For decades, high fashion powerhouses like Giorgio Armani and Chanel have a secret weapon.
Incredibly expensive and difficult to produce, the grand couturiers have been binding, stitching, folding and twisting their own cloth in a bid to create unique, and elaborate patterns.
The process is called ‘Banshu’, a Japanese technique that allows designers to dye yarns in advance and then weave patterns into them.
Put simply, it is a very expensive and intricate method of tie-dye.
Now in an Australian first, six up and coming young designers will be sending Banshu textiles down the runway at Perth’s Fashion Festival.
The show will be the culmination of months of hard work, where each designer will showcase several looks they created using the fabric they developed while on scholarship in Japan.
Designer Jonte Pike, 21, was selected to travel to Honshu earlier this year and worked with world-class textile manufactured in Japan.
The process was complex and as a result, the designers did not receive their fabrics until just under two months ago.
But when they did arrive, Jonte said the feeling was unlike any other.
“When we received the product it was really surreal, to have our own fabric right in front of us.” she said.
“It was exciting – no one else would have that fabric. It was an amazing feeling.”
The Hyogo Banshu scholarship program was set up in 2010 to establish a link between the West Australian and Japanese fashion industries.
Coordinated by the State Government, the scholarship enabled six students to travel to Japan and work with world class textile manufacturers in the Hyogo Prefecture, located on Honshu island in Japan’s south.
The Department of Culture and the Arts director general Allanah Lucas says the government has contributed $18,000 to the program.
She says it is a sound investment.
“In the past decade the Western Australian designer fashion industry has developed to become a nationally recognised contender within the Australian fashion industry,” she said.
Ms Lucas says it is harder for WA fashion businesses to reach the markets that exist in the eastern states and as a result other markets need to be explored.
“The Asian market is a very lucrative area for Western Australian designers to investigate potential business growth and as a result, assistance is needed to develop the essential networks required to develop this potential.
“The competitive nature of this creative industry heavily relies on developing relevant networks.”
And for the West Australian fashion industry, Japan provides that framework.
“This is a valuable opportunity to network with a high profile and influential global textile industry representatives.”
The project manager of the Hyogo Banshu project Emma Bergmeier agrees the process of studying in Japan has provided invaluable lessons to the students.
“Designers tend to come out of their courses with a great understanding of how to create a garment, but not necessarily how to organise the manufacturing or find stockists,” she said.
“So the project is great in the sense that it provides publicity and gives them invaluable contacts.”
And come fashion week, the students will already have a runway experience under their belts, after participating in the Nishiwaki Fashion Festival in Hyogo.
Scholarship participant Mia Cramer says the students made a garment out of the special fabric, which was then showcased to designers from Paris and Holland.
“It was really incredible and so invaluable to see the background behind how the manufacturers make the cloth,” she said.
The six scholarship students collaborated with textile companies to produce their unique piece of cloth, by discussing their designs and how they could be realised on a runway.
But Ms Bergmeier says it is not a process that will be replicated any time soon.
“It’s a really expensive process, so they’re not at the stage where they can afford it,” she said.
“But in the future, I think it’s an amazing way to put your own stamp on a collection – to be able to use your own textile.”
From fabric to runway
The students are showcasing their designs at Perth Fashion Festival.
With international buyers and representatives from fashion magazines, it will give them the exposure needed to break into an industry that is often impenetrable for emerging designers.
For Ms Pike, fashion week will provide the ‘in’ she needs to set up her own label.
“It’s so exciting that there’s going to be exposure for my work, I’m ecstatic,” she said.
“It’s great that I can get publicity straight away and hopefully by next year I’ll be seeing my label in boutiques in Perth.”
Designs from the Hyogo Banshu project will be showcased on Monday 26 September at 5:30 pm.
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