Mud Dyeing on Amami Ōshima


To get to the island of Amami Ōshima, off the southwest coast of Japan (1)

Amami Ōshima is an island in the Amami archipelago, southwest Japan.

, it takes eleven hours by boat from Kagoshima. There, amongst the densely packed forest, for over 1,300 years, the local people have collected the bark (2)

Bark from the indigenous Sharinbai tree.

from the indigenous Sharinbai tree. They shred the wood and pile it into a cage (3)

The bark from the indigenous Sharinbai tree is shredded and piled it into a cage.

, cautiously lowering it into a vat of water heated by a furnace.

After waiting patiently, sometimes for as long as a week, the gurgling liquid produces a dye. Hands stained deep blue, lower the fabric into the liquid' soup,' turning it over and over. The dye is mixed with an alkaline solution to equalise the pH; historically, this was dried coral; now, it is lime.

Once the Kanai has repeated this three times, they carry the fabric outside, where iron-rich mud pits are dug from the island's remaining ancient layers of primitive sediment, dating back 1.5 million years. They submerge the fibres into the dirt.

Once the fabric is ready, they climb to the stream that meanders down the hillside to wash the cloth.

It emerges a luscious black or deep brown. For the collection, we have used this technique for thirteen of the garments. We decided to return to a hand-made process, shunning technology, and mass-production. Each garment is unique and will change with age – like a Japanese garden.