Choosing the Best Futon Fabrics for FutonBedsFromJapan.com
Here in Japan, in major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, there are large districts packed with fabric shops. Many of these places won't even talk to you unless you have a business card showing that you're a manufacturer of some sort. They're only interested in selling fairly large quantities of fabric in bulk. In addition, they don't allow you to just wander around a show room checking out the fabrics. Instead, you go sit in a little room and they bring you selections to choose from. (Of course this happens only after you drink some tea and have small talk.)
Not Exactly Business-As-Usual for Westerners
Of course this very Japanese-y style business process isn't too . . . uh . . . inconvenient—unless of course you've planned only 2 days midweek (they're closed weekends!) in Osaka with hopes of going to as many shops as possible to find the right fabrics for your shop. And of course, if you're Japanese and you've grown up expecting this sort of "long-winded" process. However, if you're a Westerner (and maybe more especially American!), this sort of formal (dare I say rigid?) way of doing business can be maddening! "C'mon! Just let me have a run of the place. I'll let you know if I find anything I want to order!"
Futon Fabrics: Now You See Me . . . Now You Don't!
If you've spent some time watching my videos or reading the FAQ (Questions?) section of our website, you're probably aware by now that here in Japan, the fabric patterns cycle two times a year. What this means is that even if you've got a fabric that is a "hot seller" that everyone loves, if you didn't buy a lot of it and run out quickly, there is a very good chance you won't be able to get more. Yikes! Then of course there is always the flip-side of things. You find a fabric that you're just sure is going to be popular . . . and for some reason it just simply doesn't sell well.
Imagine. This leaves us in a place where we're always walking a bit of a tight-rope. How much fabric of any one pattern should we order?
The Truth About Japanese Futon Fabrics
One of the choices on our website is a paisley pattern in either blue or red. Personally this I didn't think much of this pattern until I finally saw a futon made up with it. (Looks fantastic!) Of course when Westerners come to our website, paisley isn't typically their first choice because . . . well . . . it isn't an "authentic" Japanese fabric pattern. So who keeps buying this pattern? Many Japanese people who have moved to America—either temporarily for business or have immigrated to stay—often choose this fabric or simply plain white. LOL!
My Grandma's Curtains . . . circa 1976
You'd think that choosing the right fabrics for our website would just be a matter of going into a fabric wholesaler and picking a handful of our favories, 1,2,3. Honestly nothing could be further from the truth. Looking for the right patterns for FutonBedsFromJapan.com is more like panning for gold. We have to sort through a lot of . . . um . . . earth to find the "precious metals" our website needs. When I first started on learning the ins-and-outs of futon, I was honestly surprised that there seemed to be no end to floral prints that . . . well . . . gave me flash-backs to my childhood. There I was staring at something that looked spookily similar my grandma's curtains—circa 1976! (A sort of reverse nostalgia.)
Will You Do Custom Fabrics?
"Will you do custom fabrics?" "Can you match this fabric? (see attached image)" These are are questions asked me from time to time? To be honest, due to my personality, coupled with a few decades of doing business, it literally pains me to disappoint my customers by saying "no, we can't do that." So the last time this happened, I resolved to see if I could actually find something close to the fabric pattern Kelly had provided for me. Plus, I actually really liked her choice and I thought it would be a good addition to our fabric options.
The Quest for the "Holy Grail"
With Kelly's image as well as a handful of other swatches I had also provided them, Master Ikeuchi's daughter Sachiko and her husband set off for Osaka on a quest for new fabric patterns for FutonBedsFromJapan.com. After 2 days . . . they arrived home fairly empty-handed. They were able to find fabrics with patterns similar to Kelly's, but unfortunately on a dress or even a chair cushion they might look nice—but on a futon they would just end up looking something like polka dots. They were simply too small. After decades of making futon, they have become very clear about what patterns will work on a futon. Also, fabric pattern is only one consideration. The thickness and feel of the fabric is critical. In the end, no matter how great a fabric pattern may be, if they don't feel they can use the material to make an amazing qualityfuton they're simply not going to use it. With Master Ikeuchi's reputation on the line, they're simply not going to compromise, and I certainly can't blame them. In fact, I'm incredibly grateful for their "hard-line" on fabrics because the results cannot be argued with. Probably one of the most common themes in the feedback I get back is something along the lines of, "The quality of your futon is even better than I had expected."
Finding the "Gold" in Your Own Backyard
When it was all said and done, we did find a fabric that Kelly really liked. It was already on the shelf at the factory! LOL!! However, this fabric is one we had decided not to use on the website because . . . well, quite frankly, it is a very premium (aka expensive) quality fabric. Below are a couple pics that Sachi took before Kelly's futon was sent out. (My wife and mother-in-law saw these pics and flipped out. Guess who's getting new futon in the near future.)
Here is Kelly's feedback after receiving her futon set:
"While buying something online sight unseen can be daunting, the customer service was top notch with prompt, professional emails. I inquired about a certain pattern I had in mind, and they were able to find a close alternative. The futon itself is high quality, and the pattern looks great!"
Los Altos, CA
Currently this fabric is not available on the website yet, but if you want it we'll make it for you. Please expect it to cost about $40 more than our standard futon prices. To order, simply send us an email here and we'll send you a custom order link. We're calling this fabric pattern, "Patchwork, Navy."