The Matsubas are to clothes what Alice Waters is to the Slow Food movement. Their 30-year old company, Gungendo, is dedicated to the principle of Slow Clothes, reflected in their strong commitment to supporting sustainable rural communities and retaining important textile-related skills in Japan. Their designs are not about fashion fads, but about timeless personal style, high quality and comfort.
Tomi Matsuba, co-owner of Gungendo Company
Gungendo is located in Omori-cho, a town of 500 in rural Shimane Prefecture, near the Japan Sea coast. Up until about 200 years ago, the town had been a city of 200,000 people, in the center of a silver mining district. When the mines were depleted, only a few people remained.
When Tomi and Daikichi Matsuba moved there thirty years ago, it was a dilapidated hamlet with no appeal. As Tomi says of this now charming town that attracts many visitors daily, ‘In those days no one ever visited here.”
A new mother at that time, she began to make baby clothes for her own children. Neighbors and friends liked what she did and requests for her work increased. Eventually, Daikichi began selling her work to retail stores, and the Gungendo Company was born.
Over the past 30 years, the Matsubas and the growing Gungendo family have transformed the eyesore of a town into one that combines a high sense of esthetics with a consciousness of community. The town has become simply enchanting.
By supporting local cotton, ramie and flax farmers, mom & pop spinners, dyers and weavers, Gungendo has almost single-handedly saved them from bankruptcy due to the influx of cheap imports.
With the resulting fine fabrics, they have created a line of adult clothing of exceptional quality with distinctively Japanese design in addition to fine home accessories. As an apparel company, they market their clothes throughout Japan in their own stores and department store concessions.
Tomi Matsuba, in the enchanting town of Omori-cho that she helped restore