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Kitsch to Art Moderne: Meisen Kimono in the First Half of Twentieth Century Japan



Kitsch to Art Moderne: Meisen Kimono in the First Half of Twentieth Century Japan 

With Yoshiko Wada Saturday, September 17th, 2016, 10 a.m. Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Admission: Free for current members of the Textile Arts Council $5 for students and members of the FAMSF, $10 General Admission

When Japan opened its doors to the West during the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the former feudal society experienced an influx of foreign culture. The resulting industrial revolution stimulated the textile industry and created a border consumer market including “commoners” who were once restricted from wearing silk or colorful kimonos. This new market created a sudden blossoming of popular designs for kimono, haori, winter baby wraps, and futon. Popularly called “meisen,” these fabrics and products were produced in great quantities across Japan during the first part of the twentieth century.

Meisen generally indicates silk cloth patterned by printing or ikat resist dyeing its warp or weft. These relatively inexpensive and visually dazzling textiles gained special popularity among lower and middle class women. The designs reflected consumer taste, fashion trends, and social phenomena. A strong public interest in things Western and exotic, considered “modern” or “mod,” resulted in a visible popular aesthetic that set meisen textiles apart. Despite popularity, after World War II meisen production virtually disappeared due to a rapid decline in demand for inexpensive kimono which were replaced by Western clothing.

The contrast between meisen and other Japanese traditional textiles continues to puzzle contemporary viewers in Japan and abroad. By examining meisen designs we can gain perspective on the social and cultural background, consumer psychology, and technical information surrounding Japanese textile production in the early twentieth century.

Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada is an artist, author, exhibition curator, textile researcher and film producer and has long been an exponent of traditional and sustainable practices in fashion and textile production. She travels throughout the world giving lectures and workshops, and participates in conferences to build greater insight into the world of fiber and textiles. Yoshiko is president of the World Shibori Network and founder of Slow Fiber Studios. She has co-chaired all nine International Shibori Symposium (ISS) as well as upcoming 10thISS in Oaxaca, Mexico. She conducted textile research globally including in Japan, India, and USA funded by the Japan Foundation, Indo-US Sub-commission for Education


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