Sunday, June 3, 2018

Hitomi Harama - Japanese Kimono Specialist

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Photos and writing by Dianna Drahanchuk

Hitomi Harama and I met in the perfect backdrop - the Q Lounge in the newly renovated Empress Hotel in Victoria. She wore a beautiful deep lavender kimono that fit right into the rich surroundings. Her mother, in Japan, wears a kimono every day and Hitomi has inherited many of these kimonos. Good kimonos are usually used over many generations, quite commonly over three generations. The kimono Hitomi wore at our meeting formal, to show respect. The kimono culture evolved over 1200 years and included various design rules for choice of colours or textiles.

Kimono means “thing to wear”, as kimonos traditionally were every day garments. From the end of 19th century, Western style clothing became more widely adopted, and after World War II Japanese life-style and clothing became heavily Americanized. Today Kimono are no longer Japanese everyday clothing but still worn for important occasions.

I visited Hitomi to see if she would present to SMOC about Kimono, as she has previously curated kimono exhibitions at Victoria Art Gallery and the Nikkei Museum in Burnaby. Throughout our discussion Hitomi explained that kimono are made of various textile materials including silk, linen, cotton and nowadays, synthetic materials. Silk kimono are the most valuable and usually more formal. Cotton kimono are generally casual and they are durable and easily washed.  Hitomi also pointed out that the traditional kimono is an eco-smart no-waste garment. The kimono structure is straight and made to fit-all.  It can be serviceable for generations as the worn-out kimono can be made into other items such as quilt covers and pillow cases.  This age old Japanese practice is known today as the “Cradle to Cradle® philosophy (that) focuses on designing products to never go to waste”.

Speaking of the cradle, Hitomi mentioned that there is a special ceremonial Japanese tradition for pregnant women: the “hare-obi", the special “obi (kimono belt-part)" support for the pregnant belly area.  While this traditional practice was for good thoughts and protection for the baby.

Hitomi’s family has owned and operated a traditional kimono retail store for over 85 years in Japan, but here she is free to style Kimono fashions more creatively as she has done for TV and film. She can also "style Kimono wardrobes...for those individuals who seek an opinion about their personal Kimono attire, helping both men and women to select the best Kimono for the appropriate occasion.” Her Facebook page documents her work around the world.

My conclusion was that Hitomi’s knowledge, passion and conversational style about her subject, as well as her loveliness, would be well suited for the SMOC audience. And she’s definitely interested.

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