Friday, January 31, 2020

Kimono Revolution

So I was a Japanese Embroidery student at 12, back in the early 1980s; so I care about the techniques, experts and history of Japanese textile culture.  You also know that endangered textile technologies and techniques are kinda 'my thing'.  So last night when I sat down to embroider and watch TV and was looking through the options - a program called "Kimono Revolution" coming on at 8pm really got me to stop and switch the channel to it.

It didn't take more than a few minutes for the program to get me crying and really want to recommend it to you all.  The program is right now making the rounds on PBS but it can also be watched on the internet.  It is in subtitles but soooo worth it.

Watch Kimono Revolution

It is a story of how the decline of the traditional kimono - which is the one product that keeps almost ALL textile artisans in Japan going - has reduced to less than 1/3 the market in just the last 10 years.  One major Kimono store owner is on a single minded mission to save the entirety of the textile artisan infrastructure.  Kinda sounds familiar, doesn't it.

So he conceived of an audacious project and hoped he could have it done in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.  (1) Raise about $40,000 per kimono (how much they cost) from donors, corporations and the government (2) recruit all the artisans to take their techniques and challenge themselves to modernize the look and (3) produce a work-of-art kimono for each of the 206 countries represented at the Olympics.

The money would keep the artisans going a few more years and the unique interpretations by these living treasures and new upcoming artisans would excite the market and drive interest in Kimono in the public.

Several of the kimono productions are gone through in detail and every time I cried.  The beauty, the expertise, the age of the artisans, the collaborations to make something new.  It was heartbreakingly beautiful.  The film really encapsulates what I have seen throughout my life of traveling around the world and being introduced to experts that we are loosing and often standing there knowing that the next time I try to come back - it will be gone.  I have so many pieces of something in my house that I pull out sometimes and "pet".  The 'last' of something and full of memories of some tremendous expertise that is gone and I got to see before it was gone.

So please put watching this on your to do list.  Pull out a cup of tea or glass of wine and afterwards you will decide to do something textile related.  Find your nice things and pet them, use them and honor the legions of elderly experts like those in the film.

And we NEED an exhibition of these kimono to come to America after the Olympics.  Who can we beg to do that???

The visionary's quote is: "My dream is to see the people leading the delegations wearing the kimonos at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo games".  Oh gosh I really hope so.  It is just an incredible feat and such an appropriate way to boost their long traditional culture.



  1. I've always admired the textile arts of Japan, but only recently took note of the intense workmanship involved. I am floored by the beauty of it all. I hope we can all take inspiration and do the very best we can with our own projects.

  2. Is it possible to see this exhibition in Japan?

  3. Thank you for posting this. A little digging around led to the website where all the completed kimono and obi are showcased: