Yuki-tsumugi: The Art of the Silk Kimono


YUKI, Japan — Looking back to my time in Japan, it comes to my mind unforgettable sensations, the smell of incense spirals fragrant, the taste of green tea, the colour of the petals of cherry trees in the dawn sky, the wind rustling in cryptomerias and the feeling of wearing silk, particularly Yuki-tsumugi silk.

Is Yuki-tsumugi silk so soft because it is entirely handmade? Or, has the expertise and knowledge behind the work of Yuki Tsumugi defined its unique softness? Is it because the wire is simply handspun and untwisted? Could it be possible that the silk contains certain proteins that are similar to those of human skin?

One thing is sure, my silk Kimono will last my entire life and will be passed on to my daughter, granddaughter and maybe great granddaughter.

Yuki-tsumugi Kimono

A Weaving Art

Born in the Heian era of peace (平安时代) in the eighth century, silk Kimonos were used as an offering to ‘shoguns’ (military commanders). The farmers of Yuki City and Oyama City, north of Tokyo started with this silk waiving techniques. The production of the material includes several stages: silk floss is spun into yarn by hand, with patterns added by hand-tying bundles of yarn before dyeing the yarn with indigo, then the silk is woven using a back-tension loom.

The silk floss for the yarn in Yuki-tsumugi weaving is produced from empty or deformed silkworm cocoons, otherwise unusable for the production of silk yarn. This smart recycling activity plays a significant role in supporting local communities. This process only uses natural pigments and is free of chemical additives. In 1996 , the Japanese government named this Japanese craft of silk cloth a national heritage and in 2004 UNESCO inscribed it in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Spin a silk floss. ©2009 by Association for the Preservation of Honba Yuki-tsumugi Weaving Techniques, with the permission of UNESCO.

Yuki-tsumugi: Silk Fabric Production Technique

A Cultural Asset

This treasure is perpetuated by about 130 artisans through Tsumugi-no-Sato Association. At a time when speed is often confused with precipitation, making this fabric looks like a monastic vocation. It takes up to a year to produce a handmade Kimono silk pongee. This is a very sophisticated technique where the knowledge and taste of the craftsman are the first ingredients for its creation.

The many stages of its manufacture, including spinning silk floss, making tangles before yarn dyeing to produce patterns and weaving on a loom back strap, are slow and precise to the minimum detail.

The designs featured have evolved throughout the years, from geometric graphics to splashed patterns, but its lightness, softness and warmth continue to be the same. Despite Western fashion advances, Yuki-tsumugi Kimonos remain the favourite garments among Japanese acknowledging the fact that high quality surpasses trends.

Yuki-tsumugi silk is an example of what we would most likely find in a ‘socially responsible’ luxury sector. It is an ecological, ethical, profitable and sustainable item closely tight to history and heritage. This ancient fabric can reconnect with the imperishable beauty of well done processes and products. For me, Yuki-tsumugi silk shows us the passage of time not as a race but as an aerial dance, and gives us the “fluidity of a deployed unhurried time in space”. It represents the beauty of Japan itself.

Yuki-tsumugi Kimono
Yuki-tsumugi – Japanese Silk

Fashion Manifesto: The Guide for the Style-Savvy

Fashion Manifesto

NEW YORK, United States — Do you want to change forever your relationship with clothes and fashion? Do you want to renew your wardrobe and your style without having to shop? You just have to start thinking creatively about your own outfit! Sofia Hedström, an internationally acclaimed fashion journalist, decided that is time to submit her overweight wardrobe to a detox stopping clothes-shopping for one year: “Together with renowned photographer Anna Schori, I found a thriving frugal fashion movement and discovered the secrets of both young fashionistas and expert masters of style from around the world,” explains Sofia.

Fashion Manifesto

Sofia and Anna’s experience comes from the book, Fashion Manifesto: “Fifty simple and playful recipes for reinventing your closet and becoming fashion fit.” With their story, Sofia and Anna show us how to reclaim our innate style: “Shop in your own wardrobe – you own so many pieces that you are unaware of. Also go on a shopping detox for a month – it is very liberating. Share your wardrobe with friends, and will suddenly realise that you can double the amount of clothes you have access to.”

