"Don’t you have any black that is the black of the “crown garment?” These were the words that we heard most frequently at our first exhibition, held in February 2017. They constituted the opinion of a great many visitors to that exhibition. However, at that time, we did not have any plans to commercialize the black color of the “crown garment”. The “crown garment” of SANGOU used the woven fabric of Kinari Ise cotton. If we used black woven fabric, the cost of the woven fabric would soar. The reason for that is various kinds of processes are required to dye Kinari black. Due to the fact that the price of the “crown garment” that is made of black woven fabric, has been set to match that of the Kinari fabric, when the woven fabric of Ise cotton is used, the cost would be doubled. That would not work for us at all.
For that reason, we did not work on the black color of the “crown garment”. However, a certain colleague with longer experience told me, “you simply dye this “crown garment”, as the finished product, into black.” His words motivated me to take action. He added that there was a company named, “Kyoto Montsuki (ceremonial kimono with family crests)” that specialized in dying black kimonos. Moreover, it was a company that did not simply dye them into the black color of ordinary garment, which is the color of black ink. He told me that it was the company that prided itself in being the only company that dyed the garment into genuine black.
Sangou Kikuta was so interested in this company that he lost no time in making an appointment with them and departed for Kyoto. He was impressed with its grand sign curtain. He felt it had a certain ambiance.
Just as its name suggested, it was a company specializing in dying ceremonial kimonos in Kyoto. It had the history of 100 years. Mr. Toru Arakawa, the fourth generation of its founder welcomed him. His had such a great passion for his work that no one fails to see it.
In its history of 100 years, the most advanced technology of “Kyoto Montsuki” is its "jet black processing”. That is precisely the reason why the black of “Kyoto Montsuki” differs from that of other dyers. To give a simple explanation-- it is a process in which the garment which has been dyed in black, is treated with the unique “jet black liquid” which the company has developed. It is amazing that the liquid is transparent. In other words, the treatment is not one that immerses the garment in a black liquid to dye it. The transparent liquid enables the black color to achieve a darker black, because it prevents the reflection of light that shines on it.
My ears could not believe what Mr. Arakawa was telling me about his company. Originally, there were 50 employees, but due to the recession of the industry, when approximately 40 of them retired in recent years, they were not replaced. At present, there are only nine who are carrying on the work. Determined not to let the technology of black dying which had lasted for 100 years, to disappear, they undertook various kinds of manufacturing with it. What they have achieved was so remarkable that they were featured by the media.
Of all the efforts undertaken by “Kyoto Montsuki”, the one which particularly struck Sangou Kikuta, was “KUROFINE”. It was conceived as the method to “renew” a long-cherished garment which has gotten soiled from prolong use. In other words, it gives new life to an old garment by re-dying it, using "Kyoto Montsuki"'s "deep black process". The spirit of wearing a garment for a long time by taking great care of it constitutes the spirit of SANGOU’s “crown garment”.
The “crown garment” of Kinari whose premise is "wearable for 10 years." During that time, it might be soiled. When that happens, you can have it dye by "Kyoto Montsuki" to revive it as a “crown garment”, so that you could go on wearing it. Needless to say, you can wear the “crown gament” from the outset. Having" Kyoto Montsuki" dye our products, our slogan "wearable for 10 years", became as immovable as a rock.
Black is the most important color for Japanese people. Why do Japanese wear black on ceremonial occasions? What "Kyoto Montsuki" believes is beautiful -- "Black is not just a color. It is an aesthetic ideal that expresses the elimination of self to pay respect to others. “ It is an aesthetic ideal that is deeply rooted in the Japanese way of thinking. It is something that modern Japanese have forgotten. We took great pride in achieving the jet black color in order to retrieve that aesthetic ideal. Won’t you wear that color?