Friday, 20 August 2010

Afrikimono

There's a report on a new kimono collection in Metropolis magazine. The designs are by Japan-based Cameroonian designer Serge Mouangue – he terms them his Wafrica designs. ("Wa" is a term for what you might call "Japanese-ness").

It's curious that all designers from abroad but based in Japan make some kind of hybrid design in some way – conscious, unconscious or in between. Often, that little "quirk" that comes from our country-of-origin will be the little "quirk" that a client, whether Japanese or also foreign, is looking for.

Mouangue's kimono look good. There's a gap to cover between traditional African textiles and traditional Japanese ones. (And quite a gap to cover between your "average" female Japanese body-shape and your "average" African one in wearing them – if it's possible to talk in averages when it comes to nations, continents or the human body!) Japan is, of course, quite capable of transforming its kimono scene from within – witness a modern men's kimono exhibition I saw some years back in Omotesando's Spiral Building, with quite brilliant shadings and contrasts and designs that worked not only for wearing but also for display in exhibition. It still sticks in my memory as one of the most stimulating exhibitions I've seen.

Mention kimono and Japan's traditions come to mind. In fact, those traditions are played with constantly and there are some tremendous modern takes on kimono alongside wonderful traditional ones. These African variations are an eye-catching addition as influences make their presence felt in Japan. As they have before. (Just for example, design agency Pentagram reproduced parts of a found book of kimono designs – Hinagata – and mentions that in the late 19th century, Persian, Indian and Western themes appeared in certain designs.)

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