Difficulty to Convert Beauty to Art: Attending the production by Laurie Simmons

The exhibition “The Love Doll: Days 1-30” of Laurie Simmons, a New York-based artist and photographer, who is active and famous internationally, is held at the Salon 94 Bowery Gallery in New York. Among this exhibition, her short film “Geisha Song” is screened as a special production named as “The Love Doll: Day 31”.

On this short film “Geisha Song”, the love doll (the full-length silicone doll) is dressed fully in geisha style. As a kimono stylist, I took charge of coordinating to make up a geisha and making it dress up in geisha style. I'm honored to have the credit for this film as “Costume”.

When I was asked to work with by Laurie Simmons, she wanted me to make up a geisha on the doll. Since kimono style is sometimes called as “geisha” in NY, I was wondering whether she needed a normal kimono style, or needed to reproduce a full geisha style, on the doll. I would like to think a great deal of Laurie’s image. I frankly asked her and knew that she had imagined a real geisha (maiko or geiko) style in Kyoto.
She took much care of the white-plastered face (shiro-nuri) and ornamental hairpins (kanzashi) on the doll. On the day of the film shooting, I brought the professional Japanese makeup set used for the Japanese traditional dance and asked a makeup artist, to use it and to make the white-plastered face. I also brought ornamental hairpins made of fine Japanese silk (habutae) by Kintakedo in Gion, Kyoto.

I selected a special kimono, which is dyed in deep red and black, and where the auspicious omens motifs including paired cranes holding pine branches on their mouths are gorgeously embroidered with gold threads. Gilt pine needles spread on the whole fabrics like its woven pattern.
I visited the gallery to watch the film. The short film “Geisha Song” is screened on the big screen in front of the gallery along with the lyric song. I was surprised and impressed by the artistically completed work. My husband accompanying me said “I’m disappointed because we cannot see kimono on the film very well.” But I thought that it was much better inversely. This film is Laurie’s art work, not the catalog of the kimono. 

As you see on the photo from the film, just the neck-up or shoulder-up image is focused. But I think that the whole image, which is likely to be ignored, is necessary even if we just focus on the part. I made the doll to put on Japanese tabi socks and zori sandals. As the silicone doll weighed about 45kg, it took three persons to let the doll to sit on its heels. Although we could not identify the doll sitting on its heels in the film, I can steadily imagine that the doll is sitting on its heels, because of the natural tilt angle of its neck and natural shadow of neck on its shoulder.

I think that this aesthetic feeling is similar as the aesthetic values of traditional Japanese art, especially seen in the Japanese tea ceremony. I cannot forget the words from my teacher of the tea ceremony in Japan: “Invisible points are more important than visible points.” About 420 years ago, when the founder of the tea ceremony, Rikyu Sen, pursued the most beautiful morning glory flowers, he picked all of them off the trees in the garden, just without one morning glory in the tea room. The real beauty of one morning glory in the tea room could be acquired after his tremendous effort.

In other instances, James Cameron, a movie director of Titanic, partly re-created the full Titanic ship, but he didn’t shoot all the images from the re-created Titanic ship. I think that he wanted to pursue the real art in his film.
For completing the Art Work, and converting Beauty to Art, I realize “Invisible points are more important than visible points.” 

Right after I emailed Laurie Simmons that I was impressed by the film “Geisha Song”, she graciously emailed me back. I feel that we were able to communicate together though this production.

The exhibition of Laurie Simmons, including this short film, is covered by many newspapers and magazines.
The New York Times

The doll that three persons could let to sit on the heels


Collaboration with Susan Cianciolo at New York Fashion Week

On the 7th day of the NY Fashion Week 2011 A/W, February 16th, I have a fashion stage in collaboration with Susan Cianciolo, a NY –based fashion designer and artist. On the invitation poster/card, my name was listed as “Special collaboration with Kimonohiro (The nickname of Hiromi Asai)”. I had not heard that my name would be listed on the poster; I was very pleased and surprised.
All the photos on our stage are now published on the web site of Vogue Italia.

Susan used the fabrics made at Hinaya Inc. in Nishijin, Kyoto, Japan and designed her Western-style clothes from these Japanese fabrics. She stayed in Kyoto for about a month last November.

Since she would like to describe her world-view inspired by Japanese culture, she chooses me for a stylist of her fashion show during the NY Fashion Week.

Four days before the fashion show, Susan abruptly told me “I have a good idea that the models in kimono style appear on the stage.” She asked me to coordinate and prepare kimonos for two models and Susan.

When we met and discussed about the show at her studio on the following day, I brought the kimono photos. As our show is named as “When Buildings Meet the Sky”, I selected the kimono colors and designs related to the sky that she would imagine. When I showed these photos, she said “Great! Great I leave them to you.” That was her immediate decision.

Thus, the pink (or light lilac, Benifuji in Japanese) kimono which the first model on the show wore is actually my kimono. I had not been able to image that my kimono would be presented on the stage at NY Fashion Week and published on the web page of Vogue Italia.  

This kimono was fully custom-made, ordered color staining from the white fabric, at the Japanese draper’s (Kimono) shop. I loved this fabric because of the splendid woven patterns. As you seen on the photo, it looks pink, but if we compare this real color with standard pink color, we can identify it as lilac color. This color seems chic, so if I change the color of Hakkake, inside cloth used around cuff and hem, to quiet color, I could love to wear it in my older age.

