Special Topics

Breaking into the world of fabrics with KAWASHIMA SELKON Textiles As of August 1, 2011, KAWASHIMA SELKON Textiles Co., Ltd. is now a member of the LIXIL Group.

Kawashima Selkon Textiles has a long history and proven record in interior fabrics and other interior fields, kimono fabrics, and fabrics for fine arts and crafts. The addition of Kawashima Selkon Textiles will allow the LIXIL Group, which provides housing-related products and services such as building materials, fixtures, and other equipment, to offer an even broader lineup of products. This means that we can expect exciting new possibilities for interiors, not the least of which is the potential for coordinating windows and curtains.

In the middle of the 19th century during the late Edo period, Jimbei Kawashima, the founder of what is now Kawashima Selkon Textiles, travelled to Kyoto on his own and opened a store selling fabrics for kimono. He grew his business through the fabrics trade. His heir, Jimbei Kawashima Jr., took the Nishijin-ori style that was synonymous with a traditional Kyoto industry, and worked tirelessly to spread the appeal of the brand beyond its traditional confines and to improve upon it. The fabrics came to be used not only in high-end artistic textiles, but also in decorative fabrics for the Imperial Family. This progression made Nishijin-ori a permanent fixture in the world of textiles. Below is just a brief overview of the incredibly rich history of Kawashima Selkon Textiles.

A pioneer of interior decorative fabric Introducing Nishijin-ori to the broader world:Jimbei Kawashima and his son

Jimbei Kawashima was born in 1819 to Jinsuke Uedaya, a silk fabric merchant operating in Ecchu Johana (present-day Toyama prefecture). Jimbei lost his parents when he was very young, and from quite an early age he apprenticed at a kimono clothing fabrics store. In 1843 he opened a modest but comprehensive fabrics store in Kyoto, a store which would grow into Kawashima Selkon Textiles. Jimbei laid the foundations of the company by selling his wares as a travelling salesman, and by expanding his business through new trade after the Meiji Restoration.

Jimbei Kawashima Jr., who inherited the family business, implemented a number of innovations and improvements after his father's death, applying his intimate knowledge of Nishijin-ori weaving techniques to Tango Chirimen, which is like silk crepe, in order to develop better products, such as those incorporating habutae, yokodan that is horizontal weaves, tatejima that is vertical bands, and others. He built a fully operational factory to produce these textiles.

The elegance and intricacy of the hanging made by figured weaving technique "Aoimatsuri", presented at a 1885 fair in Tokyo, is said to have had a profound effect on visitors. One of the people infatuated with "Aoimatsuri" was Yajiro Shinagawa, Senior Vice Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. Viscount Shinagawa not only commissioned "offerings" to present to the German Imperial Household, he requested the presence of Jimbei Kawashima Jr. on a visit to Europe. Jimbei Jr., who was 33 years old at the time, visited eight European countries, where he examined the fabrics used in the interiors of architectural structures and absorbed knowledge and techniques for dyeing and weaving. One of his most fruitful experiences was when he got to study in detail the factory for Gobelins tapestries in France. As Kawashima Jr. improved upon small but intricate tapestries and gradually went on to produce masterpieces, he became known as the "Father of original Japanese weaving, tsuzure", a designation which needless to say he owed in large part to his investigation at the Gobelins Manufactory.

In the fall of 1887, Jimbei Jr. received a special order for the production and delivery of decorative fabrics for the Meiji Imperial Court. This was the first order of its kind in Japan for decorative fabrics for the Imperial Household. After that, Jimbei Jr. devoted himself to producing fabrics for fine arts and handicrafts, and with his numerous awards at overseas exhibitions, he furthered the reputation of and international interest in Nishijin-ori textiles.

The uncompromising Kawashima nature and the second generation

Hanging tapestry (6.2m in width) in which the warp thread has been disrupted during production. Wall hanging commissioned in 1921 by the Imperial Household Ministry for the Meiji Palace.

The preparation for this work took five years, and its production was carefully planned. However, in the turmoil following the First World War, it became practically impossible to get quality dyes, and after one fifth of the weaving project had been completed, slight fading in the dyes used began to become apparent. Almost all of the people involved in the project were of the opinion that the observed fading was not that much of a problem, and urged that the project be continued as is. Nevertheless, Kinuko Kawashima, who had taken over the project after the death of her husband Jimbei Kawashima III, decided that any product she was not sure and perfect should not be presented to the Emperor. She therefore went in the middle of the night and cut up the warp threads. To this day, this tapestry has become a fable known as the "Lesson of the broken loom thread". The actual tapestry is kept on display as not just a valuable treasure but also a reminder for future generations of the uncompromising nature of Jimbei Jr. in his attitude toward making things.

Skillfully sublime The future of Kawashima Selkon Textiles

The Kawashima textile organization became an officially recognized company in 1938, and in 1957 changed its name to Kawashima Textiles. In 2006, the company merged with Selkon Co. Ltd., a company founded in 1914 as a specialty lace shop that supplied interior fabrics like curtains and cushions. This merger marked the inception of Kawashima Selkon Textiles Co. Ltd.

In addition to the quiet Rakuhoku, Kyoto location, the company owns a main factory at which a history of weaving culture is on display in a room on the premises. Furthermore, nearly anyone who wishes to learn textile weaving is welcome at the Kawashima Textile School that is also present.

Since its completion in 1964, the slogan of the main factory has been "Sublime Skills". The history behind this slogan is as follows: Jimbei Kawashima IV, who was the person who decided to build what is now the main factory, was commissioned to produce the interior fabrics for the Imperial Palace. Overwhelmed by the pressures and responsibilities of this enormous project, he confided in his close friend, High Priest Takashina of Kashihara Shrine. The latter devised a prayer for the success of the project. The prayer was for the achievement of the "skillfully sublime". Specifically, the "skillfully sublime" refers to the potential of mastering all skills and achieving the sublime after the ultimate in effort has been devoted. Kawashima Selkon Textiles is now engaged in the development and production of fabrics, but this is consistent with foundations of the company, which through many decades have maintained the spirit and skills of craftsmanship. The company can count on many synergistic effects through its membership in the LIXIL Group. It is now in a much stronger position to offer comprehensive housing solutions. It can enjoy lower costs and benefit from sales capacities, not to mention the benefits in terms of product development. We humbly ask for your support in achieving these goals.