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Interview with creators ~ From the scene of creation ~

Mr. Masaaki Aoki, a hand-dye shop, “I want to dye this kind of color”.

Mr. Masaaki Aoki, the owner of a hand-dye shop
A new corner where you can visit the artist's workplace and ask about the background of his creative activities and his thoughts on manufacturing.
For our memorable first installment, we visited Mr. Masaaki Aoki, a hand-dyed shop who pursues hand-dyeing using traditional Japanese natural dyes.
Mr. Aoki's workplace is on the second floor of a Western-style building that was renovated from a 200-year-old building. Mr. Aoki's workshop and store opened in 2002 is located in Gosho-minami, a spot that attracts attention even in Kyoto, where long-established stores and new stores coexist in a calm townscape.
When you go up a small staircase from the entrance, you will find a tasteful space where a workshop and a shop live together on one floor.
A large pot is steaming in the work space. The scent of freshly boiled natural dyes is unique, but not unpleasant at all.
Aoki-san is a bright and friendly person who smiled and said, "Thank you very much."
He spoke realistically about his unusual career, starting from the University of Tokyo, working for a major innerwear manufacturer, and then moving on to the path of dyeing.

Even though it has just been dyed, it has a texture like old clothes.

─I understand that your previous job was as an MD (merchandiser) for an innerwear manufacturer.

A product plan led me to visit Mr. Masuhisa Hirota of Masuhisa Dyeing and Weaving Research Institute, a plant-based dyeing company in Nara.
At that time, even though I was a young man of 27 or 28 with no knowledge of vegetable dyeing, Mr. Masuhisa treated me sincerely. It was there that I first saw plant-based dyeing, and it had exactly the texture and color that I really liked. I've always liked the unique texture of second-hand clothes, but I thought that it was only possible to wear them.
On top of that, while we were talking, they asked me if I would like to try it, and I was even allowed to experience dyeing on the same day. It was a big surprise to me that vegetable dyeing is my favorite type and that I could do it with my own hands.
I was also attracted to Mr. Masuhisa's personality, and before long I began to visit him whenever I could.
Akane, gobaishi, yamamomo, and betel nut... The dyes are made by drying the parts containing each pigment. It's amazing how unexpected colors can appear.

Dried plant roots, bark, fruit, etc. are boiled to extract the pigment. The steaming studio is like a kitchen.

Once the dye is boiled, strain it with a cloth to make a dye solution.
─Did you become absorbed in the path of dyeing from there?
No, it wasn't that aggressive, I really hated working at a company, and it was an escape, thinking that I could enjoy working under Mr. Masuhisa, whom I love very much (laughs).
Of course, I was also interested in dyeing techniques, but I never thought of making a living out of it.
Luckily, after joining the company, I was able to use the know-how I had in charge of the ITization of the dyeing and weaving research institute, while also being taught about dyeing.
Under such circumstances, Mr. Ujo Maeda is often mentioned as a teacher whom Mr. Masuhisa admires.
─ A teacher that a teacher admires? That sounds amazing.
According to Mr. Masuhisa, "Mr. Amagi Maeda is the only person in Japan who can do ancient dyeing." Also, "There are two types of dyeing in the world. One is the dyeing of Amagi Maeda, and the other is something else." I know it looks amazing, but President, isn't that a bit exaggerated (laughs)?
Still, I was told, "You'll know when you see it." By chance, three months after I joined the company, I was able to help Mr. Amagi at his solo exhibition in Kurume.

The impact of "color" that I saw for the first time changed my life

Mr. Aoki is dyeing with dyes boiled from plants. Beginning with the boiling of the dye, it is completed after a full three days of work.
─ You were lucky. How was it when you actually saw it?
I'm sorry for exaggerating, but I feel that the sensor that sees colors in me has changed since that day.
It is often said that children who know nothing should be given first-class things. That's a great subject, and I think it has the power to create a sensor that the opponent has, or to make a sensor that you didn't notice.
I like music, so I compare it to music, but whether it's classical music or rock music, it's usually when I hear a great sound that I notice something I didn't realize. For example, people who don't yet know how great something is probably don't know the difference between the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker. But when I first listen to the Berliner Philharmoniker and it hits me hard, sometimes I suddenly come to understand just chunks of sound.
That's because it's a sound that was created by the amazing people who originally heard it. It is easy to understand because the contrast of various factors is firmly attached.