Fashion Manifesto
Fashion Manifesto – Sofia Hedström, Anna Schori

Sofia Hedström

Sofia Hedström is the Fashion Director at Women’s Health and works as a TV correspondent for Norwegian NRV. “I am also a marathon runner and have run eight marathons, among them New York, Boston and Jamaica. When it comes to fashion I have interviewed Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood, among many others. I always wear dresses and skirts. I will want to run for the rest of my life. It keeps me sane,” suggests Sofia. She enjoys a famous KierKegaard quote about life:

Boredom is the root of all evil – the despairing refusal to be oneself.

Anna Schori & Vivienne Westwood

Fashion Manifesto has been illustrated by the talented photographer Anna Schori. Vivienne Westwood signed the foreword of the book. Sofia explains how this collaboration was born: “Anna and I have been working together as a team and one day while we were having lunch in our neighbourhood in New York, we came up with the idea of the book. It was very organic.” As Sofia proudly says: “I met Vivienne Westwood in Paris and felt right away that we shared the same philosophy and that she was the right fit for the book. A few months later, I met her in Milan where we agreed to collaborate.”

Fashion Manifesto
Fashion Manifesto – Elliot Hoshor
Fashion Manifesto
Fashion Manifesto – Philippe Crop

The Inspiration

In the words of Sofia: “I had worked as a fashion journalist for five years and was going to fashion weeks around the world, but I started to feel uninspired. It was the same trends over and over again. The speed of trends was also going faster and faster and clothes were getting cheaper and cheaper, so I decided to do an experiment to see what would happened if I stopped shopping for clothes for one year. Shortly after, Anna and I decided to write a book about a new movement of people who had a healthy and creative relationship to fashion without having to buy something new every week.”

Fashion Manifesto
Fashion Manifesto – Rachel

The Impact

Sofia comments on the handbook’s impact in fashion: “In Sweden and in Norway, we receive a lot of emails from readers who have done shorter shopping detoxes. Here, we have also gotten a similar response. I believe in consumer power and I am very happy when frenetic buyers try new things even if it is just for a short period of time. I am also glad to see that more and more companies are changing the way they produce clothes as a response to an increasing awareness.”

Are you fashion-conscious? Or better: Do you feel that you need a style boost? Fashion Manifesto tells a story of the “wardrobe detox” – a whole year without buying clothes – giving new tips on how to rediscover your style and stay fashion-frugal!

10 Corso Como: A Review of Opposite Views

10 Corso Como – Garden

MILAN, Italy10 Corso Como is more than a simple shop, a bar or a bookshop, someone called it a concept store. One of the first in its genre, it is a real point of reference for fashion lovers and hip people. We present you a review of opposite views: men vs women!

Men vs Women

Alessandra: Last week, I left the office at around 7 pm and I jumped on a typical Milanese tram towards the city centre as I was about to meet a colleague from the FG Magazine, Dino Pozzato, in front of 10 Corso Como. It was a cold evening, but Milan has a special charm during the winter season, so I thought this location, which I chose, would fit well with the evening, plus I knew Dino has never been there before and it is a place I really like.

10 Corso Como was opened in 1990 by Carla Sozzani, former fashion editor and publisher, and sister of Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italy. At the beginning, there was only the art gallery; the store was open one year later and then gradually other areas were included. Today, it is a place that features an art gallery, a bookshop, a concept store (selling clothes, accessories, jewellery, perfumes, make-up, etc) a cafè, a restaurant and a luxurious bed&breakfast.

10 Corso Como Store – Women Fashion
10 Corso Como Store – Women Fashion
10 Corso Como Store
10 Corso Como Store

Dino: I was quite sceptical at the beginning – I am not a big fan of those everything-under-one-roof concepts, even less in a city like Milan, which has a string of excellent restaurants, but when it moves to bars it hits the pretentious button, big time. Plus it was rainy and cold.

The place won me over, pretty fast. You can see it grew organically, and it is a beautiful example of what you can do in a prime location like this one. Airy, well-laid with a lot of excellent choices in all its shops. Browsing the selection on photography and design in their bookshop was simply delightful. The art gallery, based also on previous exhibitions, is definitively one of the reasons one should visit this place over and over again.

The boutique is a different story: the gentlemen section is, as it should be, a much smaller area than the ladies’ one. And I have to say, the selection was a bit too extreme for my taste: some sort of fundamentalist hipster meets metrosexual. After that, I was definitively ready to move over to the bar.

