FEATURE STORY > About the Kawamata Silk
About the Kawamata Silk

Serving as the entrance to the province of Michinoku, Fukushima prefecture — renowned for the scenic beauty of its nature including Mount Bandai and Lake Iwashiro — is no less known as a leading silk production center of Japan. The Shinobu region (with Fukushima City as its center) extending at the foot of Mount Azuma and Mount Adatara, as well as the Date region (with Kawamata City and Iino City as its centers, the latter now included in Fukushima City) were, since ancient times, prosperous in sericulture and textile weaving. Standing on either hand like robust folding screens, the Ōu Mountains enjoy a climate most favorable for cultivation of mulberry trees; the lustrous, pure white silk of Kawamata was truly meant to be produced.

The fabric exhibition pavillion of “Silkpia” in Kawamata town

Craftsmanship handed down through 14 centuries

The local history book recounts the origin of the sericulture and the silk fabric of Kawamata dating back to some 1,400 years ago. Searching for the Imperial prince who had been exiled by Soga no Umako (the leader of a powerful clan) from his homeland Yamato, Ote-hime, his mother and the empress-consort of Emperor Sushun, made her way through to the northern province and arrived in Kawamata. It was her who, in this new land, introduced weaving techniques by planting mulberry trees, raising silk worms and spinning threads. The silk thus developed and produced in Kawamata, referred to as “Tate-kinu” silk, eventually became a staple product of the region and was brought to various provinces, while its fame spread gradually throughout the country.

Statue of Ote-hime (the central park of Kawamata town)
FEATURE STORY > Fairy Feather
Fairy Feather, the world's thinnest silk

The fabric, so ethereal, makes us imagine the texture of the robes worn by the heavenly nymphs in Japanese folk tales. We named it Fairy Feather: the thinnest yarn-dyed silk fabric ever. It is made of ultra-fine silk threads with a thinness of 8 denier in diameter, equaling to 1/6 of the diameter of a hair (50 denier).

Thousands of ultra-fine silk threads are woven into the warps on looms to produce this exquisite organdy (ultra-light plain-weave fabric with transparency); it is weightless, yet the softness of the raw silk gently, and surely, cocoons the skin.

Fairy Feather

Winner of the Monozukuri Nippon Grand Award and the Good Design Award

Fairy Feather is the world' thinnest silk fabric—and not only that: we have succeeded to make it mass-producible by mechanical processes. These achievements gained a high evaluation, leading to our receipt of two prizes in 2012: the Prime Minister's Prize of the Monozukuri Nippon Grand Awards and the Good Design Award. At the time the Japanese textile industry was losing ground to foreign products, the Fairy Feather drew much attention as a product with competitive quality in the global market.

The Monozukuri Nippon Grand Awards
The the Good Design Award

Four years of development to reach commercialization

Between the research and the sale, it took four years of continuous development of this one-of-a-kind silk product. Even the cocoons that we use as raw material are special ones. Ordinarily, the cocoons to be used are the ones produced through four molts of silkworms; however, those used for Fairy Feather are made only through three molts and thus the fibers are finer and supple as spider's thread.

The reason we ventured to use ultra-fine silk threads—something other companies hesitate over—is because, above all, fine, light fabrics have been very popular in the fashion world. Yet, the leading wedding dress designer Yumi Katsura, our business associate since 30 years, also gave us an important clue with these words: "I would like to make lightweight wedding dresses so that brides can dance lightly in comfort."

We have continuously made various improvements on the looms, in order to make the fabric not only mass-producible by mechanical processes, but also non-breakable and fuzz-free in heavy weaving movements of the loom, even when using the ultra-fine yarns made form the three-molt silkworms. By strictly controlling the tension of the threads, we finally managed to make the fabric into a commercial product: the Fairy Feather was thus born.

A wedding dress by Yumi Katsura