Ancient dyeing researcher Mr. Amagi Maeda's works "Colors and Dyeing in Ancient Japan" (left) and "Colors - Dyeing and Colors" (right). Recipes for ancient dyeing are described in detail through deciphering literature on ancient dyeing, traditional colors, and culture such as "Engishiki". Mr. Amagi Maeda, an ancient dyeing researcher whom Mr. Aoki still admires, passed away in 2013.
Mr. Amagi Maeda's work does not include a printed color sample. This is based on the idea that each person perceives colors differently, and that colors differ depending on the lighting conditions, and that it is not possible to objectively express colors with printing, where colors differ from plate to plate.
In the first edition of "Colors and Dyes in Ancient Japan", Mr. Ujo Maeda actually dyed silk fabrics from Tango, Kyoto. Three color samples are included as an appendix: Bami, Kikujin (also called Kikujin / middle color sample), and Momozome (bottom color sample).
─Mr. Amagi Maeda's work was exactly that "color" version.
Yes, it hit me hard.
For example, deep purple (Kokimurasaki) gives us a sense of depth that we cannot touch even if we try to touch it, and the perspective is lost.
The dull reddish-purple deep scarlet is like venous blood, and it smells like iron.
Also, kikujin is dyed with complementary colors of yellow and purple, and although it is originally gray, it is dyed 10 times at a time, so the so-called color rendering properties are high. The color changes depending on the light source, from beautiful green to reddish beige when viewed by candlelight at night.
It's already like that, 1 anti 1 anti, it's a row of surprises. While watching it for a long time, tears came out. After that, I started saying, "There are two types of dyeing in the world. One is the dyeing of Amagi Maeda, and the other is something else" (laughs).

─By the way, have you had any other similar experiences in your life so far?
Ever since I first heard Led Zeppelin in my first year of high school. At that time, I had goosebumps all the way from the first sound to the end of listening to the album, thinking, "This is so cool."
Since then, the way I listen to rock music has changed, but Mr. Amagi's experience of color has surpassed that impact.

Slightly off the subject of the interview...
“Dyeing and music are what keeps me from getting bored,” says Aoki. In 2016, the band "Aoi Mahoroba", which I teamed up with a colleague when I was a company employee, celebrated 24 years since its formation and is still doing live performances. Aoki is in charge of vocals. (April 6, 2016, at the live house "Jitoku" in Kyoto)
─ So this once-in-a-lifetime experience changed the rest of your life.
Until then, I had no complaints or doubts about helping Mr. Masuhisa. However, when I saw Mr. Amagi's dyeing, I simply had the desire to "dye with such amazing colors" and "I want to own a dye shop myself."
Of course, I was still in the beginning of my studies, so my life didn't change immediately. While working on dyeing while being taught, you will be able to try things that you want to try, and when that happens, you will want your own dyeing shop where you can work without hesitation.
So, in 2002, when the system construction of the research institute was completed and we were able to take over, Mr. Masuhisa gave his approval and I decided to become independent.

I only make what I think I like.

From 8 colors at the start, 14 colors are now available.
─ Once the location was decided, the store opened after three months of preparation. What kind of thoughts did you put into the product creation, such as the items and colors?
Ultimately, I would like to dye it in a color like Mr. Amagi's, but the first thing is how to make use of the techniques I have cultivated for that purpose in the product.
T-shirts are the perfect item to hold in your hand and enjoy the colors and enjoy fashion. It's simple and the colors are the easiest to see, so my knowledge, skills, and experience are the most vivid.
As for the colors to be developed, we started with 8 colors that we selected based on the conditions of our favorite colors, colors that could be produced within a standardized cost, and high fastness after repeated trial production during preparations for the opening of the store.
As for the design, I couldn't find a ready-made body that I liked, so I decided to start sewing. Even after opening the store, we have continued trial and error, from the selection of materials to the weaving of fabrics and sewing, to create even more convincing products.
I think I calmed down from about the third year. To be honest, the quality is completely different between the first and now, and I'm sorry to see it now.
Organically grown cotton, which is the material of the T-shirt fabric of the hand-dyed shop. It seems that organic cotton and natural dyes are compatible and dye well.
The T-shirts of the hand-dyed shop use softly knitted fabric with a "loop knitting machine" that puts as little stress on the yarn as possible.
─What is your design policy?
I haven't properly studied fashion, so I'm just deciding based on my preferences. It's a style like American second-hand clothes... I like the textured texture and the hazy colors. I was too embarrassed to wear it because it was shiny (laughs).
Above all, I like things that are designed with function, such as military style. Originally, all designs should have had some kind of function, and I agree with Mr. Hayao Miyazaki on this point... Aren't guns and fighter planes cool?
There is a functional meaning to everything, such as why the caterpillar of the tank is shaped like that, and there is no waste at all. I think that kind of thing is cool, so I don't dabble in designs that I can't sympathize with.
Even if it is said to be naive, I create products that are not self-contradictory, and look for people who are similar to me as customers. I think this is a way for people who are amateurs in marketing to make a living from manufacturing.
Thankfully, as a result, people who seek functional beauty in the same genre reacted, so I think I've been able to continue until now.

