Create one's own images -"Kimono to Kawaii" at Japan Society

From July 11th to 23rd, an event “Kimono to Kawaii” was held at Japan Society as a summer student program. I had an offer to join this event this spring and I held a kimono a workshop on the 4th day of the event. Considering the event purpose “Kimono to Kawaii”, I decided not only to talk about kimono, but also to include Kimono fusion style which related to street fashion “Kawaii” in this workshop.

We had a workshop at my studio. All the participants were high school students. I used the slide-show and explained kimono’s history and kimono itself, and introduced various recent kimonos. As I wrote several times at my articles, kimono has many variations and we select them by each occasion. Later in the slide-show, I showed them some of my works for the fusion kimono: for example, the work which I joined Susan Cianciolo’s NY Fashion Week 2011 stage as a stylist. I think the most important thing to express your image by fashion is “Imagination”. The theme of the Susan’s fashion was Japanese sky. I explained how I stylized the models for each image by slides.

Bird in the sky
Golden rice field
I told students how I made each styling. When I made these works, first I carefully listen to designer’s world and then select obis and finally tied them to bring it to my image. I told them my images: rainbow (slide1), bird in the sky (slide2), golden rice field (slide3).

All these obis are HINAYA KYOTO’s obi fabrics. I think we can use kimono and obi fabrics not only for kimonos, but also for western clothes.

After the slide show, I demonstrated actually how to the tie obi about 10 minutes. And then, students tried kimono and obi to create their own styling.

First, they selected the kimono and obi for themselves. I asked them to wear by themselves to create their own images or theme.

Second, they made pairs and select kimono and obi for their partners. I asked them to stylize their partners to create the partners’ images using kimono and obi.
Students had never learned how to put on kimono and tie obi, so I sometimes supported them. They tried to make their own styling with the help of their friends. As you see on this picture, they did a really good job. Originality and imagination are important as a stylist. Maybe it is important for any kinds of jobs.

I asked them “What is your future dream?” and one of them said “I want to study politics”. I hope they will never give up their dream and hope, and make use of their senses, which were fostered by their many experience, towards their dreams.

Originally, we planned to make our kimono workshop at Japan Society, but to show students as many kimonos as possible, I proposed to make it at my studio. The organizer of this event at Japan Society agreed readily and five Japan Society staffs came to the studio with students.

I found one of the students wrote an article about the kimono workshop. She wrote
“For me it was difficult to walk in since the kimono was larger than me; I tried my best to not trip. It was also tight fitting, which made it hard to breath yet all of the class was in such awe of the beauty we did not want to take it off. All the patterns and fabrics were unique and all appealing to the eye on the kimonos and the obi completed the look. Today was a lucky one because not many other teens get the chance to try on kimonos by a famous designer.”
I am lucky to meet with ambitious girls. Thank you very much for coming to my studio!


Meet again

The other day, I had an offer from New York based photographer artist, Laurie Simmons to join her work. She is active on the front line in the United States. It was second time for me to join her work. I am very happy and proud to have an offer from her. When I met with her again, I was impressed and had a sense of shame.

In the United States, there is no samurai drama on TV or regular publication of kimono magazine like in Japan. So it is difficult to prospect continual work. Most of my works are one-shot work. But this work was second time and further more Laurie Simmons is a woman who I admire. This made me more impressed when I met her again.

I asked hair artist Mr.Misawa and makeup artirs Ms.Ruico to join the work and they kindly accepted my offer. They are great artist and I appreciate them to join the work. I did not see the finished work yet. I am looking forward to see it.

Taken at Laurie Simmons studio.


KAZARI-MUSUBI / lanyard knot

“MUSUBI” means “tie” in Japanese. This word is use at many occasions in Japan. For example the last game in Sumo; we call it “MUSUBI no ichiban”. Indeed I use the word “MUSUBI” during the kimono work.
picture from ”やさしい飾り結び”
published by NHK
Recently I found the book “NHK booklet for women: easy decorative MUSUBI (婦人百科 やさしい飾り結び)” from my bookshelf. This book is written about KAZARI-MUSUBI (decorative MUSUBI, lanyard knot). Long time ago, I was collecting many kinds of books related to Japanese culture and I bought this book for OBI tying. But after I bought this book, I realized that the book was not for OBI…And I forget about it till recently.

