will carry this knowing forward.

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  8. Sandy Brauhn

    American pioneers did much the same, as did people of most other countries prior to the mid 1900s. They used what scraps they had for blankets, clothing and necessities. Quilting is based on this. Most quilters, such as myself keep all of our scraps to use in scrappy projects so as not to waste them. I understand what you are saying, too much of crafting of any kind is being over commercialized for profit – just look at mass produced quilts that sell for a fraction of what a handmade item like mine would. And as quilters, who handmake their items, we struggle daily with this issue. It’s sad that the current trend is taking it that direction.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      Many people do think about what they use, reuse, and discard, thankfully. In the 70’s (when I was in HS) there was lots of talk and education about environmental issues and recycling. As fabric companies search for their Next Big Thing they stray into this dangerous territory of really turning off their customers with this kind of commercial hypocrisy.

      Glennis Dolce Shiborigirl Studios http://www.shiborigirlstudios.com https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/

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  9. Chris Free

    I entirely agree with you. I can’t abide things that are made to look like something else – if you can’t have the real thing then go without. Once I saw a piece of plastic ‘Wedgwood Jasperware’ and that sealed my opinion forever. Boro (and patchwork of any kind really) cannot be replicated on a simple 2-dimensional surface and look real. You go, girl.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      thanks Chris. funny you should mention Wedgewood Jasperware. I had a porcelain company for 30 +years and we did do a line of sprigged work. Completely real and using the same ceramic process as Wedgewood but of course our own designs. These days I see reference to “cold cast porcelain” which is not any form of porcelain at all! much like these prints Moda is doing of “boro”.

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  10. trl710

    I totally agree with you. I was shocked when I saw “Kantha” fabric on the bolt in my local fabric store Stonemountain and Daughter–(they should know better in Berkeley). It looks like this boro fabric is printed and made to look like handwoven fabric. I can only hope they don’t carry this is my fabric store.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      I think the only way to make your concerns known is to tell the shop owner. I have seen many of the shop owners at Market and Festival and they will often buy on the recommendation of the mfg. rep without knowing much or anything other than what the salesperson tells them. ( But yeah- I agree-Berkeley?) I was recently looking at one of the sashiko pages on FB and saw two people in a couple of threads there promoting this new Moda boro line. Telling people there to ask their local shop to order it for February delivery. I don’t know who they were but it definitely sounded like people associated with Moda in some way.

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