In addition to T-shirts, which are the main item, Tezomeya sells stoles and bottoms.
─ As you mentioned earlier, the simple design that focuses on functionality is appealing because the richness of the colors can be conveyed directly.
At first, I wanted to aim for the “Mujirushi Ryohin” brand of vegetable dyeing. MUJI isn't designed strangely, and it seems to maintain a reasonable level of quality. It goes around one round and is chosen by "Is it okay to be unmarked?"
But going around a circle requires a lot of skill, knowing all 360 degrees and noticing what people think is wrong in every genre. I gave up because this is not a level that I can easily aim for.
However, I think that is the case in certain genres as a result, and I am very happy when I am sometimes told, "There is nothing strange about the design here."
─What are your thoughts on future developments?
I think that the old-fashioned atmosphere of Tezomeya's products fits the category of slow fashion, where you can enjoy high-quality clothes for a long time.
Since it is a movement led by the United States, we are thinking about developing it so that it can be recognized there. I would like to be able to disseminate information that is not mass-produced, such as by holding exhibitions and sales events locally and aiming to spread the word on Facebook and Instagram.
I don't think that the attractiveness of vegetable dyeing is known at all yet. The overall volume as a fashion category is still lacking. I would like to see more people making textiles using vegetable dyes, not just clothes.
In order to ensure that the same color is dyed by the staff, the work is digitized in detail and recorded in a notebook. As of April 2016, more than 50 copies of this "Dome Note" have been published.
─ So you will continue to challenge the color of Mr. Amagi, who was the entrance to this world.
Natural dyes are said to have been established during the Heian period, after being refined from the techniques used in court dyeing.
However, the technique became obsolete during the samurai era. The recipe is barely left in a book called "Engishiki", and everyone who works in vegetable dyeing works based on this.
However, the method is not written at all, so I can only guess from the amount and ingredients, and I do not know the correct answer. In the end, Mr. Amagi's dyeing is not a creation, but a process of dyeing as faithfully as possible to the "Engishiki" while thinking about himself.
I was easily killed by that color, but I'm not aiming for the goal of wanting this color with the same approach. There is a high possibility that this will happen as a result of having done my own research and poured all my experience and skills into it.
I'm still in the process of reading and understanding the literature, but this is really interesting. There are many things I notice while reading the literature, and there are things that I can apply to dyeing T-shirts, so I would like to continue this as my life's work.

─In today's talk, Mr. Aoki, I was able to learn about the appeal of vegetable dyeing. I'm really thankful to you.

Mr. Aoki, who always chose words that fit his feelings and spoke without embellishing or being pretentious. I felt that the vague yet calculated colors of the hand-dye shop and the simple yet functional design certainly reflected my own thoughts.
The many items that were created with sincerity and affection by facing colors are likely to become one by one that will naturally engender attachment to those who hold them in their hands.

(Interview date: March 10, 2016 / Text: writer, Kiyo Morimoto)

Profile of Mr. Masaaki Aoki, the owner of Te-zomeya

Mr. Masaaki Aoki, the owner of Te-zomeya
1967 Born in Mie Prefecture, raised in Tokyo
1991 Graduated from Department of Insurance, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo
Joined Wacoal Corp. and moved to Kyoto
1995 Through product planning, the relationship with "Masuhisa Dyeing and Weaving Research Institute" presided over by Mr. Masuhisa Hirota begins.
the year of 2000 Retired from Wacoal Corp. Studied yarn dyeing with natural dyes at the Masuhisa Dyeing and Weaving Laboratory.
Helped with the solo exhibition of Mr. Amagi Maeda, a master of ancient dyeing, and was shocked by his work.
2002 After working at Masuhisa Textile Research Institute for 1 year and 9 months, he became independent.
Opened "Hand Dye Shop" in Kyoto City.
2009 Became a part-time lecturer at the Department of Arts and Crafts, Kyoto University of Art and Design.
2014 Concurrently serves as a part-time lecturer at Kyoto University of Art and Design, Department of Historical Heritage.