Welcome to part two of a three part blog series featuring my travel experiences this year in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Yokohama, Japan. To read about Kyoto, click HERE.
This blog post will focus on two major sections: Nippori Fabric Town and Okadaya Store in Shinjuku.
Nippori (Sen-I Gei) Fabric Town
This area is the must visit district for sewing enthusiasts, for both visitors and locals. There are over 90 shops offering a variety of textiles and trim, spanning almost one km in length. I didn't even get through a quarter of the shops. I recommend committing at least one to two days to visit this area.
One of the main shops is Tomato, and most bloggers talk about this place in high regard. Yeah, its good, but do not be shy in visiting all the other shops in the area. In this section, I will reveal over 20 shops I visited and what I picked up. Stay tuned on our YouTube channel for a fabric haul video. I will go into depth into each fabric purchased and what we plan on designing with each.
Here is a complete list of the shops I visited in Nippori Fabric Town during this trip. I had to leave a few off the list because there was no shop sign!
You might remember EDWIN Denim from the early 90's when Brad Pitt was their spokesperson. Founded in 1969, EDWIN continues to design high quality denim and jeans. In Nippori, you can find bolt ends of denim for sale.
The shop front is not the most inviting, but go in anyway. The fabric is right out front, so you cannot miss it. I purchased 2 bundles of denim, which totalled 3 meters. My plan is to make a pair of overalls. The total cost was approximately $20 CAD. My husband also purchased 4 pairs of jeans that he has on heavy rotation right now.
I remember Yamayo so clearly from the year before. Hands down, they have the best selection of fabric marking tools, selling chalk, wax, pens, and so much more. They also have a massive selection of thread and fun printed cotton fabric. In the picture below, I am explaining how the Japanese have an obsession with kawaii (cute) characters on everything.
This year, I purchased wax for marking fabric and a dual head tracing wheel for marking in seam allowance when your pattern drafting.
Most of the fabrics in Yamayo were under $10 per metre. It was really well priced considering how cute and unique each print is. I regret not buying the adorable moody dogs pictured below.
Nagato (Main Shop)
Most of my fabric purchased in 2016 was from Nagato. This year, Nagato was where I was most excited to visit in Nippori. I recommend most visitors to put this shop at the top of their shopping list. Why?! Because they have the most variety in garment textiles, the price point is on point, and the shop keep are so helpful.
During this shopping trip, I decided I would buy at least two different fabrics that were completely opposite from what I would normally would design with. Pictured below is one choice: a silk crepe fabric sold by the panel with a nature inspiration. For this fabric, I plan on creating a high-waisted, hand pleated skirt that is midi length. By pleating the skirt, it will make the animals less noticeable and in my books, more wearable.
Two of my favourite fabrics are pictured below. On the left is a sheer black stripe silk/cotton blend. It feels very much like a silk organza but the cotton adds softness to the overall feel. It cost 600 yen, which is approximately $7 CAD per metre. A total of two meters was cut. It will be incorporated as an overlay into a new studio design.
On the right is a stunning large stripe fabric featuring a few different fibres in ones. The colour combo made me buy it. We're thinking maybe an over-sized coat or a fit and flare dress. We must show off the stunning colours, head to toe! It cost 1000 yen, which is approximately $11 CAD per metre.
A total of 6 different fabrics were picked up from Nagato. They all ranged from $4 up to $15 per metre. As a rule of thumb, always purchase between 2 to 3 metres of fabric. This is a safe guesstimate that will cover most of your future designs.
And Leather Shop
If you have ever visited Japan, you know there are many artisans creating high quality leather goods. So it only made sense that there were a high number of leather supply shops in Nippori. And Leather Shop stood out for many reasons. The shop was super clean and organized and the exotic skins available are jaw dropping. Vancouver has a really great leather shop (Lonsdale Leather), but damn! I mean, And Leather Shop has a Siamese crocodile skin for sale for 38,000 yen.
Siamese crocodile and stingray pelts pictured below.
Tomato (Main Shop and Select-Kan)
Five buildings make up the textile giant Tomato in Nippori. Below you can see that Tomato Notions and Tomato Interior are right across the street from each other. I visited Tomato Main Shop and Tomato Select Kan.
The majority of the fabric I picked up from Tomato was linen, cotton and cotton silk blends. Japan is the destination for linen fabric. The variety in weaves, thicknesses, double gauze, and prints just goes on for racks and racks. Based on my previous designs, you would have thought I picked up all the blue printed fabric above, but I did not! Below is a stunning cotton/silk blend with an abstract nature inspired print. I have no idea what design this will be made into. If you have any ideas, please comment below. In the end, I walked out with seven different fabrics.
On the second floor of the Tomato Select Kan, you will find a section of machine and hand made trim along side a variety of linens, cottons and novelty textiles.
I could not stop touching the fabric pictured below. Doesn't it remind you of sprinkle cupcakes or confetti? It cost approximately $28 CAD per metre. I did not buy any of this fabric, but have a feeling I will regret that decision very soon.
Note to readers: if you see something in Tokyo you love, just buy it! Most likely you will not find it back home. UGH.
A bit of research before my trip revealed that Zak Zak was the place to visit for cheap fabric. A ton of fabric in the shop was only 100 yen, which is approximately $1.50 CAD per metre. Most of the fabric was comprised of synthetic fibres, so I walked away. However, if you are a button person, you will want to hit up this shop. Buttons are dirt cheap here. All buttons pictured below are under $1 CAD.
L musee Button Shop
From cheapo buttons to not so cheapo buttons. Do not walk into L muse near the end of your fabric shopping trip. Most of the buttons in this shop are imported and vintage. Which means you will be dropping a lot of dough in this shop.
I am not really a huge button person, due to the fact that I prefer hand sewn button holes. But I love the way buttons can come in so many unique shapes, sizes, colors and forms. So here is some eye candy for all your button lovers out there.
The most expensive button I found was around $78 CAD. It was a vintage button from a French designer in the early 1960's. I couldn't get a picture of them as the shop keep wouldn't let me. My husband and I totally snuck all these photos. Shhhhh!
I did not purchase any buttons from L musee, but I did purchase some decorative jewels from their sister shop Nippori Maru. I'm thinking of using them on a cuff or collar.
Most visitors stay in Shinjuku and do not even realize how close a major textile shop is to their hotel.
Okadaya in Shinjuku is comprised of two buildings. One is six floors filled with textiles and some notions. Most of the fabrics I found in Okadaya were perfect for costumes. If you are into cosplay, you must visit this shop.
I did not buy any fabric from Okadaya due to the high price point. I figured the prices would be higher because they are located in the heart of Shinjuku. Really, you are paying for convenience.
The second building has six floors filled with hobby, haberdashery, and design supplies and tools. I wish I entered this building earlier in my trip, because the drafting and draping supplies are so nice. I found draping tape, colourful pattern weights, and a variety of marking tools and drafting rulers that would be very helpful.
The pattern/fabric weight below is high on my 'did not buy' regret list. Don't worry pattern weight, I shall see you in 2018.
Hope you enjoyed this Tokyo review. I still feel like I barely scratched the surface in Tokyo in terms of fabric and trim shops. Stay tuned for a fabric haul video, as I picked up over 15 different fabrics over the course of the entire trip, as well as the last part of this fabric shopping series which covers Yokohama.
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Written and photographed by Sheila Wong
Edited by Samantha Quon
Sheila Wong Sewing Team