Friday, 29 May 2009

Nishijin: a kimono district

Nishijin district, Kyoto

My Ikebana flower arrangement class mate sent me an invitation to her company’s open day exhibition. Her company is a long running Nishiji weaver of many generations and she designs obi sash there. Till I visited I only knew she designed obi at a workshop and didn’t expect it was this kind of company she worked for.

Although I hardly ever wear one I love kimonos, both to look at and wear. Actually my family’s business is part of Nishijin industry, processing yearns. I see only row material at home, not the glamorous, beautiful finished products she sees.

Nishijin or Kimono industry is generally divided into lots of specialized processes and Kimono or obi sashes are completed by assembling the various component parts. After that they distribute through lots of wholesalers to reach us. It still relies on the old distribution route system.

I sometimes ask how much kimonos cost. It isn’t easy to guess the price because it all depends on the quality of each item, there’s no general price. Some are extremely expensive and others more moderately priced. How much you spend might depend on how much you appreciate them of course.

Anyway, her works are utterly beautiful - stunning. The best way to develop an appreciation for kimono is to see good quality as much as possible. I thank for her for giving me such an opportunity. Generally it’s difficult to pop in kimono shops to see them and ask the prices unless you know someone with the connection.

She also showed me her workshop.

This is the design room full of reference books. There’s another room just for storing the books.

In this room both walls are covered with yarns which are selected to match the colour needed according to the pattern produced in the design room, rather like painting by numbers.

This room is producing trials. Her company makes many different kinds of obi sash from cotton to silk and each of the looms are designed to weave in 3 or 4 different ways. The products are checked and then the designs are sent to the factory.

I asked her how many pieces were made with each design. The maximum is two with very expensive ones and five with moderately priced ones. If the design sells well, it would be produced with different colour combinations. These numbers are surprisingly small compared to most other garments.

She creates beautiful things, requiring so much of work. She rightly loves her job. It is very very good.

Visiting may be possible but will need advanced arrangement.

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