Duringuring the Meiji period (1868–1912), Chiso pioneered commissions and collaborations with prominent nihonga (Japanese-style painting) artists, including Kyoto-based painters Kishi Chikudō, Imao Keinen, and Sakakibara Bunsui. As a result, fresh textile designs were created, which were then transposed into patterns of embroidery and kata-yūzen dyeing. Chiso also commissioned Keinen to create a remarkable set of painting albums to inspire its designers, and Chikudō to design a pair of textile hanging scrolls in collaboration with Chiso’s expert dyers and embroiderers. Chiso continues to collaborate with important contemporary artists, such as Yohji Yamamoto and Dior, to this day.
1890·Chiso Collection, Kyoto·Chiso LTD
Yūzen dyer, Murakami Kahei, and embroiderer, Kobayashi Kyūjirō
Hanging scrolls; yūzen-dyeing, embroidery, ink and color on silk
Nihonga painter Kishi Chikudō (1826–97), who taught painting to Chiso’s owner, Nishimura Sōzaemon XII (1855–1935), was the first artist with whom Chiso partnered. Nishimura later invited him to instruct the company’s designers in the creation of unique designs. These textile scrolls were a collaboration between Chikudō, who designed them, and Chiso artisans who executed them. During the Meiji period, a number of pieces like these were produced that look like paintings but were in fact embroidered, a true testament to the artisans’ skills. These panels combine yūzen-dyeing and embroidery to create striking effects.
1876·Chiso Collection, Kyoto·Chiso LTD
Kishi Chikudō, 1826–97
Pair of eight-panel folding screens; ink and color on paper
Ōtsu and Karasaki is considered to be Chikudō’s masterpiece. Here, the artist applied Japanese-style painting materials and techniques to create a low horizon line—an approach to landscape painting that reveals knowledge of European linear perspective. The monumental pair of screens offers a panoramic view of two sites on the shores of Lake Biwa, near Kyoto. The top screen portrays the bustling port city of Ōtsu on a winter morning—frosty mist hovers in the air and snow dusts the warehouse rooftops—and the bottom screen depicts the famous ancient pine tree at Karasaki at twilight. Chikudō is regularly exhibited at domestic and international expositions to represent Japan. Ōtsu and Karasaki exhibited with Chiso at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition in 1876.
1890·Chiso Collection, Kyoto·Chiso LTD
Sakakibara Bunsui, 1825–1909
Yūzen-dyed silk crepe (chirimen)
During the Meiji period (1868-1912), Chiso was the first kimono firm to engage with artists, including the nihonga (Japanese-style painting) painters, such as Sakakibara Bunsui (1825–1909), Kishi Chikudō (1826–97), Imao Keinen (1845–1924), Kubota Beisen (1852–1906), and Fujii Gyokushū (ca. 1860–1910) to produce sketches for modern kimono designs.
This auspicious design of samurai armor (yoroi) and helmet (kabuto) by Bunsui was made for the special kimono worn by boys during the celebration of shichi-go-san, or the life milestone ages of three, five, and seven. As seen here, kimono patterns often consist of repeated motifs that are oriented in opposite directions so that they can be adopted for both the back and front facing panels of the garment. The meticulous drawing and applied colors of this predominantly stencil-dyed kimono renders this an extraordinary work.
1891·Chiso Collection, Kyoto·Chiso LTD
Imao Keinen, 1845–1924
Four volumes, color woodblock-printed book; ink on paper
This painting album is among the most exquisite color woodblock-printed books of the early Meiji period. A collaboration between the painter Imao Keinen and the Chiso firm, it illustrates and orders various groupings of native and non-native Japanese flowers and birds according to the four seasons. The resulting 134 images provided fine design models for artists and artisans. Keinen’s book was circulated widely, not only in Japan but also in North America, Europe, and East Asia, with its success due to the artist’s meticulous drawing skills, simple compositions with 100 harmonious color combinations, and gorgeous execution.
2005·Chiso Collection, Kyoto·Chiso LTD
Yohji Yamamoto, b. 1943
As part of the commemorative events celebrating the firm’s 450th anniversary in 2005, Chiso invited fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto to create kimono with an eye to future fashion trends. Compared to many types of dress in the West, which tend to conform to the shape of the human body, the Japanese kimono could be said to be “gender-free,” and this was an important consideration for Yamamoto.
This stylish women’s kimono with a masculine tsuba (sword guard) motif set against a sharply defined and dynamic matsukawabishi (pine-bark lozenge) pattern is inspired by the lining of a man’s haori, or jacket, from the Meiji period. The notion of iki, often described as cool sophistication and seductive charm, is a fitting term to express the aesthetics and spirit embodied in Yamamoto’s kimono design.