Many craftsmen have suffered as a result of an increasingly globalized and mechanized modern world, but some like Japan’s Hosoo have managed to diversify their businesses in order to continue thriving.
Hosoo is situated in the Nishiijin textile district that lies north of Kyoto, Japan. The small town was established more than 1,200 years ago. Hosoo, a textiles mill, is a family business that has been operating for the last 327 years. The mill was founded as a kimono (a traditional Japanese robe) manufacturer in 1688 but now its main business focuses on art, interiors and fashion. It is run by 37-year old Masataka Hosoo, who has partnered with project manager Benito Cachinero to expand the business into new and modern product lines.
Ten craftspeople work at the mill, each engaging in a special part of the textile production process. They all learned the craft from their predecessors and ancestors, who have kept the tradition of keeping trade secrets in the family. ‘[T]hey have secured the market,’ adds Cachinero, ‘and because they have the technology, it has not leaked for over a millennium.’
Some of Hosoo’s prestigious clients include Dior, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. Hosoo collaborated with American artist Teresita Fernandez to create a freestanding textile sculpture called ‘Nishijin Sky’, and the mill’s fabrics were showcased on the runway by designer Mihara Yasuhiro in 2013. Hosoo is also working with designer Masaya Kushino on stage shoes for Lady Gaga. Touring celebrities like Pharrell Williams visit the mill as an attraction in the area.