Because this kimono had been ordered from the color staining and tailored, I was impressed by this appearance at the New York Fashion Week, as if I was watching my child to grow up. I coordinated pastel-colored Obi sash and Obi Age bustle with Susan’s image of sky.
The photo shows the discussion with Susan at the back stage. The woman wearing a red dress is Susan Cianciolo. The back stage was exactly a battle field.
However, a battle began before the day of the show.
Originally, Susan had asked me to tie long wide belts to her designed clothes like Obi sashes. But during the preliminary discussion three days before the show, she showed me just middle-length textiles like stoles. I told her “They’re impossible to tie like Obi. Then telling me “Can you use them?”, she brought me a dozen of long textiles which looked like pre-tailored Obi. Susan told me “You may select either of them for your styling to fit my designed dresses.” I was wondering if her design of the dressed changes right before the show. I realized that her creation is novel and variable. I determined to enter to the back stage earlier on the day of the show, for doing my best to fulfill her requests even if she could ask me at the last minute.
Right before I came to the stage, Susan proposed me to dress a child in kimono. I replied her negatively, and then she abandoned her new plan. She brought me endless surprises. Since she generates imaginative ideas until just before the show, I realize that Susan is really able to create and design innovative fashion that reaches the artistic level.

At last, I dressed 3 models including Susan in my selected and coordinated kimonos and stylized 5 models in Susan’s dress and my creations like Obi tying. In summary, I made styling for 8 models. 
Although I had come to the stage at 6PM, I continued to dress Susan in my kimono on the back stage at 9PM, even after the show started.
I chose an orange-colored kimono for Susan. When we had discussed about the selection of her kimono and Obi at first, she didn’t imagine the orange color as the “Sky” color. I brought to her studio the picture book of the famous Japanese artist, Taikan Yokoyama, and showed her the Fuji Mountain painting with shadow of the sun. As I suggested her that Japanese sky sometimes demonstrates such a beautiful orange color, she seemed impressed and told me “Amazing!” Thereby we were able to select the kimono she wore.
Each of her clothes had theme and story. Susan explained them to me in detail. I selected all the Obi (or Obi-shaped textiles) as she imagined and improvised various original sash-tying styles. This picture displays one of the sash-tying styles which I created. The Obi trails on the ground are completely original. Susan wanted to express a great power which connects all of existence through this fashion. Hearing from her, I imaged fundamental power of the world and expressed it with gold Obi-like long textile, representing Golden Rice Plant. To make this style, I combined two different Obi and fabric. She said to me "SUGOINE ("wonderful" in Japanese)". I was very satisfied.

The following pictures show five of my stylized fashion in Susan’s dress and my (Obi) sash tying.
Three months ago, Susan directly contacted me. We met and discussed several times. Susan told me “I need your inspiration.” Then we collaborated on the fashion show. Through this collaboration, I have been receiving a lot of her inspiration. I appreciate her for providing me such a great opportunity. 
Susan Cianciolo’s collection (Vogue Italia)

PR: Kimono Stylist Collaborates with Fashion Designer for the Show at New York Fashion Week 2011 Fall


Kimono Styling for the Bridal Magazine

Last August I had an offer to stylize kimono for American bridal magazine.
And the magazine will be sold at book stores and online all around the world this February 11th.
All kimonos are designed by Serge Mouangue and he is a founder and chief designer of "Wafrica". The kimono brand name "Wafrica" means fusion of "Wa(Wa=和 means Japanese style in Japanese)" and "Africa". I had written about him before.

When I found out kimono will appear on the American wedding magazine, I had a feeling that the new fashion trend will occurred in the near future. And I was happy to join this photo shoot.
This work was introduced at Google news.

In the magazine, you can see the kimono photos which I had stylized over 5 pages. I was happy to stylized kimono as a fashion.

The photos are beautiful. But it was hard way to stylize the kimono.
When I first saw the time table, I found hair set and make-up time was listed, but there was no KITSUKE (dressing kimono, styling kimono) time listed. The magazine staff seemed to think that kitsuke is kind of fitting for the western clothes. I told them we need a time for kitsuke.
On the day of photo shoot, I went on time, but the models did not appear. When I saw the wedding dress stylist was preparing for the shooting, I had a bad feeling of something. The magazine staff had thought that we need time for preparing the kimono before kitsuke. But I need time for dressing kimono! I pull out the kimono from the bag and smoothed them. It took only 15 minutes. I went early at the studio, but since no models appeared, I had nothing to do. When we work with the people outside of Japan, we sometimes fail to tell them what we really want to say.

When the models finally came to the studio, I became really busy.
When I started kitsuke, they seemed to be aware that we need a certain kitsuke time for dressing kimonos. At the end of the photo shooting, some of the staffs said to me, "Great Job!".

I saw my name on the magazine. I could not clearly express what the kitsuke is to the magazine staffs, but I think they understood what the kitsuke is through my work. I learned a lot from this photo shoot. It was my pleasure to work with them.

I wish the new fashion trend will really start on kimono.