10 Corso Como - Cafè Restaurant
10 Corso Como – Cafè Restaurant
10 Corso Como - Cafè Restaurant
10 Corso Como – Cafè Restaurant

Alessandra: I like 10 Corso Como because it is a place full of art, culture and lifestyle, you can feel it in the air. You can spend an entire afternoon there: starting by flipping through the pages of photography or fashion books, getting lost among the amazing clothes, bags and shoes on display in the main store (Maison Martin Margiela, Azzedine Alaia, Alexander McQueen, Valentino, etc) and ending with a cup of tea in the garden café. It is impossible not to find something fabulous and it is also a perfect place to find ideas for presents and, in this season, to do Christmas Shopping!

We ended our evening with a drink at the bar. There was a big choice in the menu, even if we have to admit that we had better cocktails elsewhere, anyway the atmosphere was really nice, so we can turn a blind eye to it.

Dino: The bar was as good as expected, eclectic in design and with a very cosmopolitan clientèle. To keep up with Milan’s reputation, the waiters were a bit snotty and quite oblivious of customers. The drinks and the selection of nibbles could have been better, but I tend to be very forgiving after my second Bloody Mary.

As two different people and, above all, a woman and a man, this was a summary of our views and perceptions of the same place, but we can say that it is worth a visit, for sure.

Audrey Hepburn : The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Audrey in Rome by Luca Dotti - Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn

LONDON, United Kingdom  —  Audrey Hepburn, I instinctively associate her name to innate grace, glamour, New York’s 5th Avenue, black and white movies and Tiffany, of course.

To me, her allure was all about subtlety and understated elegance, which is so much in contrast with the more recent conception of beauty and sex appeal. Being a great fan of hers (and of Givenchy!) and an admirer of her inspiring style, I have very much welcomed the publication of Audrey a Roma. I was driven by curiosity, I have to admit it, and by the sense of relaxation that such introspective works instil in me.

Audrey in Rome by Luca Dotti - Audrey Hepburn in Rome
Audrey in Rome by Luca Dotti – Audrey Hepburn in Rome

Audrey a Roma: The Book

Audrey a Roma, the book which is introduced by her son, Luca Dotti, is both an occasion to reflect on her style and an album of snapshots taken during the three decades she spent in Rome.

As Luca states, “Audrey a Roma was born as an exhibit that opened in 2011 in Rome to benefit UNICEF. The publisher found that the catalogue could become a book and that is quite a compliment. We started with some ‘paparazzi’ shots, but wanted to look at it from a different angle and searched the Italian archives. At the beginning it was more about finding unseen pictures, but very soon we realised we were building a sort of Roman diary.”

“Rome had always been central in my mother’s life and career, but seeing her evolution over the years was extremely touching”.

I can imagine how touching this project was from a son’s point of view. Myself, I was so affectionately impressed by the intimate insight on the actress’ life the book provides —  no snapshots from world-famous photographers, no red carpet images and few pictures from her most famous movies. While in Rome, Audrey was indeed the Oscar winning actress followed by paparazzi, but she was also a mother raising her two boys, a wife and definitely a life lover.

I knew my mother mostly in jeans and t-shirts

Luca Dotti continues, “Being born in 1970, I knew my mother mostly in jeans and t-shirts and was always a little bit ‘shocked’ when others related her as a great fashion icon. This is something I saw and learnt later in life by watching her movies and fashion shoots. When asked to Hubert de Givenchy, he liked to reply that my mum just loved everything he did, she rarely had special requests more than: take this or that ornament away, it is just not me”.

Additionally, Luca emphases, “I have quite a few loving memories of my mum during my childhood, but the ones I cherish the most were the lazy times at home. Mum was happy there. The family, the dogs and her garden was everything she hoped for in life”.

“The family, the dogs and her garden was everything she hoped for in life.”

