Embroidery / Michiko Inagaki
Michiko Inagaki, Kyo-nui or Kyoto Embroidery Artist
稲垣美智子 京繍作家 京都府京都市
In the days before western fashion became the norm in Japan, luxurious silk kimonos extravagantly embroidered with gold and silver threads were the preferred garments of the Imperial family and wealthy Japanese. In a small atelier hidden in the narrow streets of the ancient capital Kyoto, Michiko Inagaki, an embroidery artist and a descendant of the first female to ever be designated a traditional artisan in Japan, kneels before her low frame, sewing incredible pictures with silk thread.
Ms. Inagaki learnt to embroider at her mother’s side watching every move carefully. At age 12 she drew her first pattern and embroidered it herself, and later in life she went on to start her own company where she mentored up to 10 live-in apprentices in addition to fulfilling her duties as a traditional housewife and mother.
"Rings of Flowers" Bridal Gown / 「花の丸」打掛 / 100% Silk, embroidered with silk and genuine gold thread
"Autumn Grass" Obi sash / 「秋草」名古屋帯 / 100% silk, embroidered with silk and genuine gold thread
"Momiji (maple leaves)" Obi sash / 「もみじづくし」名古屋帯 / 100% silk, embroidered with silk and genuine gold thread
"Azure Rigs of Snow" Coat / 「瑠璃色の雪輪」道中着 / 100% silk, embroidered with silk and genuine gold thread
However, over time the prolonged economic recession in Japan took its toll on the traditional kimono industry and she seriously considered closing down her business until she was invited by the Kyoto City Government to exhibit in Florence, Italy in 2000. She departed Japan filled with despair and little hope, but the exhibition was such a success that she returned to Japan replete with confidence and determination.
Ordering from Ms. Inagaki is a deeply personal experience. She prefers to meet the intended wearer in person and asks that they entrust the creative process to her. With an image of the wearer in mind she has the kimono dyed to her instructions and then embroiders it like no other, selecting 100 shades of silk thread from the 600 in the drawer. When she sees her customer wearing their new silk kimono for the first time, Ms. Inagaki experiences a sense of delight as she now knows that her work perfectly complements her customer from every aspect.
Photography by Hirofumi Miyamoto