Now Overlooked: Junichi Arai, Innovative Textile Designer

Arai, who died in 2017 at the age of 85, experimented with a nylon-coated polyester resembling the slender wings of a butterfly; He said it can be converted into raincoats weighing less than four ounces. He designed a four-layer jacquard with squares on one side and triangles on the other. He has mastered the art of blending manual skills, such as tie-dying, with computer tools and other high technology.

“There are several things that make him one of the most important innovative thinkers in textile design,” said Matilda McQuaid, co-curator of the 1998 exhibition “Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. she wrote in an email. “The first is a passion for experimenting, from destroying the surface, shrinking the fabric, to using traditional methods with new materials such as weaving with stainless steel.”

Beginning in the 1970s, fashion designers such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo used their wearable, yet wildly creative fabrics in their creations, giving Arai worldwide recognition in the fashion and textile industries.

“He is the person with the greatest influence on textile design in the world today” Jack Lenor LarsenThe American textile designer said while promoting Arai at a conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan in 2004.

Arai’s textiles are in the permanent collections of several museums, including MoMA, the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Junichi Arai was born on March 13, 1932, in Kiryu, Japan, as the eldest of six children to Kinzo and Naka Arai. Kinzo Arai founded the family’s weaving company Arakin Textile (also known as Arakin Orimono) in the 1920s by making obis. It was located in Kiryu, about 80 miles northwest of Tokyo.

Junichi Arai dissolved his father’s company in 1966, became an independent textile planner, and founded his own company, ARS, which went bankrupt in 1978. That same year, he founded Anthology, which also went bankrupt in 1987. Still, he was infinitely creative. .

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