Beauty: What On Earth Are You Going To Wear?

africa japan kimono photo

Amazing things happen when cultures collide. Wa (Japan) meets Africa and you get Wafrica. The silk kimono is as old as Japan, now, thanks to designer Serge Mouangue, you get to think out of the box. Cotton kimonos. Isn't it just beautiful beyond belief?

Serge Mouangue is a concept-car designer for Nissan. He joined forces with Kururi, a Tokyo-based kimono-maker, to produce the traditional Japanese attire in 18 African prints sourced in markets from Nigeria to Senegal. "I do not want the end result to belong to Africa, nor should it belong to Japan. It is not a 'fusion,' " says Mouangue, who was born in Cameroon and grew up in Paris. "I want it to be something else. It should transcend the boundaries of both cultures. It is a third aesthetic."

What do you wear? What does it say about you? T-shirt and blue jeans? Acryl sweater? Nylon jacket Made in Who-Knows-Where...?

africa japan kimono wafrica tokyo photo

Where I live used to be a center of silk production about 100 years ago. Much, but not all of that is lost due to trade agreements and imports of cheaper materials. You still see ladies dressed in kimonos all over Japan for special occasions, and in Yokohama, they have a great Silk Museum, and in Chichibu, Saitama, you can still visit small silk farms that make the real thing.

What I like about Wafrica is the brave new world: Serge Mouangue clearly knows about the fabric, the texture against the skin, the feel of the fine threads. Silk has got to be one of the most amazingly gorgeous materials of ancient Asia - remember the Silk Road and how the Romans coveted the precious stuff?

...A century ago every household had at least one operative loom. Young women learned weaving either from mothers and grandmothers or from mothers-in-law. This meant that handwoven textiles were a part of everyday life in Japan, and this condition lasted, in part, until the middle of this century. In no uncertain terms, Japan is a textile country.

From Traditional Crafts of Japan

Yet, as opposed to cotton, the silk was basically never farmed by slaves. Silk helped rice farmers get through the winter. In Japanese farm houses, they would have silk caterpillar farms, up in the attic of the farm house. It was a big part of rural life, a way to get additional income.

The Vegan Society says no to silk, but instead they propose fossile fuel based materials (Terylene, Dacron, Courtelle, Orlon, Dralon). I wonder why they don't consider the sustainability of silk...

Written by Martin Frid at

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