Never overlooked again: Junichi Arai, innovative textile designer

Arai, who died at 85 in 2017, experimented with a nylon-coated polyester that looked like the thin 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 has mastered the art of blending manual skills, such as tie dyeing, with computer tools and other advanced technologies.

“There are several things that have made him one of the foremost innovative thinkers in textile design,” Matilda McQuaid, co-curator of the 1998 exhibition “Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wrote by email. “The first is his passion for experimentation, from the destruction of the surface, to the shrinking of the fabric, to the use of traditional methods with new materials, such as weaving with stainless steel”.

Since the 1970s, designers such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo have given Arai global recognition within the textile and fashion industry by using its wearable, yet extremely imaginative, fabrics in their creations.

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

Arai’s fabrics are in 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 six children of Kinzo and Naka Arai. Kinzo Arai founded the family weaving company, Arakin Textile (also called Arakin Orimono), in the 1920s, producing obis. It was based in Kiryu, about 80 miles northwest of Tokyo.

Junichi Arai dismantled his father’s company in 1966, became an independent textile designer and started his own company, ARS, which went bankrupt in 1978. In the same year, he founded the anthology, which also went bankrupt. , in 1987. However, he was infinitely creative.