Interview: European Obi Artist

Japanese kimono and obi are widely regarded as cultural icons of Japan, and the related arts and traditional crafts associated with them are most often found only in Japan. The kimono has declined in the past several decades, and the industry is struggling.

However, there is a push to save the kimono, which includes the globalization of the art and practice of wearing kimono. Around the world, a handful of artists have stepped forward adding their own spin and aesthetic touch to kimono. Three Magpipes Studio is one such artist. They recently launched a beautiful line of handmade obi that stand out. Located in Europe they are bringing a fresh touch to the world of kimono. We recently were able to interview them, and feel that they are worth getting to know.

What drew you to Japanese kimono? How long have you worn kimono? “I was thrown into the kimono world by accident – a friend of mine sent me a package full of vintage kimono from Japan, so I started reading about it and I fell into it completely. It was about a year and half ago, so not that long time ago – but I met so many people on the way that it seems like ages.”

What made you decide to start designing your own obi? “I am an illustrator and fabric designer by profession, I fell in love with classic Japanese dyeing techniques and kimono motives, and I wanted to make something inspired by it. In the end it drifted completely into my own style but still – I gained lots of knowledge along the way and I still have mountains to learn.”

What are some of your favorite classic Japanese themes in terms of symbolism? “My absolute favorite when it comes to wafuku motives is Ebi, I love the ‘old man of the sea’ – it’s something that would be considered funny here, definitely inappropriate for anything formal and yet in Japanese culture, it carries different meaning. I think all the themes I like are like this – something that shows us to look differently at the things we think we know.”

Other than your website, do you sell in person anywhere? “I have only the website/facebook for now. But if someone would be in Kraków (Poland) and would like to see my workshop – I am usually here to sit, drink tea and talk about kimono .”

How long does creating a design for an obi take? Are there any specific considerations that go into designing an obi? “The fastest design I made took me about a week from the idea to sewing – but I am still learning. Once I have the placement of the designs on the fabric drafted, the most important thing is how the colors will act on the fabric I’ve chosen. I am experimenting with different types of fabrics – from chirinmen crepe to thick weaved, heavy fabrics – the amount of details I can put into the design depends mostly on how visible it will be on it. The thicker the fabric weave the simpler the drawing has to be so it doesn’t disappear in the heavy texture.” 

Please visit the artist’s website, and look at their wonderful products.

Website: https://www.3magpiesstudio.com/ 

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Jumping in at the Long (Sleeved) End

Suggestions on where to start in wearing kimono from someone who’s been in the hobby for over a decade…

I don’t know if people who attend our panels are actually interested in this topic but I’ve definitely convinced myself it’s information I want to impress upon those new to the hobby whether they want to hear it or not. A lot of this is based on comments I used to see or hear a lot, but maybe things are changing for the better. What I’ve perceived is a difficulty in acquiring all the little odds and ends important for a well put together kimono look. Folks new to the hobby are immediately drawn to the most opulent beautiful kimono and become focused on that one kimono type… the furisode. That first purchase is a doozy! Now that you’ve spend 200$? 300$? More? on your first kimono, what happens next? Do you hunt down a juban with a matching sleeve drop? Do you coordinate out a color pallet for obi and accessories? Do you plan where you can wear that outfit? You’ve spent something like 500$ and all you have is a single outfit. A single FORMAL outfit. How many people reach that point? How many continue on in the hobby and purchase another kimono and obi plus all the accessories (basically all of the furisode accessories won’t carry over to anything but another furisode, MAYBE another formal kimono). What I hate to see happen is this sort of series of events; you fall in love with a furisode. It’s expensive but gosh, it’s the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen! You’ve saved up and buy it. It arrives, and you slip it on and it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever worn. A couple things are missing but you’ll work on it. What kind of obi should you get? What color? The cord thing? Probably any under kimono will be fine. But in the end, the completed outfit doesn’t look anything like the girls in the magazine. Stuff’s puffy that should be smooth, the obi you found seems off (maybe too short?) And your collars are just out of control. Do you continue with this hobby? Or do you cut your loses and sell everything?

