Thursday, 13 May 2010
Asian Studies Conference Japan
In mid June, I will be giving a presentation at The Asian Studies Conference Japan. I have put together a panel of four people, who can speak about issues related to Japanese fashion. Toby Slade, who has recently published, "Japanese Fashion, a cultural history", Elizabeth Kramer, who researches on the way that Victorians introduced bits of Japanese textiles and designs into their fashion, in England, Michael Furmanovsky, who writes about Japanese popular and country music, and I, will be presenting. The reader will be Yuniya Kawamura, from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She researches about aspects of Japanese street style. Whilst Toby Slade and Elizabeth Kramer will be speaking about more historical issues, Michael Furmanovsky and I will be discussing more contemporary ones. I am very excited and nervous about this conference, and today I have been preparing my power point presentation. My theme is how kimono is changing in Japan, now. I will be talking about new businesses and also about the way kimono interacts with technology, namely, the internet.
Looking back, when I arrived in Japan, the only way to learn kimono was to go to the kimono school. When I wanted a yukata, I went and chose a roll of cloth and I was measured, and waited three weeks to go and get it. Everything was made to measure. All the accessories at the kimono school had to be white. Other colours were rarely seen. People thought that kimono was just a hobby for rich housewives, along with ikebana and English conversation. It sort of gave you cultural brownie points. Those pastimes were nicknamed the "marital arts". If a girl could do those things she could find a desirable husband.
Even whilst Dalby was writing that kimono was not going to change any more and was a fixed system, I could see that things were beginning to change. I began to see new kimono books on the shelves and I noticed that coloured tabi had arrived in the shops. Now there are not only coloured, but patterned, lace, and made to order tabi. Then you wore zori or zori, but now geta are popular too, and even boots are coming in for casual wear. Kimono were silk or silk, but now they are silk, cotton, polyester or wool. Then we used white collars but now we use embroidered or coloured ones, or cut our own from old kimono. Creativity has returned, and kimono schools will have a hard time surviving, when people can learn to dress from Youtube, in America or Amsterdam. Kimono is being democratized like it was in the Edo period, when Japanese were fashion crazy, and like the Taisho period, when girls were collar crazy! Here's to democracy. I am all for a bit rule breaking, in an appropriate situation!