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Gentle on Both Skin & the Environment. The Potential of 'WASHIFABRIC®', a Washi-based Material Developed by UNDERSON UNDERSON.

What could be a material that is not only gentle on human skin but also considerate to environmental impact?
The brand that has pursued this question is UNDERSON UNDERSON. Their t-shirts and underwear use their own developed 'WASHIFABRIC®', which, as the name suggests, is a fabric woven together from traditional washi paper.
Why washi? Will washi become yarn, or will it melt when washed? There will be various questions. So, we interviewed Takashi Nakanishi, the director and chief designer, to talk about the brand's style of embodying Japanese traditional techniques and culture in textiles.
Takashi Nakanishi
Takashi Nakanishi

UNDERSON UNDERSON Director / Chief Designer

In 1996, he established a private brand and served as producer and designer for 16 years. After working as a director of a collection brand as a freelancer from 2012, he started 'UNDERSON UNDERSON' in 2019.

Encounter with Traditional Japanese Materials

Could you tell us about the establishment of the UNDERSON UNDERSON brand?
Our brand's signature product, 'WASHIFABRIC®', got its start back in 2017. At the time, there was a sports lab in-house, and there was a suggestion to use washi paper as an upper material for shoes.
From there, we embarked on the project, but struggled to make it take form and started considering other applications. When we researched the properties of washi paper, we realized that it would be perfect for underwear. This led to the start of the development, and the brand was officially established in 2019.
The founder is Hiroyuki Kondo, President of MASH Style Lab Co., Ltd., and we are developing it. Our concept is healthy skin created using washi. Almost all fabric that comes into contact with the skin adopts a patented material designed to be washi.
What are the functions of washi paper?
It has functions such as deodorizing, antibacterial and deodorizing, quick water absorption and drying, moisture absorption and release, as well as anti-static and UV protection. It is also good for skin compatibility, absorbing excess dirt and sebum.
The one that stood out from these was the moisture absorbing and releasing function. We express that we wear the wisdom of Japanese houses, and we were able to give the fabric the same function that keeps the proper humidity as shoji or fusuma.
It seems that the development of 'WASHIFABRIC®' began by looking back on the unique materials of Japan.
Our developed 'WASHIFABRIC®' is a yarn that wraps washi around polyester.
The washi paper used is extremely thin, with a thickness of 0.2mm and 10g per square meter, and is cut into 1.2mm widths, 120 pieces. After winding it on a paper tube, it is twisted together with polyester.
Although it's washi paper, you might worry about its strength, but the core is given elasticity by polyester, and even if washi paper is used, it has the same durability as chemical fibers and cotton. The part that touches the skin is washi paper, and we have patented it as a new type of yarn that was not met before.
The 'WASHIFABRIC®' developed by UNDERSON UNDERSON over many years.
The 'WASHIFABRIC®' developed by UNDERSON UNDERSON over many years.
It sounds like the development and commercialization went smoothly.
No, the development was really tough. When using a circular loom, which knits the fabric into a cylindrical shape, the yarn was frequently cut or horizontal streaks occurred and often didn't yield the desired results.
Especially since the cause of yarn breakage is related to humidity, it could potentially lead to only being able to weave during summer. So, we strictly managed the humidity in the storage area. Yarn dyeing was also difficult to adjust as poorly made yarn can result in uneven dyeing.
However, the development perfectly reflected the long knowledge of washi paper research.
Unlike ordinary cotton, 'WASHIFABRIC®' requires artisans to constantly manage it. It felt like raising a delicate child. All processes took time, and that bounced back as cost, so we struggled with how to keep it in check.
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