By Lisa Matsumoto, Public Relations & Communications Intern
Our second meeting of the year took place on October 13 where we explored the culture of the kimono with Dr. Sheila Cliffe, kimono specialist and professor at Jumonji University, and Chizuko Takahashi and Tomoko Yoshida of Kimono Tango, a small women-run company that recycles kimono obi fabric to create new beautiful creations.
Dr. Sheila Cliffe has always loved fashion, but it was a chance visit to flea market looking for Japanese pottery during which she purchased a kimono that helped her find her calling. It may have turned out to be an undergarment instead of a kimono, but it’s beauty only increased Dr. Cliffe’s fascination and led her to become “the kimono expert” and author of The Social Life of Kimono. She noticed the “small signals” that something new was going on in the world of kimonos and decided that she needed to investigate further. Dr. Cliffe revisited “fashion and tradition through the kimono” for her PhD with her five-point definition of fashion: new is more important than old, form is more important than function, it is self expression and it is an economic system. Fashion is a distribution of information and kimonos are not an exception.
Kimono Tango was started in 2012 when Chizuko Takahashi started selling her products to her friend Tomoko Yoshida who would in turn sell them to her friends. It started out small with setting up booths at bazaars at ASIJ or the Tokyo American Club until the tote bag Ms. Takahashi designed became a walking advertisement for their endeavors. They’ve now expanded with their Etsy store, workshops, and a ryokan in Izu and the Mitsukoshi department store displaying and selling their products. The Japanese have always recycled and reused and although the reuse of kimono obis has some controversy, many Japanese see the reused obis and reminisce about the special occasions that are associated with kimonos. A company of women by women for (mostly) women, Kimono Tango breathes second life into used obis and brings the beauty and memories of a kimono with it.
From the wartime propaganda kimonos to the recycled obi purses, the audience was in constant awe at the beauty of these garments. Both Dr. Cliffe and Ms. Takahashi showed us what kimonos are capable of, not just as clothing. Guest Mai Yamamura said how the topic was very interesting as although she was Japanese, she had never really given kimonos much thought and would like to bring more friends to the meeting next time.
We hope to see more of Dr. Sheila Cliffe and Chizuko Takahashi’s work with kimonos and that more people will become aware of the beauty, history and culture behind them. As Dr. Cliffe stressed, “kimono is not tradition, it’s fashion.”
June 2017 Women’s Start-up Club Recap: Mentorship and Networking
The FEW Women’s Start-up Club wrapped up the year on June 29, with a timely presentation on mentoring and motivation for entrepreneurs by Patricia Bader Johnston. Patricia’s career in Japan has spanned the public sector, including the Canadian Embassy, and the private sector, including positions at Goldman Sachs and Japan Tabaco, corporate decision-making as a […]Published on 1st August 2017
Event Recap: Few & Mirai no Mori Concert For a Cause
What a night! On behalf of all of us at FEW, a great, big thank you for joining us for Concert For a Cause! On a balmy, summer night, FEW members, friends and performers got together at British pub 2nd Half in Takadanobaba for a night of music to raise funds for Mirai No Mori, an NPO providing […]Published on 14th July 2017
How I Got Here: Joanna Sato
I look through the windows of my Japanese home at the cityscape of Tokyo and I see how my life has been a series of navigating varied landscapes. The landscape I inhabit now is very different from the one of my hometown in the south of Poland, where my journey began. I first left home […]Published on 30th June 2017
July Strategic Partner News
Check out the latest member offers and opportunities from our Strategic Partners here! Our Strategic Partners are committed to bringing the best services and products to FEW members. And go to our Strategic Partners page to learn more about all of FEW’s Strategic Partners, who not only support FEW’s activities but also provide professional and […]Published on 29th June 2017
Q&A with tailor Melanie Uematsu
Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting on ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All,’ we’re featuring a Q&A with our speaker, tailor Melanie Uematsu. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Hear about women’s love-hate relationship with the fashion industry, why one style doesn’t fit all, and how […]Published on 28th June 2017
SAVE THE DATE - September Monthly Meeting
Join us September 14th as we kick of the 2017-2018 FEW Year with our first monthly meeting. A great chance to learn, connect and be inspired!
SAVE THE DATE - September Women's Start-Up Club
Do you run your own business or are you thinking of starting one? Join the first FEW Women's Start-Up Club of 2017-2018 to share your projects and passions and connect with other like-minded when who may be able to help you in your entrepreneurial journey.