What I would rather see is people who jump in at the easier end of things and work their way up, learning and sticking around for the rest of their lives!

So let’s back up. You’re new to the hobby and you have an eye on one of those gorgeous long sleeved kimono. You’ve saved up and you’re ready to go. Pleeaaase please please please, WAIT! (unless 300$ isn’t a big deal for your daily budget, you do you and you probably don’t need to be reading this anyway, enjoy!)

For the rest of us who look at $300 and say “Ah yes, my car payment and a couple grocery trips!” Ask yourself the following questions;

What are your goals in the kimono hobby? Beautiful art for you wall? Repurposing a kimono? Or something you want to wear?

Art on your wall is pretty much a non issue, you don’t need accessories nor do you need to learn how to dress yourself/someone else. This is also a great excuse for buying kimono that won’t fit you or are vintage and not appropriate for regular wear. Proceed.

If you want to repurpose kimono fabric into other craft projects, you can find some pretty cheap fabrics that may have holes, stains or other problems that make them unwearable and I fully support recycling or upcycling those kimono (especially anything that’s late Shōwa era or newer so like 1950+). If you’re spending a couple hundred dollars  to take apart a wearable kimono…. neat…

For those of you who want to actually wear kimono and are not working with a huge budget the furisode should not be your first kimono. Period. Keep it simple. Start with the basics. Get a yukata. Everything you need to know about wearing kimono starts there. If you don’t know how to adjust a single layer of collars or how to fold the ohashori of an unlined kimono you’re not ready for furisode yet! You may even be surprised how much your taste in kimono designs will change as you learn more about patterns, seasons, colors. I have a very different taste in kimono today than I did 10 years ago, I’ll have different tastes 10 years from now too; it’s an evolving, living, breathing hobby and I hope you too will experience the joys of growing as a kimono enthusiast and collector.

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Columbus Kimono

 

 

Exhibit: Modern Samurai – Men’s Kimono

Explore blended fashion as traditional Japanese men’s attire is mixed into modern concepts and designs. Spree Kingyo is a renown costume historian who promoted traditional kimono culture all throughout Europe, and the Americas.  A wide variety of fashion shows, and educational lectures are credited to them. Working in conjunction with Spree Kingyo for this exhibit is the Japanese Coordinator: Kumi Shimizu.

There will be over two dozen outfits on display og Men’s Kimono Designs Designers include; Afrikan Kimono (Portugal), Akira (Japan), Logan Doggs (New York), Modern Antenna (Japan), Robe Japonica (Japan), Katsura Sunshine (New York & Japan), and more.

  • Where: Oct 18th – 21st, 2019
  • When: 889 Broadway – New York, New York 10003

“A new and super creative generation of Fashion Samurai is emerging in Japan and internationally ~ bravely setting out to redefine men’s Kimono styles ~ keeping tradition alive while infusing it with new life. Their unique ensembles make a lasting impression at weddings, Kabuki, theater, hip restaurants, or just hanging out!

For this ground-breaking exhibition, ten international designers and stylists from Japan, Europe, and the United States contribute their innovative designs. Urban, elegant, or practical, they are all refreshingly modern and avant-garde coordinations ~ showcasing the new wave of male Wafuku ~ off the beaten track, risky, whimsical, yet so worldly and sophisticated.”

 

Kimono in Summer Time; is it right for you? + Anime Convention Matsuricon

Hello, welcome to the never-ending summer of 2018! For our first CBUS post, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about wearing kimono during the hottest time of the year. Something I didn’t quite connect with when I first started wearing kimono publicly was the concept of fabric and structural seasonality. It wasn’t until I really understood the concept of kimono for summer vs. kimono worn the rest of the year that I actually noticed these hitoe (unlined) sheer, airy kimono floating around in the web shops I frequented.  I was that person who wore awase (lined) kimono and obi in 80+ degree heat. I’ll never forget the single time I attended Otakon and someone pulled the fire alarm forcing everyone to stand outside. Sweating. Profusely. Lined kimono + August in Maryland = misery.