Since I lived in United States more than three years, these kinds of Japanese culture books make me calm. 
picture from ”やさしい飾り結び”
published by NHK
You may see many kinds of KAZARI-MUSUBI from the picture. Calabash’s red KAZARI-MUSUBI, scroll’s turtle KAZARI-MUSUBI. These are something that seems familiar to me. The book says, to make the Calabash’s red KAZARI-MUSUBI, you need many techniques, Tokkuri-MUSUBI, Kemann-MUSUBI, and Tama-MUSUBI. You may see KAZARI-MUSUBI on the plug too. To make this KAZARI-MUSUBI we need another technique, Koma-MUSUBI and Kichyo-MUSUBI. 
It seems really difficult. But the book made me to try one of the KAZARI-MUSUBI. I decided to make a Kichyo-MUSUBI, the most basic KAZARI-MUSUBI. I do not have lanyard for the KAZARI-MUSUBI, so I used a red KUMIHIMO (Japanese form of braid-making) which I use for OBI tying. 
I made this Kichyo-MUSUBI like this photo. 

I found an interesting story in this book. In the 15th and 16th Century, many authorities were killed by deadly poison. The person who charged with tea has to avoid their master to drink tea laced with poison. So they made complex KAZARI-MUSUBI called “Fuin-MUSUBI” for their tea container. “Fuinn” means a seal in Japanese. This helped to protect tea from poison. Of course this MUSUBI’s technique was told to only one person.
picture from ”やさしい飾り結び”
published by NHK
I learned tea ceremony, and this story reminds me the difficulty of the tea container’s MUSUBI. Many other interesting stories about MUSUBI are written in this book.

Some time ago, one of the customers who were going to attend her daughter wedding asked me if the kimono and corsage does not match. I thought if you want to coordinate with totally Japanese style, it might be better to make a flower with KUMIHIMO and this will substitute with a corsage.
The picture shows MUSUBI which we usually use for a small box.
I did not have a small box, so I made this MUSUBI for a small notebook.
I thought making a MUSUBI is similar to play with sand. Once we loosen it, we cannot easily make the same one. My MUSUBI was not perfect (It looks like panda bear…), but this thought made me start to feel affection for my MUSUBI.


High school student experienced kimonos

Last November a high school teacher inquired me, whose school is located in upstate NY. She asked me to teach her students how to put on the kimono. I accepted her inquiry. Ten students and two teachers came to Manhattan for the purpose of learning and experiencing Japanese culture in May. As one of their program, I had an opportunity to let them experience the kimonos on May 26th. Their program in NYC also included experiencing Japanese culture at Japan Society (NY) and lesson of Kendo, Japanese art of fencing.

I prepared various types of the kimonos; Furisode, Homongi, and Komon. I wanted them to know that various kinds of kimonos are worn, depending on various occasions and locations. But if I explained them just the knowledge as “Furisode is a kimono for unmarried women”, I guess students would be boring. To make them more interested in kimono, I planned to make students experienced various kinds of kimonos and use “lottery system”. The students drew lots for the selection of their kimonos. The students who drew the lots for formal wear kimono, Furisode, seemed so excited, while other students who drew the lots for casual kimono, Komon, seemed a little bit disappointed. But, when they saw their kimonos they wore, they were surprised at the vividness of the color and design on Komon and said in a wondering tone “Were Japanese people wearing this kimono in their daily life?”

After all of the girls put on the kimono, I said “let’s tie the obi around your kimono by yourselves.” Everyone looked at me with stunned face. Some of them said “By ourselves?!” When I showed them how to tie the obi, they started to mimic my movement and roll the obi to their bodies. My assistant, Sugiura-san, supported students kindly, but I continued my obi tying and some of the students look at me seriously and continued to tie it by themselves.

 It was really hard work for them to roll the obi twice to their body. So after they rolled obi twice to their body, I helped them to tie their obi properly. 
I formed the Otaiko (Drum Bow) style for the students who wore Komono and Homongi.
I made the standard decorative obi style, called “Fukura-suzume (Plump Sparrow)” for the students who wore Furisode.

I prepared Haori-Hakama and Tsumugi for boys to experience men’s formal and casual kimonos. They only had imagined the samurai style, which can be seen on the movies or Mangas, for men’s kimono. So, casual men’s kimono, Tsumugi seemed fresh to them.
The student who has been learning Kendo, Japanese art of fencing, brought his own wooden sword for pictures and enjoyed his samurai style.

Finally, Students gathered to take pictures. Students with Kimonos looked very nice surrounded by beautiful foliage. Hope they were inspired by the experience of various kimono styles. 

Time for photo shoot. I appreciated the clear sky!