Kimono. Layers of Inspiration

Temporary exhibitions

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  • Saturday, November 19, 2022, 5:00 PM - Sunday, April 9, 2023

The Manggha Museum presents the living tradition of the Japanese kimono and reveals how it continues to inspire contemporary fashion designers.

The kimono is a distinctive Japanese garment easily recognised the world over, perceived as a continuation of tradition and expression of national identity, an extraordinary achievement of craftsmanship and frequently a true work of art. The starting point of a kimono is a geometric shape created from simple strips of fabric, which serves as a blank canvas for creativity.

The Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology holds an extensive collection of kimonos, obi belts and other traditional accessories; this year the collection has been expanded by the generous donation from the Naohiro Kizu family from Echizen, and now numbers over 300 items. The donated kimonos date back to the first half of the 20th century and they were once a part of the Kizu family’s dowry.

The exhibition Kimono. Layers of Inspiration, presenting a selection of the museum’s collection, reveals the place the garment held historically and continues to hold in the lives of Japanese people who maintain the tradition of wearing kimonos at important life events such as weddings, first visits to shintō temples and even chadō tea ceremonies. It will also explore how the kimono continues to inspire artists all over the world, and the intertwining influences of the East and the West on 20th-century fashion.

“The traditional Japanese garment can be made of myriad different fabrics and patterns, and it is decorated by hand or machine by weaving, painting or embroidery. Today, the fabrics are made at specialist factories using intricate machinery and computers. The kimono’s simple form allows designers to focus on its decoration. The high variety of techniques used and the creativity of the designers devising sophisticated patterns and motifs mean that the kimono is one of the most beautiful expressions of Japanese art, and different eras bring different styles,” we read in the exhibition brochure. “The images on kimonos are beautiful, colourful decorations which frequently have symbolic meanings. Their creators depict the natural world and how it changes with the seasons, reaching for images of plants, animals, water in all its forms, waves, clouds and snowflakes. Other distinctive elements are compositions based on complex geometric patterns, recalling shapes found in nature such as zigzags, grids and stripes. Each design follows a carefully planned composition, and even as the kimono changes shape when it’s worn, its most striking elements always remain visible.”

The exhibition features a contemporary element, exploring the place of the kimono in Polish fashion over the last decade. It has been prepared with Joanna Hawrot – designer, winner of the title Designer of the Year #BEGINDESIRE in the Hush Selected 2014 competition and creator of artistic performances following the philosophy “From Fashion to Art”. She follows the Japanese aesthetic of polarisation – expressing as much content as possible in a minimalist form. She reaches for Oriental inspirations, transposing Asian traditions and culture to modern European metropolises. In 2015, the Manggha Museum held a multimedia fashion show presenting a collection of contemporary kimonos combined with a symphonic concert by the Lutosławski Orchestra Moderna. This time we will admire Joanna Hawrot’s and other Polish designs juxtaposed with examples of traditional Japanese craft. (Dorota Dziunikowska)

The text was published in the 3/2022 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.



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