The City of Jeonju annually holds the Jeonju Hanji Culture Festival along with the National Hanji Craft Contest to promote the excellence of it's paper. In 2015 it's celebrating it's 19th anniversary and I've been fortunate enough to visit the Festival after an absence of almost 12 years. The last time I visited was when I was living in Pusan and Teaching English as a Second Language to students at the National University. I was encouraged to make the trip by my Korean Hanji teacher who was adamant that Jeonju Hanji was the best you could buy. Jeonju is the centre of Hanji production in Korea and the base for 50% of the domestic Hanji manufacturers, and they currently account for 80% of the Hanji production in the country.
Hanji has always been famous throughout the Orient. It was one of Korea's top exports during the 11th Century and although it's been used as long-lasting paper for over a thousand years, it's more recently been used for a variety of products, including clothing.
Mulberry material is unique because it comes from the soft inner skin of the bark. The bark is very strong and after being immersed in water for a year it's cut into very fine strips and twisted to make the paper yarn used for fabric. The natural fibers are wide which makes it breathable, lighter than cotton, it prevents bacteria build-up, and allows air and light to come through the material. Because of Hanji's natural composition, it's a healthy, eco-friendly fabric that is effective for people with skin allergies or sensitive skin.
Hanji has been reinvented in recent years, with premium denim made from Hanji launching at a number of fashion shows across the world. It was part of Chanel's Pre-Fall Collection 2014 and it's now sold in stores worldwide. It's being launched by Barneys in New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco and Barneys Japan and Colette in Paris, France.
Hanji fabrics are generally not made 100 percent of Hanji. Instead, Hanji yarn is blended together with other fibers such as cotton and silk. There has been a concern that Hanji fabrics are not washable and tear easily, but on the contrary, they’re more durable and retain form better than other fabrics. Among other properties, Hanji fabrics are extremely light, about half the weight of cotton fabric, they're beneficial to the body, and friendly to the environment as they are biodegradable.
At the Hanji Culture Festival this year there was a fashion show with garments made from Hanji fabric. Here are a few pictures of the more traditional garments that were wore in the parade. and on display in the Exhibition Hall.
So what does the future look like for Hanji as a fabric? I'd like to think that it will increase in popularity across the world, especially with big fashion labels showcasing what can be made with it but from my observations since I've been back in Korea, it appears to be quite an expensive alternative compared to other more traditional fabrics. If production costs come down I can see it having a bright future.
For more information on Hanji fabrics you may like to visit these websites: