Boro are a type of Japanese textiles that have been mended or patched. The name comes from boroboro—meaning something tattered or repaired. Boro encapsulates the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. The hemp fabric reflects the beauty of daily wear-and-tear.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), hemp was more available in Japan than cotton. (Fabrics made from silk and cotton were reserved for the upper classes.) Boro came to mean clothing worn by the peasant farming classes, who mended their clothing out of necessity.
Boro clothing was handed down from generation to generation, and over time would resemble patchwork due to the many mended layers. The boro hemp was often dyed using the plant Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctorium). Most boro pieces are a rich deep blue colour.
After the Meiji period (1868-1912), living standards in Japan increased, and most boro were discarded. Many of the boro artifacts that remain are thanks to the foresight of Chuzaburo Tanaka, who collected over 20,000 pieces.
These days, as interest in sustainability and slow fashion grows, people are rediscovering the art of boro repair.