Friday, November 20, 2015

Nuno Textiles in Tokyo, Japan

I am a great fan of Nuno Textiles, an innovative textile design and manufacturing company in Japan. The driving force behind Nuno is Reiko Sudo. I had seen her talk at a Convergence (weaving conference) several years ago, and was so intrigued with the philosophy and design of their fabrics. They combine traditional weaving techniques with new fibers and technologies to create the most unique fabrics you have ever seen. And, at times, hand operations (meaning, truly by hand) are involved in the textiles.

I was honored to meet Reiko in their main Tokyo store and she allowed me to take photos of their fabrics to share with my students, and of course, here on my blog.

 Here is a fabric that now resides in my fabric collection. It is like a stained glass, with a window pane effect. The top black layer is actually cut away.

 Next, we have a scarf (also now in my personal collection), with closeup.
Felted Fiber Scarf
And now.. a fabric made by mounting small pieces of other Nuno fabrics on the surface.



This fabric is woven in such a way that it has a puckered surface.



Finally, how about an embroidery..


Nuno creates fabrics for interiors as well as clothing. They have been featured in numerous exhibits and museums, and are well known in the Fiber Arts world.

Here is a great Youtube link if you would like to see more.

Open: 11:00 - 19:00Holidays - 18:30Closed Sunday
B1F AXIS Bldg., 5-17-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 106-0032

A U.S. office also exists, if you are interested to purchase fabrics here in the United States.

Material Things
Online store at
P.O. Box 400, La Jolla, CA 92038
T: 858-488-2000
F: 858-488-2002

Kobe Fashion Museum, Kobe, Japan

One of the highlights of my trip to Japan in September was a visit to the Kobe Fashion Museum. You can reach Kobe from Kyoto easily, and from the train station you can take a tram to the area where the museum is located. The building itself in quite extraordinary.

The photos included here were provided by the Museum itself. Photography was not allowed, and so the curator generously sent me some photos to share.

The current exhibit at the time of my visit was Digital X Fashion. This was most interesting, and of course a topic of great interest to me, as I study contemporary and future-forward textiles. Through the exhibit you could see how technology inspired the design of garments. Two fashion designers/companies were highlighted. The one that intrigued me the most was Anrealage. The name of the company comes from a combination of words of ''A REAL, UNREAL and AGE''.  The Designer, Kunihiko Morinaga, was born in 1980 in Tokyo, graduated from Waseda University and Vantan Design Academy, and has received numerous awards. Go to their website, and look at the various collections. The Reflect collection (2016 Spring/Summer) uses fabrics that were photosensitive and thus responded to the flashes of light from cameras or the lighting (as was the case in the museum). One moment, a garment could be solid, and the next it was a plaid.

The second featured designer was Tamae Hirokawa of Somarta. Click on this link, to see a collection that shows her unique body suits (made popular on their own and by Lady Gaga). In past Ms. Hirokawa worked for Issey Miyake, but she started off on her own in 2006. Her designs are known to be more conceptual than functional.

The museum’s regular collection was also very good. Their collections included historical through modern. There were a few unique presentations. The first was a reconstruction of Napoleon’s coronation clothing. Here you can see it, in all its glory.

Here are some images from the historical collection.

The museum also had a collection of muslin (plain fabric) garments reconstructed as accurately to the time period of focus. These you could touch and examine. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of this part of the collection.

There was an area where garments through a range of years were presented, and I must say, it was an excellent sampling of various designers through the past 150 years, including Worth, Balenciaga, Dior, Vionnet, etc.

The Fashion Library at the Kobe Fashion Museum is one of the largest collections of books I’ve seen. Had I known about it before, I could have easily spent a week going through all the books.

If you get the chance, and are in Japan, do make Kobe a stop on your agenda, and go see the Fashion Museum and or visit the library.

Kobe Fashion Museum
2-9-1 Koyochonaka, Higashinada Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 650-0032, Japan+81 78-858-0050

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Visiting the Kyoto Costume Institute, Kyoto, Japan

Anyone who is seriously interested in Fashion History probably owns the book called Fashion. (ISBN3-8228-1206-4)  Within the book are photographs and details about costumes from the 18th to 20th centuries, as found in the Kyoto Costume Institute. Here is an image of the different covers you may find. Note: Sometimes the book is in two parts.

Various versions of the book Fashion by Taschen

While in Kyoto, I was fortunate to be able to visit the Kyoto Costume Institute and spend an hour looking at several pieces in the archives of the collection. The Institute’s corporate sponsor is WACOAL CORP., a clothing manufacturer who specialized in underclothing.

