Antique kimono silk was made using a variety of techniques. The lustrous silk was woven into many forms, from exquisite jacquard to delicate crepe. Then, over several months, kimono artists created the spectacular patterns using a combination of crafts. The silk could be hand-painted, dip-dyed, embroidered, embellished with gold leaf or knotted to form a distinctive Japanese design called shibori.
Sadly, many of these crafts, which had been passed down through families of artisans, are no longer practiced. We celebrate the skill and artistry of Japan's master craftsmen by using the fabrics that they created to make beautiful bespoke pieces.
Own a piece of Japanese history.
Shibori is a resist-dyeing technique used in Japan for centuries. In this design, tiny sections of fabric are bound with thread (shike-ito) by hand and then the cloth is dyed several times. When the thread is removed, the distinctive Shiori pattern is revealed. It takes up to 4 months to bind, dye and finish one 10 metre bolt of silk.
There are many Shibori techniques; the patterns produced by each are delicate and create a soft texture in the silk.
Yuzen dyeing is a process developed in the 17th century. A design is hand-drawn on to white silk using very fine paste resist lines. Then, sections of the fabric are covered in paste resist leaving only small sections that are dyed with the first colour. The resist paste is removed and the process is repeated for each colour. The fabric can be dyed up to 200 times using dye mixed for each kimono by the artist.
Yuzen kimono are still highly prized in Japan today.
Kaki-e designs are hand-painted on to kimono silk using traditional Japanese inks. The ink is a solid block - tiny amounts are mixed with water to create the correct shade which is applied using a bamboo brush.
There are only a handful of artisans who still use this technique today. Their kimonos can cost as much as $50,000 and take months to complete.
Surihaku is the process of adding gold leaf to kimono silk. The areas that are to have gold leaf applied are painted with rice paste. This can be done using a mask, where a small area of silk is completely covered in gold leaf, or a stencil that is used to create gold patterns.
The gold leaf is applied using chopsticks - it is extremely difficult to keep the fragile sheets of leaf flat. Then, the excess gold leaf is gently removed using a brush.
Kasuri fabric is woven using warp and weft threads that have been resist-dyed to create a variety of patterns. Sections of the threads are bound or placed between two engraved boards and then dyed. The bound or clamped sections of thread remain white and, when the fabric is woven, create the pattern.
There are many types of kasuri fabric; in some, only the warp or weft threads are dyed and in other types both. Silk or hemp thread were used to make these fabrics.
Couching is a method of embellishing kimono using silk threads that have been covered in paper and then gold leaf. The gold threads are carefully hand-stitched on top of the fabric to create gorgeous, textured designs.
This technique has been used in Japan for hundreds of years and is still popular today.