Banshu Ori: Four Japanese Mills Known For Traditional Cotton Textiles


Benjamin Fitzgerald

Japan is home to 'Banshu Ori' - the making of ancient cotton textiles by dyeing, weaving and finishing in one continuous production cycle. Despite modernization, the region of Nishiwaki and its mills are keeping this centuries-old tradition alive - producing some of the finest and delicate materials for fashion and the home.



Toban, which literally translates into "ceramic skillet", is the name of one of Japan's oldest mills still in operation today. Located in the nation's textile-known Nishiwaki District, Toban has access to the Kakogawa River, superior for its water softness, which flows in from Sugihara River. The gentle water makes it perfect for dyeing, something Toban has learned to do well over the last two hundred years.


Dubbed 'Banshu Ori', which dates back to 1792, Toban weaves the dyed yarn into fabrics of natural texture and abundant color. And Toban is one of only a few mills to integrate dyeing, weaving and finishing into one continuous production cycle.


Available on Le Souk, the mill's intricate dobby cottons - characterized by small geometric patterns and extra texture in the cloth - are authentically crafted fabrics for shirting and blouses. One hundred per cent cotton, the alternating check print comes a classic in all-white, while another in multi-colored check adds a playful touch to men's business shirting.



Also based on Nishiwaki in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, Maruman is a second manufacturer specializing in yarn-dyed cotton fabrics. Maruman’s strength lies in the texture quality of its fabrics, which are essentially made to order for its clients, as well as its ready-made collections.

The firm works mainly with cotton, but explores non-traditional fibers such as paper and tencel, as well as natural linens. Already a hit with Japanese and European brands, jacquard fabrics are Maruman's most sought-after commodity - perfect for the home and coats.

Available on Le Souk, the Hana crush green cotton jacquard is a beautiful, dense fabric for interiors, upholstery and feminine jackets. Another standout is the geometric pattern fabric in rainbow thread, a great option for interior furnishings and home textiles.

Come to Maruman if you are a designer in search of attentive craftsmanship, from a supplier who is experienced in working with international designers.

Shimada Seisoku

Shimada Seishoku started out 80 years ago as a shirting textiles maker in North America, before success in the Eighties lead it to expand into pants, jackets and shirts. However, the Japanese-run mill went back to its ancient roots in 1972, focusing on the 'Banshu Ori' technique of weaving dyed yarns on looms. 

Now located in Nishiwaki City, Shimada Seishoku produces thin 100/1 yarns and technical materials such as dense, dobby weaves. When developing textiles, first the yarn is selected, followed by the process, color and the weave type. Each step is time-consuming, but Shimada take care to get things right, ensuring the nature of the old-way of fabrication plays out on the appearance of each textiles.

Now available for purchase on Le Souk, the navy cotton check in super fine 100/1 weave is a delicate blouse fabric for designers. Meanwhile, the blue cotton dobby is a denser textile, suitable for men's shirting, interiors and light coats. Shimada has one of the largest ranges of traditional Japanese cloth, so shopping here is easy.





One of the newer Japanese mills, Osaka-based Hokkoh manufacturers decorative prints and jacquards. Processing around six hundred new designs annually, the cotton textiles are ideal for fashion collections - across women's, men's, and kid's wear, as well as the home. Most of Hokkoh's printing takes place in Japan, working on cottons that are authentically 'Made in Japan'.

The firm is renowned for men's wear, cemented with ten-year's exhibiting experience at Premiere Vision in Paris. And in recent seasons, it has begun to hone in on women's ready-to-wear. Its latest collection of jacquard florals and summery prints are effortless choices for women's shirting and jackets. A key piece, available on Le Souk, is the crystal lawn blue with geometric print; as well as the cherry blossom cotton dobby fabric for dresses.

This year Hokkoh will debut at Premiere Vision New York, with a focus on indigo - a staple hue of Japan, and extra long staple cotton, which creates a sheeny, denser finish to Japanese fabric.