Efficiently cut from a single bolt of cloth, kimono have always been remarkably sustainable, producing minimal waste. The triptych by Chikanobu Toyohara (1838-1912) contains a series of cartouches (top) that show patterns for cutting narrow strips of fabric into the variously sized panels that will be sewn together into kimonos.
Japanese traditional customs ensured great sustainability also thanks to transmission of garments from one generation to the other. Elegant kimonos, especially the more costly and difficult to produce ones, for example wedding kimonos, had a lifespan of decades. Thus, the kimono culture paradoxically could give clues towards greater sustainability for textile industry today, in stark contrast with the fast fashion. Interesting point: while women could be taller or shorter from one generation to another, the obi sash provides a system for length adjustment to the size of every wearer. Indeed, a portion of fabric can be folded under the obi to provide the adequate length.
This wonderful and rare triptych is one where one could get lost just admiring every single detail it showcases. From the carpet, a very innovative and modern addition to any room for the time when this print was made, to a playful cat, the bustling activity shown here is never-ending. A wooden ruler is being used to measure the length of a cloth, women use needles to sew and we even have a couple of women ironing a newly sewn kimono.
Sewing Scene by Chikanobu Toyohara (c. 1890)
In this second triptych also by Chikanobu the different tools used for crafting kimono can be seen with more detail: the pot filled with hot coals to iron the kimono, the Japanese style scissors for cutting the cloth and the sewing chest full of everything needed to craft all these wonders of fashion.