Boro is so great, I like to say it twice. A lot of people might ask, “What is Boro?” And if you don’t know the answer, then do I have a textile treat for you! Boro, meaning “ragged” or “tattered,” was a technique used by the rural Japanese in the 19th and early 20th centuries to repair clothing or fabric. Using simple, rustic patches and sashiko stitching, the patches were layered on top of one another. Over the years and generations, the patches became so extensive that it was impossible to tell where the original fabric stopped and the new ones began, the overall result resembling a whimsical, denim quilt. Now, these sought after textiles are being repurposed into clothing, pillows, blankets, and upholstered furniture. New designs are being inspired by this age-old technique. What was once considered shameful is now seen as beautiful, and a tangible piece of Japanese history.
Feast your eyes on a collection Boro beauties below, some authentic, some imitations, but all lovely. Denim is more or less a neutral, in my mind, and can be used in any number of settings or styles, so if you’re wondering whether Boro will work with your decor or outfit, I’m guessing it probably will be a perfect, interesting, eclectic addition.
For extra credit, I also have a book assignment for you. At the same time I was digging into the art of Boro for this post, my sister-in-law came to me raving about this book, Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. It follows seven generations of a family of Korean immigrants living, mostly in poverty, in Imperialist Japan. The coincidence of her recommendation and this post was too eerie to ignore, so I think we should all read this book and incorporate some Boro into our house and appreciate the beauty and history and tragedy of a culture very different from our own but also, as is always the case, so strikingly similar.