Siwa uses newly developed proprietary fabrics made from industrial waste to create lightweight, water-resistant bags and accessories that look and feel like paper.
Siwa is a new range of bags and accessories made in Japan from Soft Naoron and RPF Naoron, two recently developed proprietary fabrics composed from industrial waste that are lightweight and water- and tear-resistant. Having the look and feel of softly crumpled paper, Naoron has been tested to take loads of up to 10kg. The Siwa range is designed by renowned Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa who saw in Naoron the opportunity to design simple, everyday accessories whose surfaces bear the marks of their use, and accentuate the deceptive strength of their material.
Soft Naoron and RPF Naoron are materials developed by Japanese paper-making company, Onao, who drew on the 1,000 year history of washi paper making in Japan to develop two strong and lightweight fabrics that could withstand the wear-and-tear of everyday use without being at the expense of the environment. Soft Naoron is a composite of wood pulp, synthetic fibres and polyolefins, a type of plastic that has excellent chemical resistance and is unaffected by common solvents. RPF Naoron (Recycled PET Fiber Naoron) draws its strength from recycled polyester fibers found in used plastic bottles and textile products. Naoto Fukasawa’s application of Naoron in the Siwa range of bags and accessories is a nod to the traditional use of washi paper in clothing, furnishings and origami: items that demand both suppleness and strength; and demonstrates the ecological advantages that new technologies allow for.
The name Siwa is an anagram of the word washi as well as a word meaning ‘crinkle’ in Japanese. Washi paper is traditionally made from the inner bark of easily renewable plants such as the paper mulberry bush, whose fibres are especially long and strong. During processing, the tough inner bark is cleaned and pounded, and its fibres are stretched rather than chopped. Bark fibres are mixed with cold water and a mucilage to form a paste-like substance that at once binds the mixture together while keeping the fibres separate. This mixture is shaken back and forth across a mesh screen to create an even layer of paper pulp, during which time the fibres position themselves at random on the screen. The result is a material that has no real grain, and therefore has greater resistance to creasing, wrinkling and tearing, and is softer and warmer to the touch compared with regular photocopier paper. Onao’s development of Naoron is based not only on a deep understanding of paper-making techniques but also an appreciation of everyday tactile experiences.
Naoto Fukasawa, who is now one of Japan’s preeminent industrial designers, made a name for himself locally and internationally by ignoring traditional design classifications and his range for Siwa is no exception. He is pursued by major European and Scandinavian design brands including Artek, Artemide, Danese Milano, Erco, and Thonet among others, and his wall-mounted CD player for Muji is now part of MoMA’s permanent collection and saw him feature in Gary Hustwit’s design documentary Objectified. Fukasawa recognised that Onao’s hard-to-tear Naoron fabrics took on the look of weathered leather after the paper was crumpled. From this he has designed a series of everyday bags and accessories that confound the senses with their soft surfaces and ultra-light body weight, and exploit resources hidden within industrial waste, that through intelligent design can be unlocked for unprecedented purposes.