No more forgetting: Junichi Arai, innovative textile designer

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Arai, who died at 85 in 2017, experimented with a nylon-coated polyester that resembled the wings of a butterfly; he said it could be made into raincoats weighing less than four ounces. He designed a four-layer jacquard with squares on one side and triangles on the other. He mastered the art of mixing manual skills, such as tie-dyeing, with computer tools and other advanced technologies.

“Several things made him one of the most 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. York. written in an email. “The first is his passion for experimentation, from destroying surface to shrinking fabric, to using traditional methods with new materials, like weaving with stainless steel.”

Beginning in the 1970s, fashion designers like Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo gave Arai worldwide recognition in the fashion and textile industries by using its wearable, yet extremely inventive fabrics in their own designs.

“He is the biggest influence on textile design in the world today,” said Jack Lenor Larsen, the American textile designer, when presenting Arai at a 2004 lecture at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

Arai’s textiles are part of the permanent collections of many 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, the eldest of Kinzo and Naka Arai’s six children. Kinzo Arai started the family weaving business, Arakin Textile (also called Arakin Orimono), in the 1920s, making obis. He was based in Kiryu, about 80 miles northwest of Tokyo.

Junichi Arai broke up his father’s business in 1966, became a freelance textile planner, and started his own company, ARS, which went bankrupt in 1978. That same year, he started Anthology, which also went bankrupt, in 1987. Yet he was endlessly inventive. .

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