The Kyoto Costume Institute is not really a museum, although they do host exhibits at their location at times. More so, they are an Institute, whose role it is, to collect and document fashion costume from all parts of the world and through time. They work with various museums around the world (e.g. the Metropolitan, Seattle Art Museum), loaning, and coordinating exhibits. If you saw the Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion at the Seattle Art Museum (or other venue), then you were looking at many items from the Kyoto Institute.

Prior to my visit, I had communicated with one of a curator, Rie Nii, and discussed my interest to see unique fabrics in costume, used through history. As a result, the staff had selected about 10 garments for me to see.  Photographs were not allowed, and so, I will direct you to the visuals of some of the garments through online links. There are about 200 items in the online archive, and they are organized by silhouette. Enjoy the entire collection.

Online Digital Archives

Make sure you use the magnifying feature to see closeups of each garment!

The book, Fashion, is available in a few formats (single or double volume), and the covers vary. 
As I walk you through the various garments I saw, I will refer to the page number in the single volume Taschen book.

Page 17
Probably the most exciting item I was able to see was a bodice owned by Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603). This is the oldest piece in the collection, and sadly, it isn’t in the online digital archive, so hopefully you have the book.  The bodice was probably given to the Queen by the mother of Robert Devereux, in hopes of gaining a pardon for her son. The bodice did not serve its purpose, however and Devereux was beheaded. This piece is made of a plain-weave linen and then heavily embroidered with metal and silk threads using plant and floral motifs.

Page 69

Let’s look now at a dress know as a “robe à la française". This one dates to the late 18th century.
This dress is made of a silk brocade, woven in Lyon, France (the silk capital of France). It has a matching petticoat and stomacher, and is heavily embellished with passementerie (elaborate decorative trimmings).

Page 226

This garment called a visite was popular in the late 1800’s. It is essentially a cashmere shawl (whose popularity started with Napoleon’s Josephine) that has been sewn into a coat (as was the practice in the late 18th century). Zoom into this one, so that you can see the amazing imagery woven into the cloth. The fabric was woven in Lyon, France.

Pages 260-261
Next, we have a Charles Frederick Worth Dinner Dress, c. 1883.

Worth is considered to be the first couturier. This gown, is made of a deep red silk velvet. The pile of the velvet appears in stripe and leaves (make sure you zoom into the image to see this detail). A bustle would be worn under this gown, in order to give the silhouette you see.

Pages 342-343

If you like crochet, you will love this Italian dress made from Irish cotton. Crocheted motifs of flowers and dragonflies are everywhere throughout the gown. I can’t imagine how long it took to make this.

Pages 442-443

Now, let’s look at a cape by French fashion designer Paul Poiret, 1925. The textile design was by an artist Raoul Dufy. Poiret often collaborated with artists to bring art and fashion together. The cut of the cape itself is simple, basically a rectangle, but the design of the cloth (an orange lamé jacquard) with the print on top is what becomes the focal interest.

Page 482

Elsa Schiaparreli was an Italian designer, who incorporated elements of current art movements into her designs. This evening cape from 1938 is made of black velvet and is heavily embellished with gold thread embroider, sequins and beads. The image is of the Greek God Apollo.

I am very grateful to the curators who took the time out of their busy day to allow me to view first-hand garments I’ve discussed in my Fashion History lectures. Looking at them was such a fantastic experience.

The Kyoto Costume Institute
Kyoto, Japan

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Geisha Watching in Kyoto

Peter Macintosh, photographer
While in Kyoto, we chanced upon the opportunity to take a walking tour of the Geisha area with Canadian photographer Peter Macintosh. Our tour was quite enjoyable, and educational. Apparently, in Kyoto, the geisha refer to themselves as geiko. The term geisha means artist or person of the arts; the term geiko means a child of the arts or woman of the arts.

Our stroll started in front of the Kabukiza (Kabuki) theatre located by the Higashi-Ginza metro stop. We started walking in what felt like a neighborhood, and continued through to the most popular Geisha area in Kyoto, called the Gion.

On route, we met a young geisha-in-training. They are called Maikos. She was 15 years old. Here she is.

15 year old Maiko
Typically, a Maiko will study for approximately five years. This is the school where the young women are trained in various Japanese arts including flower arranging, the tea ceremony, playing of musical instruments, dance, etc.

Here is a boarding house where some geisha live. You can see the names of each girl displayed above the door.

Typically, one would sight a geisha in the early evening, going to work, generally in an Ochaya (or tea house). We were fortunate enough to have one spotting. Here she is. My shots aren’t perfect, as there were many people wanting photos, so you had to deal with that. Click on the shot to see a larger version.

A geiko crossing the street
And here are a few more shots, while walking.. probably not geisha, but still interesting.

And here is the Gion at night.

All in all, a fascinating experience.
Check out Peter's website below. He specializes in photographing Geisha. He was married to a Geisha, so he knows more than the average person of how their life works.