Kanei Dye-Weave Co., Ltd.
Kyoto, an ancient city and the former capital of Japan. While on the one hand, Kyoto is a city that is steeped in tradition, it is also imbued with the spirit of meeting new challenges. Traditions such as Nishinjin brocade and Kyoyuzen dyeing have been handed down from ancient times and textile companies that preserve these traditions are also involved in meeting new challenges. We visited one such company - Kanei Dye-Weave Co., Ltd. Kanei Dye-Weave introduced Konica Minolta IJ's inkjet printer “Nassenger V” in 2006, marking the company's debut in the world of inkjet printing, and, based on a policy of “Research is our Treasure,” uses inkjet printers to produce items that are a little out of the ordinary. We interviewed the company president, Yoshihiro Iwata, who is also a traditional craftsman.
Research is our Treasure
Established in 1938, Kanei Dye-Weave Co., Ltd. boasts a history that spans more than seventy years. Jiro Iwata (former chairman of The Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries and father of the current president, Yoshihiro Iwata), the eldest son of the Yuzen dyeing master Katsujiro Iwata, founded the company under the name Iwata Trading Company, a firm engaged in Kyoyuzen production and sales. The company was reorganized in 1948 to become Kanei Dye-Weave Co., Ltd., the name by which it is still known today, and has won high acclaim for its Kyoyuzen production. Kanei Dye-Weave with a policy of “Research is our Treasure” places emphasis on research and development and employs ten traditional craftsmen including some from affiliated companies. As well as dyeing of pure silk items including rolls of material, long-sleeved kimonos, semi-formal kimonos, formal kimonos and children's kimonos, the company also continues to meet the challenges of producing new items.
Changing inkjet printers into tools
In pursuit of innovation, Kanei Dye-Weave tackled the challenge of creating new business by introducing inkjet printers. In 2005, the company established a new factory exclusively for inkjet printing and introduced Konica Minolta's inkjet printer “Nassenger V” in 2006, marking its full-scale entry into the inkjet printing business. Company President Iwata explained that he had set his sights on inkjet printing approximately thirty years earlier. At the time, inkjet printing was still a concept akin to the Book of Genesis. Even as inkjet printing machines were still undergoing the process of development, Kanei Dye-Weave worked at gaining knowledge of inkjet printers and devoted itself to accumulating a wide range of know-how in the field. Finally, when the time was ripe, the company took the plunge and introduced an inkjet printer in 2006. Before making a final decision on which model to choose, the company tried out inkjet printers produced by various manufacturers and as a result, ended up by opting for “Nassenger V.” It was the clear, vivid gradations of Nassenger V that was the deciding factor. Unlike screen printing machines, inkjet printers do not require stencils and offers advantages such as the ability to handle short-run production. While, needless to say, benefits such as these were major determining factors, whether or not the printer would be capable of expressing whatever kind of colored patterns were required was an important consideration for Kanei Dye-Weave, a company that specializes in creative production. Nassenger V measured up to Company President Iwata's expectations.
Mr. Maeda, who is in charge of inkjet printing, is also impressed by Nassenger V as a machine “that can reproduce detailed designs.” However, this is where the company's production process begins. Kanei Dye-Weave's production process does not end with inkjet printing using Nassenger V, but goes on to apply auxiliary processes such as the addition of gold leaf or Swarovski to printed material to develop unique textiles.
According to Company President Iwata, “An inkjet printer is a machine and this is where it becomes important to bring out its individuality. What I mean is evolving an inkjet printer from a simple machine into a “tool” capable of producing unique items imbued with elements such as regional, cultural or human individuality.” Kanei Dye-Weave puts this concept into practice.
Many companies in Kyoto have introduced inkjet printers. Of these companies, Kanei Dye-Weave produces 100 rolls of cloth a month using Nassenger V. Although this is certainly not a high volume, the company's true worth manifests itself in its production that differentiates it from other companies that use inkjet printers.
The is endorsed by the fact that Kanei Dye-Weave took awards for excellence for special dyeing with two inkjet print entries (machine dyeing, inkjet) at the Kyoyuzen Competition. The company has won high acclaim for its collective capabilities comprising design prowess, auxiliary processes and the reproductive capabilities of Nassenger V.
It is the spirit of technology that forges the link between traditional craft industries and the next step.
After the war, Jiro Iwata, the company's founder, returned from Okinawa and, with a burning resolve to revive traditional craft industries, tackled the undertakings of training human resources and realizing technological innovations with the aim of developing Kyoyuzen dyeing. Company President Iwata has inherited his father's DNA and was accredited as “Master Craftsman of the Future” by the city of Kyoto in 2011.
“Although the textile industry is going through trying times, traditional craft industries must be passed on to future generations and it is technological prowess that is the key element in this process. In this way, it is my wish to evolve traditional craft industries,” Company President Iwata stated with enthusiasm. Rather than arts and crafts, the evolution of technologies in traditional craft industries for industrial products will lead to the development of industries that will give young people who will shoulder the burdens of the future a sense of worth. “This spirit is indispensible,” declared Company President Iwata with passion. I rank the inkjet printer as a tool to be used in this process and also “an essential tool for the realization of all kinds of expression.”