Arai, who died in 2017 at age 85, experimented with a nylon-coated polyester that looked like a butterfly’s gossamer wings; he said they could make raincoats that weighed less than four ounces. He designed a four-layer jacquard with squares on one side and triangles on the other. He mastered the art of combining manual skills, such as tie-dye, with the tools of computers and other advanced technology.
“There are several things that made him one of the foremost innovative thinkers in textile design,” said Matilda McQuaid, co-curator of the 1998 exhibition “Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. , wrote in an email. “The first is his passion for experimentation, from destroying the surface, shrinking the fabric to using traditional methods with new materials, such as weaving with stainless steel.”
Beginning in the 1970s, fashion designers such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo Arai gave global recognition to the fashion and textile industry by using his wearable, yet wildly inventive fabrics in their own creations.
“He has the greatest influence on textile design in the world today,” said Jack Lenor Larsen, the American textile designer, introducing Arai during a 2004 lecture at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
Arai’s textiles are in the permanent collections of many museums, including the MoMA, the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Junichi Arai was born on March 13, 1932 in Kiryu, Japan, the eldest of six children of Kinzo and Naka Arai. Kinzo Arai started the family weaving business, Arakin Textile (also called Arakin Orimono), in the 1920s, making obis. It was located in Kiryu, about 80 miles northwest of Tokyo.
Junichi Arai disbanded his father’s company in 1966, became an independent textile planner and started his own company, ARS, which went bankrupt in 1978. That same year, he founded Anthology, which also went bankrupt in 1987. Yet he was endlessly inventive .