About WAMEN and Lithuania Linen Collaboration Project
Lithuania is the southernmost nation of the three Baltic states, located alongside the shores of the Baltic Sea, facing opposite to the Scandinavian Finland then stretching out to Poland. At the time of the WWII, Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania, issued “Visa for Life,” and saved many lives. He happened to be a native of Gifu. The fated connection has resulted in a friendship exchange agreement between Gifu Prefecture and the Republic of Lithuania.
With this extraordinary relationship as the background, we came up with an idea for our “tomoni Connect WAMEN Project” to co-create a product in collaboration using the organic cotton made in Gifu and the world-famous, traditional linen thread of Lithuania to be warp and weft as to celebrate our ties to be interwoven together into one piece of fabric.
In this endeavor, we requested Ms Zivile Jomantaite, who was an international exchange staff from Lithuania to Gifu Prefecture, to help us find the ways to import organic linen thread from Lithuania. Then, we found out that the Lithuanian farmers were no longer growing flax due to the change of agricultural policies since the country’s independence. Gone were the reeling factories, making domestically-grown linen to be almost non-existent. To our great surprise, imported threads from countries like France, Belarus and China are now used to produce made-in- Lithuania linen.
“Lithuanian linen” as is often featured in the Japanese fashion scenes, is truly the proud traditional industry of Lithuania. So, even for Ms Zivile, it was quite a shock to know the linen itself was no longer made in one’s own country. At the same time, we were also shocked to find a similarity in common to the current situation in Japan, where the long-standing cultivation of the original pure strain of “WAMEN” cotton ceased to be continued. The very reason for “tomoni WAMEN Project” was also to do something about such present situations.
During this time, Ms Zivile conducted her own research to find if there was any organic flax grower in Lithuania to revive the traditional method of cultivation, in the similar manner to our endeavor for “tomoni WAMEN Project.” Eventually, she managed to discover Mr. Romualdas Kaminskas.
Mr Romualdas Kaminskas lives in a small town called Panemunėlis, about two and a half hours drive from Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. He grows organic flax in the traditional style, convening the annual linen festival called “ Lino Muka”, and also conducts workshops and classes at the local museum. He used to own a linen manufacturing factory.
After hearing about the activities of Mr Kaminskas from Ms Zivile, we were deeply touched and encouraged by his existence with similar aspirations to “tomoni WAMEN Project” despite being so faraway. We felt an urge to create something together in collaboration as a new fated connection with WAMEN.
Subsequently, Mr Kaminskas empathized with our thoughts to agree to collaboration, starting from exchange of the threads to weave something nostalgic yet a new creation of WAMEN of Gifu and Lithuanian linen to work together, taking the first step forward.
Respecting the natural environment while the local production style of safety comes with a sense of security for the domestic consumption. Each one and every gene is connected with each other over long years of history to be nurtured and passed on as the living culture, where the raw material produced of local origin, will be grown by safe measures and be made into products then later would return back to the earth.
As the world changed into mass production and mass consumption, various issues have surfaced in the modern society in terms of working conditions, mind and body of the people, and also the impact on the natural environment.
Now, in the face of natural disasters and infection risks of global magnitude, it is precisely for this reason that we must uphold the SDGs once again for a sustainable future, in collaboration with our distant Lithuanian counterparts, to look for new values and the way industries can leverage on small local resources that can bring forth a great sense of happiness.
Thus, we have embarked on a new journey to create one more new project that started from Chiune Sugihara’s “spirit of humanity” to revise traditional craft of “manufacturing” to stay vital and intact within the local community life.
Written by Nahoko Furuta, Executive Director of “tomoni Connect WAMEN Project”