With tradition and new tech, these Japanese designers are crafting more sustainably made clothing

In Japan, the term "mottainai" -- loosely translated to "what a waste" -- has deep roots. Originating from a Buddhist belief that every object has intrinsic value and should be utilized for its full life cycle, the credo has been threaded throughout national culture for centuries.

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With tradition and new tech, these Japanese designers are crafting more sustainably made clothing

Innovation from nature

At Shohei, founded by creative director Lisa Pek and CFO Shohei Yamamoto in 2016, sustainable decision-making starts with the dyeing process. Pek says the brand, which operates out of Japan and Austria, has been working with a Kyoto-based artisan to procure textiles dyed using traditional kakishibu methods.
During the kakishibu dyeing process, textiles are immersed in the fermented juice of unripe persimmon fruit -- an alternative to popular synthetic dyes, which can be damaging to soil and waterways. After the dyeing process, the fabric is tanned in the sun, creating orange hues. The kakishibu dyeing process also creates a water-resistant effect when oxidized in the air, and provides antibacterial properties. "This is something you might find in a tech fabric," Pek explained in a video call, "but it's already there in nature."