Junichi Arai (1932 – 2017), Japanese textile designer and producer

Crinkled Sheer Fabric. c. 1995 by Junichi Arai
Crinkled Sheer Fabric. c. 1995 by Junichi Arai

Junichi Arai (1932 – 2017) was a Japanese textile designer and producer born in Kiryu, Gunma. Arai was an acknowledged leader in experimental weaving technology, combining traditional and futuristic, often with unexpected qualities. He worked closely with the fashion designer Issey Miyake in the 1980s.


As the sixth generation of a mill-owning family, Arai grew up with fabrics being woven for obis and kimonos. He held traditional weaving methods in high regard and the skills that only the human hand can have in the art of fabric making. Nuno Corporation, a company and retail store that manufactures and sells innovative functional fabrics, was founded in 1984. Arai took a conventional approach to his business, hiring local craftspeople to help him develop his work, even though his work was technically innovative.

Scarf Japan (1993) by Junichi Arai (Cooper Hewitt)
Scarf Japan (1993) by Junichi Arai (Cooper Hewitt)

Junichi Arai, who travelled extensively to examine world textiles closely, admired how fabric exposes the depth of a culture’s history, but also noted the material’s potential to better reflect 20th-century changes. He noted: โ€œAmong all cultural heritages, there is nothing more abundant than fabric. Nothing can exceed its warmthโ€ฆAre the present textile artists creating a fabric that embraces contemporary ideology?โ€  (Buchanan, 2022)

Arai specialised in deeply textured, sculptural fabrications using celluloid, aluminium tape, metallic filament, silk, and polyester; shifted to technological experimentation, maximising the potential of punched cards used on jacquard looms by producing them by the computer; created fabrics from yarns with different shrinkage rates and under extreme heat; and lacerated film into complex wefts.

He then worked as an independent designer through his Nuno shop in Tokyo.


Araiโ€™s textiles are in the permanent collections of many museums, including 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 given Tokyoโ€™s Mainichi Fashion Award in 1983 and became an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry in London in 1987.ย 


Junichi AraiJunichi Arai 26 Mar 2000, Sun The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California) Newspapers.com


Benhow-Pfalzgraf, T. (1970, January 1). Contemporary fashion. Internet Archive. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://archive.org/details/contemporaryfash0000unse_k0w9/page/26/mode/2up?q=%22Junichi%2BArai%2B%22

Buchanan. (2022). Object Lesson: Junichi Arai. NOMA – New Orleans Museum of Art. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://noma.org/object-lesson-junichi-arai/

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Junichi Arai. Junichi Arai | Biography | People | Collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. (n.d.). https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/people/18045617/bio#ch.

Louie, E. (2022, May 13). Overlooked no more: Junichi Arai, Innovative Textile Designer. The New York Times. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/13/obituaries/junichi-arai-overlooked.html

New York, NY : Museum of Modern Art : Distributed in the United States by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers. (2009, January 1). Japanese design : Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.). Internet Archive. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://archive.org/details/japanesedesign0000muse/page/28/mode/2up?q=%22Junichi%2BArai%2B%22

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