Friday 14 August 2009

Breathtaking Embroidery from the Kobe Fashion Museum

In the entrance area are a gorgeous collection of Japanese robes from Azuchi-Momoyama Era (1573-1603) and Edo Era (1603-1867).

Walk on, and you will be greeted by a group of smiling gentlemen clothed in a wonderfully embroidered habit à la francaise.

Of course, the embroidery on the gentlemen's coats are fabulous...just look at those wonderful embroidered buttons.

You can also see the ladies dressed in robe à la francaise taking tea. Please note that mannequins here have faces, and wear makeup - each has a different expression. The faces are painted by Hamada-san himself, the museum's Chief Curator.

They are carefully and exquisitely arranged so that they appear life-like. And they are not enclosed in glass cases, you can get so close as to touch them!I had heard earlier from Hamada-san that the mirrors on the wall were to reflect the visitors so that they might feel themselves part of the society they are are gazing I did (can you see me in in amonst them there?).

Then you will see the "Chozetsu" embroidery by the Mochi tribe in India...such embroidery and textiles as you have never seen before! Look at this detail.

And to top it off, behold the haut-couture dresses - from the likes of Yves Saint-Laurent etc. - bejewelled and embroidered for celebrities to wear.

The Chozetu exhibit is joined by the
basic exhibit, displaying costumes following the themes of "textile" "color" "material" etc. You can also see the costumes from the Empire period which followed the French Revolution. There are white muslin chemise-dresses, lovely English cotton lawn dresses with white-gold embrodery and drawn-thread work; toile dresses, that you are allowed to touch by wearing a white glove.

Near the exit is the pride and joy of the Kobe Fashion Museum, the replica of Napoleon's Coronation robes.

These costumes were replicated, based on the famous picture by David, by French artisans over several years, to celebrate the grand opening of the museum in 1997.
Outside the exhibition room, there was a replica of a Japanese embroider's atelier, and India embroidery samples from the National Museum of Ethnology A class of Indian embroidery was in progress the day I visited.
What really surprised me was that, the majority of the costumes exhibited in thie "Chozetsu" exhibit was owned by the Kobe Fashion Museum (except for Japanese embroidered robes and some of the haut-couture dresses), and with the exception of the Napoleon robes, they are real antiques, not replicas! Together with the costumes and items in the archives, the museum has over 10,000 costumes and items to offer.
Although deeply impressed with the intricate embroidery, which was the objective of my visit,I could not help being drawn into the atmosphere created by the world of the people who had worn those beautiful costumes in the past.(It is as though I am talking to the lady in white...she is looking at me!)True to its title "Chozetsu Shishu", the exhibit is a collection of costumes displaying the world's top-class embroidery.
Methinks that the whole world has to see this! It is a "MUST-SEE" for all lovers of needlework and costumes, especially if you live in Kansai area! This you can only experience by actually being there.
My thanks to Ishigami-san from Public Relations who kindly arranged for me to meet the Project Manager Hamada-san (Chief Curator) for an interview, and such wonderful things I heard! He told me that fashion needs a story. He wants vistors not just see the wonderful embroidery, but to appreciate the fact that "Living people wore those things at some point in history", and to feel the "Atmosphere" of the virtual world produced by the be-robed mannequins.
PLEASE NOTE: The images used in this article have obtained special permission from the Museum to photograph, and to use in the Needleprint, Needleprint Nihon, and Needleprint France blogs. Please refrain from using them elsewhere.
Saho Nagi


  1. Oh my word, the patterns and techniques are just so beautiful! What a wonderful experience it must be to see this display in person. Although I am in awe of the skill and time required to construct and adorn these elaborate fashions, in truth, I am totally content to pick up Mary Wigham and get back to work. She suits me right down to the ground.
    Rose Huskey

  2. Awesome, just simply AWESOME. Thank you so very, very much for sharing this wonderful exhibit.

  3. Thanks so much for showing us this wonderful exhibition - it's just breath taking to see the quality of the work and the colours!

    Wendy Holt

  4. Oh my Lordy!!! the top picture of kimono took my breath away. I have just inherited 2 of the most beautiful wedding or ceremonial kimonos with amazing embroidery. I will post them on my blog in a few days.
    This exhibition must have been stunning.