all images courtesy Creation Gallery G8

The new year marks a time of firsts: the first dream, the first temple prayer or the first workout of the new year. If you’re thinking of starting off 2022 with an art show, make your first one the 100-Year Maekake exhibition, going on in Tokyo.

Maekake are traditional Japanese aprons worn by workers. You may see your local rice seller, purveyor of sake or grocer wearing one around the waist. This exhibition brings together 144 artists to design original maekake aprons, which were then fabricated from cotton cloth woven and dyed by artisans of Toyohashi City using traditional methods.

The video above shows how the maekake aprons are woven using a 100-year-old Toyota shuttle loom. It’s a beautiful process that results in a product that blends robust strength and beauty. It’s said that each lasts for 100 years.

Maekake aprons date back hundreds of years to the Muromachi Period (1336 to 1573) and are worn to this day. And they were originally designed to serve several distinct purposes. Store proprietors would use them as a form of advertisement, printing their company name on the front. As work apparel, the tightly fastened waist strap supports the lower back. And the thick fabric acts as a cushion around the hands or flipped over on the shoulder to carry heavy items.

The maekake that are part of this charity exhibition can be purchased for 6,500 yen (roughly $56 usd) each, either at the gallery or online. All proceeds from the event will go to Japan’s “Save the Children” charity organization. The exhibition is going on at Creation Gallery G8 and the sister space Guardian Gallery through January 22, 2022. Located in Tokyo, both galleries are within walking distance. They are operated by HR firm Recruit.

design by Tamami Kubota

design by Tomohiro Okazaki

design by Masayoshi Kodaira

design by Junya Kamada