Shoji Fabrics: Hosoo x Mae Engelgeer
Shoji Fabrics, a new collection of transparent fabrics that includes 16 variations in two types: ‘Diaphanous’ and ‘Essence’, designed by Mae Engelgeer in collaboration with the House of Hosoo, launched during Milan Design Week along with the opening of the Hosoo Milan showroom. This collection is part of an ongoing collaboration between the artist and heritage brand.
As far as synchronous collaborations go, the one between Japanese textile heritage brand, Hosoo, and Dutch textile artist Mae Engelgeer is high on the list. The 17th century Kyoto-based brand is renowned for its production of Nishijin textiles, a highly specialized, master craftsman tradition of textile making that dates back 1200 years; Engelgeer is a leading textile designer whose work moves between craft and experimentation with an intuitive understanding of colour and complex compositions. For the last eight years, the two have developed a fruitful collaboration based on mutual respect and a shared passion for bringing new ideas to traditional weaving techniques.
Following an initial encounter in Japan in 2015 and in Milan a year later, Hosoo invited Engelgeer to Kyoto to work with the company on colouring and yarn selection for their new textiles. “Colour is an essential part of my work, especially in combination with the diversity of yarns,” Engelgeer notes. She visited Kyoto again in 2016, where the HQ of Hosoo is located, and she started to feel more at home in the city. “For me this is really important, to [be able to] adapt to the atmosphere and to get to know the brand more deeply, and then to translate their heritage and my colour vision into works that represent what they stand for and bring new direction.”
It was during another residency in Kyoto in 2019, when the idea for the newly launched Shoji Fabrics began. Shoji Fabrics is inspired by the shoji screens found in traditional Japanese houses. The collection includes 16 variations of two types of fabrics: ‘Diaphanous’, a semi-transparent fabric, and ‘Essence’ which represents the cobblestone pattern used symbolically in Japanese interior decoration. The collection uses the traditional Nishijin weaving technique to allow for the subtle translucency and soft texture, a textile often used for midsummer kimonos. To this, Engelgeer applied her expertise with colour in order to create a new type of textile born out of tradition.
“Ever since I visited Japan I have been fascinated by the Shoji wood/paper sliding doors to divide space. In all the years of working [with Hosoo], I have seen quite a lot of their archive and I was able to work closely with the craftsmen and hear stories about their amazing history of Nishijin weaving. To get access to this is something that I always try to achieve while working in collaboration. This is the best way to get close to the DNA but also find starting points for new developments.”
The ’Diaphanous’ collection, like its name, is a light and delicate semi-transparent fabric that uses five colours combined with the white base and five colours for the black base. Engelgeer notes, “With this fabric we intend to bring a new vision on the Shoji dividers. We believe that these textiles can be used in interior, residential but also projects where there is a wish to divide space in an elegant way. Without blocking the view but working with light and shadow in a poetic way.” ‘Essence’ is an upholstery fabric that can also be used for fashion. “In this design we take the core graphic cobblestone pattern, very well-known in Japanese culture into a new aesthetic by giving it a speckle gradient and playful repeat. I first learned about the use of this block pattern when I visited the Katsura Imperial Villa during my first visit in Japan, which after all these years is still one of my favorite places. There are a lot of shoji and block patterned doors and a special rhythm can be found here by looking at them from different angles, changing the perspective in an interesting way. This is also how I envision the pattern when it is used”, she explains.
The Shoji Fabrics collection launched at the new House of Hosoo showroom in Milan during Milan Design Week in April, 2023.
All photos courtesy of House of Hosoo.