My Kimono

Unique garments & accessories re-modelled from vintage Japanese silk Kimono

Silk top
Not specifically for weddings, this page is about the unique garments Mamiko has produced from her large collection of kimono. Pictured are a variety of garments and accessories mostly in real Japanese vintage silk. There's more detailed information below, but briefly, Mamiko started collecting kimono at an early age and became knowledgeable in all aspects. She has altered, re-made or re-styled these to suit the British woman.

"With some exceptions, kimono are basically free-size, and the square cut of kimono with the wonderful drape of silk is well suited to the flatter shape of the average Japanese women. Women here are more curvy, so I add shape to my garments, allowing the silk to drape naturally."

red silk cape
Whilst there are other fabrics such as cotton and linen in the collection which she uses, by far the majority of her garments are in real Japanese vintage silk. A few being relatively young from the 1950's, but in most part dating from 80 to 100 years in age.

Pink marble kimono top

Mamiko usually works to no fixed patterns, garments being created as they are made, occasionally incorporating contemporary fabrics.

Black sheer silk cape
Because few of her designs are of a fitted nature, many can be regarded as free-size, the feel and fit being down to personal taste.
But generally sizes cover the range of 10 to 20.

Due to shortage of kimono stock because her collection has become depleted, Mamiko is not currently attending any events with garments for sale. In the future if the situation changes she may continue as before.

Silk caligraphy cape
More on Mamiko & Kimono

Mamiko's interest in Japanese kimono began when she was five years old. Living in Kyoto (rich in traditional culture) with parents of an intellectual artistic background, she was constantly pushed in the learning of regular school subjects plus traditional arts such as calligraphy, art and music; every Sunday being taken to one museum or gallery or another.

Her temple (Buddhist) was much more than we would regard as a place of worship, it was a refuge and a place of learning; where the technique of teaching is fundamentally different to that of school, and in fact where she undertook almost all of her schooling (and incidentally passing all her final school exams).

However it was Kottouichi (Antique Market) the large open-air market in Kyoto which greatly influenced her. Today a very popular market, in the 1960's it was a very different place; a bit seedy, dirty, many beggars and poor people, but with many crafts people. Respectable people wouldn't even really care to take a child there, and it would certainly not have been considered a safe place for a 5 year old girl! But it was freedom and exciting for Mamiko, she would be up and on her way to the market at five in the morning, it was her escape.

Pleated black silk top
She recalls, "There were things in the market which would not be allowed today, like dancing monkeys and poor families with their children dancing for money. There was one poor man with a wooden right arm, but with his left hand he produced excellent quality calligraphy whilst his bare-footed son would sing and dance to an extraordinarily professional standard".

Without her parents' knowledge it should be said, she became well known there, assisting and learning from the traders. Mamiko had always liked the colours and texture of fabric and there where weavers and dyers would practice their art, she became fascinated in all its aspects.

Under the guise of attending the temple, she would instead go to the market and spend her piano lesson money and pocket money on buying kimono. And lest it be discovered at home, she stored her collection in the temple. She took some kimono apart in order to understand the method of making it. And was always asking of the traders, "How do you do this or that".
Her enthusiasm was noted and because of her persistence, she was told the address of weavers and dyers designated as "National Living Treasure". (This is an honour in Japan bestowed on people of outstanding ability.)

So at the age of about eight she went there, and was promptly turned away. For months she continued, even standing in the rain, knocking on the door and being turned away.
But eventually her persistence paid off, she was admitted. Not to talk or ask questions though, she was allowed to sit in the hallway! Over a period of about three years, this progressed from sitting near the door of a workroom, to then being able to watch, and eventually being allowed to sweep the floors. Such slow progression is hard to contemplate, but from her temple teachings, something which she accepted.
Wavy red silk top
Mamiko eventually progressed to producing her own work, not by being taught in the way people learn from attending school or college, but by an attainment of knowledge gained from being in the environment of excellence. It's a very traditional Japanese way, and a topic in its own right.
This period was when Mamiko really started learning, and she had become very knowledgeable about kimono and the associated silks and processes even before her teens.

With the intention of expanding her knowledge of traditional weaving and dyeing techniques and Asian crafts, she toured and worked in many central and south eastern Asian countries, graduating and then gaining a doctorate in Asian craft studies and becoming a museum curator. This led on to her teaching traditional weaving and dyeing techniques in several countries.

In the late 1990s Mamiko visited the UK when she lectured on ceramics and displayed some of her kimono collection in Cambridge and Nottingham and assisted in the construction of a Japanese Anagama wood-fired kiln in Cambridge. She has since worked extensively for UNESCO and JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), on support projects for fashion development in textile weaving and dyeing.

Through the 1980s and 1990s Mamiko often lectured and wrote for trade fashion trend publications in Japan and latterly organised fashion related exhibitions in Japan in association with designers such as John Galliano and Dries Van Noten.

Owning a kimono especially in the past in Japan was an expensive business, not only due to the cost of purchase, which could easily be the equivalent of many thousands of pounds today. Kimono are not often washed, but when needed would go through the process of "araihari". Usually a man's job, the kimono would be taken apart and the individual pieces of silk washed and the kimono then re-assembled. This is why vintage Japanese kimono were always hand-sewn.

Kimono really are garments different from others. So much care, thought, skill and effort goes into the making of all aspects of a kimono:
Initially, choice of silk thread determines the feel and appearance of the silk fabric. What type of tree the silk worms lived on and the choice of different for warp and weft especially in crepe silks where over wound threads after being woven are relaxed in water to achieve the 3 dimensional quality.
The skills of the dyers using natural dyes, giving colours still vibrant after a hundred years.
Choice of design and pattern, for the person, season and occasion, all taken into account.
Now married and settled in the UK, Mamiko has worked with her kimono collection producing garments suited for use here. "When I take apart, wash and re-style a kimono, in effect "araihari", ever-present in my head is the care and craftsmanship that originally made them all those years ago."
Sadly, many of those artisan skills are now lost to time, probably never to be repeated.

"I really enjoy giving British woman the chance to wear truly unique handmade garments and accessories."

Throughout much of her working life, having taught art and crafts to all ages in several countries in Central Europe and Japan, and also lecturing on traditional weaving and dyeing techniques in Japanese universities, Mamiko has now gained her British teaching qualification.
She is now concentrating on her art work and delivering learning in several traditional Japanese crafts: Sumi-e (brushed ink painting), Ikebana (flower arrangement), Sashiko (embroidery) and Japanese style gift wrapping.
Mamiko may be engaged to deliver short courses, one-day or weekend workshops, or for special events or lectures.

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