Surrounded by the soothing waves of the Setouchi Inland Sea, the island town of Imabari is known for two things: the thatched roofs of the feudal Imabari Castle, and a world-famous towel industry.
Long believed to be the birthplace of the Japanese towel, Imabari produces over 60% of Japan’s towels and is home to over a hundred towel manufacturers and factories. The most innovative of them is Kontex, which you may recognize as the name behind many of our superlative towels. Kontex was founded in 1934 and has been making some of the most ambitious and innovative towels on the market ever since. As soft as a blanket and as intricately woven as a shawl, Kontex towels are known as much for their beauty as for their superior quality. Though it appears complex, the secret to a Kontex towel is simple: a thoughtful manufacturing process rooted in traditional Japanese towel making.
Kontex towels are made from fine, garment quality thread that’s loosely twisted for optimal softness. Though modern machines are ideal for mass production, the stress of high-speed weaving can tear the fine fibers necessary to produce the highest quality cotton. Instead, Kontex towels are woven on traditional, low-speed Japanese machines that maintain the integrity of the thread. The process helps preserve the naturally absorbent properties of cotton while enhancing the fibers’ inherent softness. The result is a delicate but strong textile that modern machines cannot reproduce.
Inside the Kontex factory, these same looms work day and night to produce our Japanese towel collections. Peer inside the factory floor, where textile workers and towel specialists create the architectural styles that have become our classic staples.
WORDS BY MAGALI ROMAN