A big hump people new to the kimono hobby experience is the financial input required just to have a couple basic outfits. At a bare minimum, I would have to say you need 3 full ensembles if you’re not planning to replace your formal attire with kimono. One aseasonal lined outfit for early spring, late fall and winter, a summer outfit (unlined and of an open weave like ro, probably with no specific motif or a very general summer design), and a yukata. If you really wanted to be spartan, you could use a single hanhaba for all three outfits and pass on a lot of the obi accessories. You could. I can’t stress enough that a yukata should be the thing you start with anyway, please please please don’t jump into this hobby by buying a furisode to wear right off the bat. Please. Should I write a post about why that’s a terrible idea? I should.

Your under kimono, juban and accessories (for the enthusiastic purists, me) all come in summer forms. Open woven and sheer materials, linen and linen blends, space age homeostasis materials, etcetera. I’ve fallen into the pit of ro polyester kimono which have the benefit of being easy to wash after a good hardy sweat. I can’t say they breath but I can attest that a good breeze feels amazing. If you happen to come across a yukata that’s constructed with of an open weave ‘ro’ cotton, I HIGHLY encourage that purchase. The point of all this is if you’re presented with the opportunity to go out in the summer in casual kimono you have to ask yourself; do I have the appropriate kimono? If all you have is synthetic lined kimono, will you survive? If all you have is a lined silk kimono, will you risk staining it with your body’s attempts to keep you alive? If you’re even considering wearing a vintage kimono with natural red dyed lining, STOP! That stuff will run and transfer like crazy, okay, just don’t do it!

Is it worth being miserable? Your kimono will be there for another day. Of course if you do choose to wear kimono, the usual things apply; hydrate well, rest frequently, avoid standing in strong sunlight and don’t forget your handy dandy fan! Can you imagine the worst case scenario? You’ve passed out from heat, someone calls for emergency medical services… those paramedics WILL NOT TAKE THE TIME TO UNWRAP YOU! YOU WILL BE CUT OUT OF YOUR KIMONO AND OBI. Absolute worst case, okay? It could happen.

Here are some basic examples of summer wear (you WILL need proper under garments and juban for light colored kimono like this!) A synthetic ro komon and a double sided hanhaba obi. (If the links are broken, the items are no longer available, sorry!)

This upcoming weekend, August 24th-26th 2018, Columbus Kimono will be at Matsuricon in Columbus Ohio. We will have one panel Friday night on the topic of Geisha in the modern world. I am planning to wear an incredibly boring drab brown summer kimono. But that sucker is some sort of natural magic fiber and is soooo comfy! Actually it’s kinda raw and itchy, but will keep me moderately cool in August in Ohio so please enjoy my ugly kimono (though we did order nice new geta made with bamboo mat so yippee new shoes.) In an effort to stay hydrated I’ll finish up my stamp card at the bubble tea shop.

Keep cool!

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Columbus Kimono

 

 

 

g to y Kimono Fashion Show – Chicago

Kujira Japanese Art and Craft Community group exhibition opening reception, g to y will feature gorgeous models in traditional Japanese kimono who will walk on the Obi runway. The obi runway features a floor covered in vintage and antique obi. This is also a collaborate with beautiful photographer 曮 -Enyen- , local Koto musician Tokiko Kimura and popular sushi chef.

Models who would enjoy wearing kimono are wanted.

  • Date & Time: Aug 13th, 2019 from 6pm to 8pm
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago 在シカゴ日本国総領事館
    737 N Michigan Ave, Ste 1000, Chicago, Illinois 60611
  • Webiste: http://kujira.weebly.com