The Kimono: Art as Fashion

The Kimono: Art as Fashion

There are so many things to love about Japanese culture. They have a unique reverence for details, from plates of food like works of art, to their incredible style. One garment that we have always adored is the traditional kimono, which has inspired the creation of our own silk kimono jacket. The direct translation for the word kimono is "wearing thing" which rather undersells this stunning garment and cultural signifier. The history of the kimono and its predecessors is absolutely fascinating, and dates back to around the Heian period between 794 and 1192, when straight cuts of fabric where carefully sewn together to create a garment that essentially would fit anyone. By the Edo period some 500 years later, the garment became known as a 'kosode' (meaning 'small sleeves', with the major difference being - you guessed it - smaller, more fitted sleeves. The word 'kimono' didn't come into common parlance until around the late 1800s, but the word stuck, most probably because Japan had begun to open up to foreigners, and thus the word began to spread about their culture.



It was really the kosode that sewed the kimono into Japanese culture, particularly during the Edo period which lasted for just over two and a half centuries, beginning at the turn of the 17th century. The kosode wasn't simply a garment. It was a symbol of cultural standing and status, and was worn by virtually every Japanese person, until the country began to open up to foreign influences in the late 1800s. 

Kimono Coat Khaki Pink Veronica Silk Satin

Kimono Coat Khaki Pink Veronica Silk Satin
Every person's kosode was different, because his or her status was somehow worked into the garment, using embroidery techniques, patchworking of fabrics, familial motifs, various colours loaded with meaning, and so on. One could glean a lot about a person from their kosode. For example, images of cherry blossom and other floral designs were seen to symbolise feminine beauty and so would often be integrated into a woman's kosode.

Kosodes were worn right through the striations of Japanese society, although very few of peasant kosodes remain since they were worn to rags and constructed from poor materials, whereas we still have excellent examples of those worn by the upper classes, who would often commission designers to make many styles for them. They became palimpsests that one wore, documenting a life's journey, all the while implying one's cultural nouse and societal status. If you wanted to look educated in the Edo period, you would have scenes from ancient Japanese literature embroidered into, or wood-block printed onto, rich silk panels for example.

 Kimono Coat Khaki Ivory Gold Eugenie Silk Satin

Kimono Coat Khaki Ivory Gold Eugenie Silk Satin

Many of the designs came from books called 'Hinagata bon', which were the design compendiums of the era. As Japan entered the Meiji period, the kimono became a garment almost exclusively worn by women. In fact, the government implored women to wear it, so as to maintain a link to the ancient days of Japan, all the while enforcing the men to wear western clothing. Japan was changing rapidly, and this evolution was playing out in the nations wardrobes.

Today, the kimono is typically only worn for special ceremonies. But as with many great classical garments, it often becomes the kernel for new contemporary ideas, which is exactly how our silk kimono coats came into being. Our research uncovered a great many incredible kimonos embellished with beautiful floral scenes, which we somehow wanted to honour and evolve for a modern western wardrobe. Hence our kimono coat was born, cut much longer than a traditional kimono, but with a similarly voluminous shape with a languid easy drape. Cut from a luscious silk cloth and decorated with exquisite floral motifs, we have tried to distill in them the nobility and grandeur of traditional kimonos, while making them compatible with a modern feminine aesthetic.

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