Audrey in Rome by Luca Dotti - Audrey Hepburn & Andrea Dotti
Audrey in Rome by Luca Dotti – Audrey Hepburn & Andrea Dotti

Audrey Hepburn: a Silver Screen Icon

Audrey Hepburn is undoubtedly a silver screen icon, her stylishness is synonymous with the 20th century Hollywood glamour and her elfin beauty has made her the muse of Hubert de Givenchy. Yet, what makes her a truly inspiring woman is also something else, and as Luca Dotti rightly points out, “She was and still is an example of a quite ordinary woman. When she started acting, right after WW2, her slender line was quite common for many of those who suffered hunger. Quite the opposite of the American pin ups men dreamed of, she was an accessible model for women.

Then came her decision to leave her career to attend home duties of wife and mother. Quite an ordinary decision for a woman of her time, if you think about what her career actually was. Later, during her UNICEF years, she only applied what she had learnt as a little girl: give back whenever you can”.

The ordinary side of an icon is what makes Audrey even more special to our eyes.

Marks and Spencer Campaign: Meet Britain’s Leading Ladies

LONDON, United Kingdom  Marks and Spencer Autumn Winter 2013 A/W Advert Campaign has commissioned the legendary fashion photographer, Annie Leibovitz to shot what is meant to be the celebration of the Nation’s leading ladies across a variety of industries and ages.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, Executive Director Marketing and Business Development at M&S said, we wanted this campaign to signal a new and confident tone of voice to introduce Autumn. Annie was the perfect choice to shoot a campaign of this magnitude. Her unmistakable, signature style, with its truly dramatic aesthetic was exactly what we needed to communicate the essence of the campaign and of the new M&S.

Marks and Spencer Autumn Winter 2013 A/W Advert Campaign

Teaming up with Hannah Teare as main stylist, Julien d’Ys and Val Garland in charge for the hair & make-up, and under the creative direction of RKCR Y&R agency, Leibovitz opted for four shoots set in very typical English environments to feature the quintessentially hero product categories of the collection. The shootings involved many people and the settings were very busy, considering the importance of the campaign in response of falling clothing sales, and the calibre of the “cast”, who are all industry leaders in their respective fields.

The shoot we like the most, representing the wintercoat range, has been shot on a boat on the River Thames overlooking the beauty of the iconic London landmark, the Tower Bridge. In this scene, the models are wearing coats chosen to represent their personality in a variety of colours, textures, styles and poses.

Tracey Emin confessed right after the shooting, “I really liked my outfit and actually wore the red coat on my way home!”. The other shots features the British countryside for the Per Una ultra-feminine range, a London artists’ studio for the London calling playful trend and a typical countryhouse for the “dresses” line.

Nicola Adam and Helen Mirren in a behind-the-scenes moment of the shooting

An Amazing Array of Women

Let’s have a closer look to the line-up chosen for the project, which boasts the following 12 iconic personalities:

  • Nicola Adams, Britain’s first female Olympic boxing champion, who won a gold medal and earned an MBE thanks to her unsurpassable ability.
  • Monica Ali, one of Britain’s best-selling authors whose moving tale about ethnic adaptation, Brick Lane, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
  • Helen Allen, 2011 Nurse of the Year, having created an award-winning volunteer programme that facilitate mobility for nurses to Africa.
  • Darcey Bussell, the retired principal Ballerina at the Royal Ballet.
  • Grace Coddington, US Vogue’s inimitable creative director, the striking visionary behind the magazine’s fashion pages.
  • Karen Elson, the globally acclaimed supermodel who has left the marks on numerous fashion magazines covers and catwalks.
  • Tracey Emin, the indomitable Artist and Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy.
  • Ellie Goulding, the multiplatinum Brit Award winning singer-songwriter.
  • Helene Mirren, the Oscar-winning Dame celebrated for her incredible portrayal of the Queen among the others.
  • Laura Mvula, director of a community gospel choir, as well as an award-winning singer.
  • Katie Piper, burns victim, charity campaigner and all-around national sweetheart, whose determination and bravery are of inspiration to us all.
  • Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International.

It is the first time that M&S, Britain’s biggest retailers, goes for such an amazing array of women for their advert campaigns. In the past M&S had already partnered with well-known brand ambassadors. For example, previous adverts had starred Essex supermodel and member of LCM, London Collections Men, David Gandy as the face of the Italian inspired “Collezione”; and English model and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as the face of the women’s collection. Her success was so great that she is now the creative mind behind a M&S lingerie line named after her.

A sneak peek of the latest M&S collection that stars, among the others, Tracey Emin and Helen Allen.