MODE IN THAILAND
Plays its scales
By Christianna Wintour
10 April, 2017
Few pieces of clothing, if any, can claim such genius as the iconic kimono. From ancient China to modern times, this textile perfection has constantly been reinvented, as demonstrates the new Bubble Mood collection.
Until May 22nd, the Guimet Museum in Paris is hosting the exhibit “The Kimono, a Pleasure for the Ladies”, displaying more than 150 women’s kimonos from the collection of the famous Japanese firm Matsuzakaya.
The reason why the kimono is indisputably a pleasure for the ladies is without a doubt because it constitutes an iconic, timeless, elegant, and versatile item that has crossed the boundaries of eras and countries, accompanied all social classes, cinched men’s waists and revealed women’s bodies, that has never stopped reinventing itself.
Its flat and immutable T shape is identical for all bodies, sexes, and shapes; it will be up to the body to find a way to interpret it.
A piece of clothing with a simple shape and outline, its decorations are those that reveal its finesse, its unique nature and variety and display the social rank of the person wearing it.
The kimono reveals its wearer, and in this aspect shows itself to be more than a simple piece of clothing. It tells the story of who we are through the motifs that it displays and the complexity of its fabrics. Like many traditional clothing items that have lasted through ages and established themselves as points of reference in contemporary wardrobes, the kimono tells a story, the story of Asia, fashion, the body, and our relationship with it.
In spite of the commonly held belief that the kimono originated in Japan, it comes from China, where it was inspired by the traditional clothing of the Han Dynasty.
In the fifth century, when the first Japanese embassies settled in China, the Japanese borrowed numerous aspects of art and dress from the Chinese culture, including the kimono.
It was originally called “kosode”. A unisex garment, it was worn at the time as an inner layer of clothing by aristocrats. With its short and wide open sleeves, it was then adopted by warriors, samurai, and courtesans, and then became the Japanese garment par excellence, worn by all social classes.
From a traditional and usual item, it became fashionable in France at the end of the 19th century, during the period of “Japonisme”. The spirit of Asia was influencing Western art at the time: Japanese porcelain, prints and decorations were an inspiration for Western artists of the time.
Fashion designers such as Jean Poiret or Madeleine Vionnet appropriated the kimono and modified its charm into a fluid silhouette, while keeping its width. It was a fashion “must” to wear it as homewear, suggestive and evocative clothing for receiving guests.
From the supreme symbol of chic at the start of the twentieth century, it became an item of urban exoticism and pop culture elegance in the 1990s, when designers such as Kenzo Takada appropriated it and added it to their collections.
Exactly in the same way that it became traditional clothing in Japan, it has established itself as one of the key items of current wardrobes, from high fashion to ready-made clothing, infecting fashion with its timeless refinement.
For example, the designer Olivia Gurdjian imagined a bridge between France, her country of origin, and Asia, where she has been living for more than 10 years, developing a line of clothing whose collections are designed around her signature piece, the kimono.
Removed from its traditional function, it was reinvented as a bohemian jacket or an airy dress, a new wedding dress or a summer uniform. Its prints are chosen from the designer’s travels or created by her husband, Lucas Gurdjian, art director for the brand.
An undeniably nomadic item, the kimono continues to write the history of international fashion without borders, inspired, precious, and human.