［ PROFILE ］ --- Shinobu Abe
Dyeing Artist / Dressing Kimono Instructor / Manners when wearing Kimono-Instructor
Her motivation for designing, dyeing, sewing, coordinating and dressing people in kimono comes from her passion for Japanese traditional culture and from her home town in Yamagata Prefecture.
As well as Kimono, she also produces other related items such as Obi( Tied sashes for Kimono), braided cord and Obiage (for the Obi sash).
She is a consultant and has also given lectures about the Kimono and manners when wearing it.
--- Thoughts about Japanese Culture ---
Japan has developed a compassionate and peaceful culture throughout its
entire history of thirteen thousand years.
The countryside is full of natural beauty with one of the most blessed climates in the world.
From early on Japanese people believed that there were "Kami" (divine forces) in every creation of nature, and they worshipped them.
Nature (with its Kami) was a gift to the people, so the
relationship between nature and the people's daily lives was always integrated without any conflict.
After a long period of time, people in Japan also learned to be thankful for nature's gifts or the Yaoyorozu No Kami (the many Kami in Shinto), so they started to express their appreciation through something visual using words or actions which developed into transformative practices such as by doing "the tea ceremony", "flower arrangement", "Japanese calligraphy", "Judo" (martial arts) and "Kendo" (Japanese fencing).
And they began to evolve their own aesthetics with the spiritual foundation of Kami making a culture which Japanese people are very proud of.
--- About my work (Why Kusakizome?/ Why Haori?) ---
I was requested to work on "Yamabemomen" (Yamabe Cotton).
Considering this fabric would be woven in Yamagata prefecture, I offered a design which is somewhat restrained and repetitive reflecting the image of the people of Yamagata.
After going through trial and error, I've decided to make twelve pieces of cloth for "Haori"(a lightweight coat worn over the kimono) using the method "Kusakizome"(plant dyeing) although I was a bit concerned whether this cotton fabric would take up the dye successfully.
The twelve pieces of Haori cloth reflect the four seasons of the year in Yamagata prefecture.
The "Haori" is worn like a coat over a Kimono and people use it to protect themselves from the cold weather or for special occasions.
The natural dying process has been done probably from time immemorial land people's daily lives have been surrounded
with colorful items using these dyes, starting with clothing.
The reason why the Japanese people started long ago to dye their clothes with plants is because they probably believed that they could protect themselves from impurities by transferring the plant's "Kami" (the divine force of the nature) to their clothes, or they maybe knew the plant's medicinal properties.
In picture scrolls Japanese noble women from the Heian period (794 to 1185 A.D.) can be seen wearing "Junihitoe"
(the twelve-layer robe) which was also made carefully with natural
dyes showing the changing colors of the seasons.
In this project, a questionnaire was passed out to foreign tourists and exchange students visiting Yamagata prefecture, and we found that many of them thought that five minutes would be enough to try on a Kimono.
That gave me a bit of a headache because one needs at least fifteen minutes in order to put on "Hadagi"(Kimono underwear), "Nagajuban"(a sub-kimono), the "Kimono", and finally the "Obi"(belt), and other ties.
Then I figured out that just giving them an opportunity to be exposed to our traditional costume, the "Kimono" would be enough to learn something about our Japanese spiritual culture.
So, I decided to work on only the "Haori" because it would be easier and faster to put over people's own clothes instead of trying to put on every single layer underneath the Kimono even though this is not exactly the traditional Japanese way to wear it.
In that way, we can shorten the amount of time it takes and let these foreign people enjoy the experience.
It is also designed as an unisex style so both women and men can enjoy wearing the same kind of coat .
Unfortunately, we don't see many Japanese people wearing "Haori" any more except at festivals, popular occasions, games or going out and dressing up in traditional Japanese costumes, which has become a popular thing to do.
I would like to present my "Haori" design which I tried to make as casual as possible for daily use.