Visit of the exhibition Kimono at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac with comments by Julien Rousseau, curator of the Asia collections at the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac.
This exhibition was organized at the Victoria & Albert Museum before coming to Paris. It presents this Japanese clothing emblem from the Edo period (1603-1868) to the present day with Western adaptations.
From the 9th s. appeared a "proto-kimono" consisting of narrow strips of fabric assembled together and tied in the front with a belt. From 15th s. THE kosode, garment with narrow armholes, is worn alone and dresses both men and women. It's at 18th s. that the term kimono (from kiru et mono, literally "thing that one wears on oneself") seems to have been used to designate a type of clothing in general, but the terms of kosode and D'Osode are still used: the kosode means a garment with "short sleeves" and tubular whose opening was just large enough for the passage of the hand and the arm, theOsode having long sleeves with wide openings. The kosode does not take into account anatomical differences between men and women and requires a fairly strict maintenance, especially that the bust is maintained by a wide belt, theobi, which is Corsican. The kosode is made up of 7 textile strips making 35cm wide which are assembled in the same way for centuries. The evolution of kosode will assert itself, not in its form that remains virtually unchanged, but in its decor.
It is with the rise of an urban class enriched by trade that the kimono becomes an identity and social marker. With the political stability established by the shogun Tokugawa and the transfer of the capital to Edo (Tōkyō), we see the emergence of a production of luxury textiles intended for both the ruling class and the "new rich" merchants (chōnin) (or to the bankers of the nobility, soon to artisans, artists and actors). A print by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) shows the Echigoya kimono store, founded in 1673 and still flourishing and famous in 1843.
A sumptuous furisode red, a color symbolizing youthful ardor and seduction highly prized by young women, is made of damask silk satin dyed using a time-consuming and expensive method, kanoko shibori (ligature dyeing). Despite the sumptuary laws enacted by the shogunate which prohibited the red garment, the wives of daimyo and chōnin compete in audacity and imagination and use it in the linings. The patterns that adorn the clothes can be partly woven, embroidered or dyed. The craftsmen compete in virtuosity in the embroideries which use different points and a variety of silk threads of almost infinite textures and colors without forgetting the metallic threads. If the patterns can be abstract, they can also be vegetal, relating to the seasons, religious with Buddhist, auspicious, or landscape motifs. A kosode in silk crepe features a freehand dyeing technique (yuzen), extremely expensive, which makes it possible to create a landscape, in this case, the Eight Views of the Ōmi, and the embroidered characters are connected to the poem of the same name by Konoe Masaie (1444-1505). A kosode from the beginning of the 18th s. uses yūzen dyeing, stencil dyeing, embroidery, and embroidered characters relate to a poem about the mountain rose in the design. In addition to the kimono, the elegant women wear an over-kimono (uchikake) no less sumptuous. For the summer, the katabira, a kimono made from a lighter fabric based on raffia, hemp or ramie fibres, can nevertheless have a varied decoration like the one on display which illustrates an episode from the Tales of Ise with its depiction of an iris pond. The back and sleeves bear the Tokugawa clan coat of arms.
The kimono not including pockets, the men wore a small box, inro, attached to the belt and held by a netsuke.
Over time, courtesans and kabuki actors became trendsetters. The latter, since the 17th s., played the female roles and the most famous, wearing sumptuous clothes on stage, were the darling of the public and their outfits were often imitated. A print by Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825) shows the actor Ishikawa Danjūrō VII wearing a stage costume adorned with a sickle, a pattern wa and character nu, which can be read kamawanu which means "I don't care". It is said that the actor's admirers rushed to buy fabrics and handkerchiefs bearing these designs! A kosode having been worn by actor Ishikawa Danjūrō IX is adorned with leaping carp, an auspicious motif. Red kimonos with tie-dyed designs in the shape of hemp leaves were associated with courtesans but a furisode from the beginning of the 19th s. may have been worn by a young, merchant-class woman wishing to follow the fashion of the pleasure district.
A print by Utagawa Hiroshige II (1826-1869) depicts the Nakano Street in the Yoshiwara district whose greatest spectacle was the parade of high-ranking courtesans (oiran) dressed in the most extravagant outfits. A woman's over-kimono (uchikake) made of silk satin decorated with embroidery of silk threads and golden threads could be worn on this occasion. The motifs relate to a kabuki play, thus illustrating the close links between theater and brothels.
Imported fabrics could also be used to make clothing in Japan. A male under-kimono (juban) was made from a fabric made in India, exported to Thailand and finally brought to Japan by a Dutch merchant. Another is made in a cotton fabric printed with floral motifs for English or French upholstery fabric.
If the pajamas are of Indian origin, the dressing gown comes from Japan. The oldest example of Japanese origin could be linked to the "silk kimono with family coats of arms" which Japanese archives report having been loaded on a Dutch ship in 1711. Whether luxurious or modest, the "japanese rock», manufactured for export, will spread throughout Europe.
From the Meiji era (1868-1912) the decor of kimonos will change and modernize. If the men adopt the Western costume, the women belonging to the elite will continue to wear the traditional clothing for the ceremonies even if they test themselves with the modes come from Europe or America in the current life. The Mitsukoshi department store or the Takashimaya or Daimaruya stores will be key players in the path of modernization.
On the other hand, the vogue of Japonism will invade the West and the English painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), going to Madame de Soye in Paris, is very disappointed when he learns that another painter, James Tissot ( 1836-1902), acquired the entire stock of kimonos! Couturiers at the turn of the century were inspired by the kimono and Paul Poiret (1879-1944), pioneer of the drapery, used its loose forms, as can be seen on an evening coat from 1913.
After the Second World War, designers, both Western and Japanese, will use Japanese fabrics or the shapes of the kimono for a revival of this garment which embodies universal elegance. In the 1960s, Japanese fashion designers settled in Paris like Kenzo (1939-2020) then Issey Miyake (1938-2022). The latter triumphs with his straight and pleated clothes. Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008), Jean-Paul Gaultier (born in 1952) and John Galliano (born in 1960) were thus inspired by the shapes of the kimono but also by Japanese fabrics and decorations.
Stars, pop culture and cinema will also participate in the dissemination of the kimono shape and from David Bowie to Madonna, from Blade Runner to Star Wars, there is no shortage of references...
To conclude, the curator of the exhibition, Anna Jackson, presents the collection "Africa», concept of the Cameroonian artist Serge Mouangue, where he interprets the traditional forms of the kimono with African fabrics, insisting on the fact that a cultural identity is nourished by exchanges.