Okimono Kimono

July 10, 2010

CLAMP/Mokona – Dark Horse – 2010 – 1 volume

Here’s one of the more unusual books I’m going to talk about here. I almost want to do it as an artbook review, and maybe I should, but as a CLAMP book, I think it’s worthwhile to talk about the content, too.

The CLAMP name is almost irrelevant in this case, because aside from the front illustration (Kobato in a kimono), the entire book is about kimono fashion, design, Mokona’s original patterns, how to wear them, and what to wear in different situations. Knowing absolutely nothing about kimono except that they come from Japan, this book was extremely fascinating.

It’s broken up into several very different sections. The first section showcases several kimono that Mokona made herself, hand-dyeing and painting the designs directly on the fabric. She has models and several photos, along with an explanation of the design for each one (mostly inspired by older CLAMP series). There are first double-page photos of each, then the subsequent explanations (along with some commentary about the illustrated backgrounds in the photos for each kimono), then a making-of segment in the back. The next section shows off several styles of kimono for different occasions, discussing what makes each appropriate, and the different pieces such as the obi, the pattern, and the accessories. There are two interviews in this book, one between Mokona and Ami Onuki of Puffy AmiYumi fame, and the other between Mokona and the owner of a vintage kimono shop. Both articles discuss kimono as everyday wear, and talk about the subtleties of wearing them out and to occasions. The next takes a look at a model wearing various kimono ensembles to different attractions in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. The next section discusses and showcases different kimono accessories (complete with little 4-panel comics in some spots). Next is a lengthy photo diary of Mokona wearing different kimono and ensembles to different social events. The final full section is a short comic drawn by Tsubaki Nekoi and an essay written by Satsuki Igarashi (who doesn’t actually like kimono). The final appendix is something like a gathering of different kimono patterns.

I was pretty fascinated by the different content. One of the things I think I was most fond of was the way the large kimono patterns were matched with different patterns of under-collars and obi, along with hats, hairpieces, and handbags. Frequently it looked like it ought to clash since quite a bit of what was going on with the outfits was very ostentatious, but they almost always looked very good together, and the louder the ensemble, the better it looked. Some of the vernacular failed me (how big is the under-collar? why is it hard to tie an obi? what are the differences between vintage and modern kimono? what makes it difficult to walk around and keep a kimono’s shape? why weren’t tabi socks discussed in more detail? I have literally no clue about these things). But the writing is secondary to the photos, and the photos are very, very generous. Mokona is very serious about kimono design and what to wear to different events in every day life.

The two sections that I liked the most were the photo diary and the accessory spotlight. There were so many different little hairpieces and obi ornaments, along with other cute things like handbags and sandals. Some Mokona made herself, some were vintage, but all were very beautiful. The photo diary was interesting not only as a look at what was appropriate at different events (including Hirohiko Araki’s anniversary party), but also the number and variety of events CLAMP goes to over the course of two years. It was interesting stuff.

There are very few people who are likely to pick this up. CLAMP fans might be disappointed by the lack of CLAMP content. It’s not a comic. But it is super-fascinating. I picked it up on a whim, and I’m very glad I did. Had I know exactly what was in it before I purchased it, I probably wouldn’t have bought it, but I’m glad I did, all the same.