Report from the "Modern Design Meisen Exhibition" at Anna Leonowens Gallery at NSCAD in Halifax, Canada.
The exhibition is a great success which has been held from Sept. 16 to 30. Many people showed up at the opening on 15. About 50 meisen kimonos were exhibited out of Haruko Watanabe's 150 modern design meisen collection. The exhibition was curated by Nancy Price and Naoko Furue who did a beautiful layout. People enjoyed looking and even wearing those kimonos. Here are some photos from the show.
Welcome to my page which is introducing the Japanese modern design kimono from my collection. You will be surprised to see how they look modern or contemporary in spite they were made about between 1930s and 1950s.
As for the modern design kimono, the meisen kimono ranks first in terms of its fresh design, bright colors, popularity and its amount of the production, however the silk crepe kimono, the silk gauze kimono ( ro ) , the asa chijimi summer kimono, the pongee silk kimono ( tsumugi ) also have contemporary designs produced in that time. My collection happens to concentrate mostly on the meisen kimono, but I would like to be open to any kind.
History of the meisen kimono
The meisen textile was woven in north and west mountainous region in Kanto district which is located in the middle of Japan, where silk cultivation had been well-practiced since late Edo period ( ca. mid 19th C ). The silk textile woven of second grade silk threads with burls or threads spun from two cocoons were called "futori" ( thick weaving ) and it was woven in the region.
Producing of the meisen textile most flourished in late Meiji, Taisho and early and mid Showa period ( ca. late 19th C to mid 20th C ) in the region. The meisen kimono was very popular among girl students in 1920s and 1930s and it was ardently welcomed by young women as a casual and fashionable kimono later. Its design and techniques of weaving were highly developed in those days. However, the meisen kimono rapidly went declining after 1950s because of the westernizing of life-style and change in the fashion of the people.
The design and the pattern of the meisen textile were rather simple in the early stage such as stripes ( shima ), cross ikat ( juji kasuri ) or plume ikat ( yagasuri ) until late Meiji and Taisho period ( ca. 1900s to 1910s ). After new weaving technique was invented, the more colorful and bold design meisen textile was produced. It is said there were competitions of meisen kimono design among weavers.
Here are some examples of kimonos with eye-catching and attractive modern or contemporary designs. Some of their designs are influenced with western modern art movements such as Art Neuveau, Art Deco, Bauhaus, American modern, Cubism etc, however some are just transformation of the Japanese traditional designs or magnifying the some patterns
The above is a haori, which is worn over kimono. Warp and weft kasuri meisen,
made in mid 20th century.
The above is a meisen kimono with geometric pattern which is warp and weft
kasuri. Mid 20th century.
The above is a meisen kimono with warp & weft kasuri patten. Mid 20th
The above is a sash for a casual kimono made in mid 20th century. The traditional
motifs such as plum flowers and butterflies in modern version. Free-hand painting
on silk satin.
Meisen haori made in mid 20th century.
The above is a sash with a design inspired by Art Déco. Plain weave silk. Stencil-dyeing.
The above kimono is silk crepe with katazome ( stencil-dyeing ) made in mid 20th
century. Dazzling wave patterns!
The above kimono has motifs of hand pinwheels. Eye-catching pop design and cool colors!
The pattern of the above kimono is the traditional "sayagata", but its color and bold large pattern look modern.
The above kimono is not a meisen kimono but a silk crepe one whose pattern reminds me of the cubism painting
The above photo is not a kimono but a sash ( obi ) with contemporary design which looks inspired by the painting of Joan Miro or Kandinsky. It was probably made in mid 20th century.
This is a camouflage pattern haori, really dazzling!
Please browse my TROCADERO home page at
which is the catalog page for mingei items, folk textiles, kimonos,
bamboo baskets and so on