The Japanese have a term that describes their sense of thrift: mottainai, “don’t let anything go to waste.” It’s a philosophy that Tokyo-based Muji, a clothing and lifestyle brand known for its no-frills, egalitarianly designed goods, takes to heart, particularly with its “Re-Muji” project, which takes customer castoffs and overdyes them in myriad shades of indigo for resale. This season, the retailer is taking that concept even further with a new line of garments and accessories derived from reclaimed wool, a textile that Meiji-era Japanese would have been more than familiar with. With scant success raising sheep despite the influx of Western influences, 19th-century artisans often collected used imported woolens, washed and sorted them by color before shredding them for reconstitution into new thread.
Only a few houses continue the tradition in the wool-milling districts of Ichinomiya in Aichi Prefecture and in Izumiotsu in Osaka Prefecture, according to Muji, but those that do still full and felt the repurposed fibers by hand.
Muji’s aim, it says, is to “pass on this spirit and tradition of treasuring resources” by transforming wool scraps into sweaters, hats, bags, and shoes.
You can also check out several of them in person at New York City’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, where they’re featured in Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse, an exhibit about textile-industry innovations that runs from now through April 16, 2017.