Kimonos and La Belle Epoque

“L’Art pour l’art”… I’ve always believed fashion is art – an expression of beauty, of emotion, and of self. Does art or indeed fashion need a purpose other than for its own sake?

L’art pour l’art - one of Oscar Wilde’s phrases that always sticks in my mind. Spoken by the arch-aesthete, the eponymous Dorian Grey, collector of fine art and a work of art in himself (I know it didn’t turn out well for either Dorian or Oscar in the end!) Take a moment to read the opening page of ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ to understand how the aesthetic resonated through the rich, artistic and radical of Parisian (and London society).

Japan had been cut off from the outside world for a long period, and it was only now, in the 1870s -1890s, that its influence began to spread.

I have been fascinated by this époque and ‘Japonisme’* (as Van Gogh described it in a letter to his brother) that spread like wildfire! Also influenced were the French Impressionists. The Japanese ‘artists of the floating world’ showed them how radically different art could be.

Thus, the kimono became fashionable. Why would it not? The sumptuous Japanese silk which swishes and drapes elegantly, the flattering cut (this is mainly why I wear my kimonos whenever I get the chance!), the sense of the exotic … but above all I adore the richly jewelled colours, the patterns rich with symbolism and, well, just the utter eye-catching, conversation-starting exuberance of a kimono!

I collect vintage Japanese Kimonos and import them directly from Japan. I adore the red kimono, decorated with cranes, symbolic of longevity and the cream kimono, probably my most sumptuous; self-patterned with chrysanthemums and with bright orange blooms exploding like fireworks from the paired back base print! Not forgetting the touches of gold – this kimono really scintillates! The long, draped sleeves ensure you do not have to do anything beyond sipping a glass of champagne and be absolutely fabulous darling!

Helen x

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