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.”
Q&A with Jackie F. Steele and Megumi Ishimoto
Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting on ‘Celebrating Women as Change Agents in Post-Disaster Tohoku,’ we’re featuring a Q&A with Jackie F. Steele, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo, and Megumi Ishimoto, Executive Director of NPO Women’s Eye. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Join us […]Published on 14th March 2018
March Strategic Partner Member Offers and Other 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 personal services […]Published on 1st March 2018
February Meeting Recap: Survivor – How to Overcome Adversity
You never know where life is going to take you. That was the message from our February guest speaker, Maxine Van-Cliffe Arakawa, who has had a decades-long career as a fashion stylist, make-up artist, and fashion show director in New York and Japan. She shared her personal experiences dealing with bi-polar disorder and gave her candid advice to […]Published on 1st March 2018
March Community Services Feature: Five Tokyo-Based Organizations That Fight For or Empower Women
In honor of March’s International Women’s Day, we’d like to present to our FEW community a list of five organizations that have established themselves as organizations who fight for or empower women as well as a list of five events that you can attend to show your support for this year’s theme of #PressFor Progress. […]Published on 28th February 2018
How I Got Here: Johanna Nousiainen
I first came to Japan as a study abroad exchange student. That year changed my life, even though at first I didn’t know it would. I was supposed to become a journalist in Finland, since that was what I loved to do – looking for information, interviewing people, writing articles about unique encounters you have. […]Published on 28th February 2018
FEW Spring Hanami Picnic & Party
Join FEW on Sunday, April 1, at Shinjuku Gyoen for a special family-friendly spring picnic celebration under the cherry blossom trees and enjoy connecting with friends, old and new!