YOUHAI KATOU: THE TRANSLATION OF CHARACTERS
Drawn Kimonos in Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
"I never make the same Kimono twice, there is only one perfect Kimono for each person."
Youhai Katou grew up in a Kimono making family. From his aunt he learned how to make it, behind his chair in the workshop, is the one from his father. He didn’t really had a choice, but actually he wanted to draw Mangas since he was 12 years old. In the age of 26 he was sitting in the workshop, drawing Mangas, when a customer from his father walked in. He said Youhai-san, I want you to make my Kimono. First he refused, but the costumer insisted. It took me a hole year to finish my first Kimono, but after that I never wanted to do something else.
What fascinate you about Kimonos?
A Kimono is a unfinished product. It will be always part two. Only in combination with
the persons face it becomes a complete, perfect and finished product. Kimonos are made
for men and women, but since I’m a men I had to learn to think like a woman. I need to understand what they like.
What does women think and like?
Women like arrogance, but not exaggeratedly gorgeous. This is my way to do it, others may do it differently. But the problem is, that the way Kimonos are made and look like hasn’t changed in the past 400 years. It's all about flowers and so the design is very limited. I want to make Kimonos no one has seen before.
So what do you do differently to the past 400 years?
I need a lot of research about my customers, so we talk and sometimes I visit them at home to get an impression of their characters and a sense of their personalities. I want to know if you are strong or a soft green. I think Kimonos represents the character of a person.
How do you translate the character of a person into the Kimono?
Every colour has a specific atmosphere and I try to match it with the atmosphere from the character. I got that feeling from my time, when I was drawing comics and Manga, these
are my roots. In Manga every colour needs to have a meaning.
We have a Japanese saying: the same wind cannot blow again. I never make the same Kimono twice, because I believe, that there is only one perfect Kimono for each person.
So yourself have only one Kimono?
No, I have four.
Because I changed as a person. But still I like the colour blue.
Youhai likes to use his hand and skill to draw on the clean fabric, not only because it is an old tradition in his family and in Japan, also it makes his Kimonos unique. It makes a difference to the printed and sewed Kimonos, which are very common right now. The perfect Kimono is the one, where everything matches together. The pattern, the colour. When the Kimono arise, it is just a long sting of fabric, it happens that he is drawing the back of the Kimono on one day, but the sleeve 3 days later and in the end they have to match together. This is what makes the Kimono drawing process unique and beautiful and the moment of putting all tiny parts together is always the most exciting ones. Already Youhai's grandfather was proud of a perfect match. As a Kimono drawer you need to have
an image of the hole Kimono, of how it will look like in the end, this skill is the most difficult and most important one. You are an artist for two quarters, one quarter designer and only one craftsmen. But in my free time I don’t even want to be perfect. This is work and want my customer want. Because in the end I want to get compliments. I got them since I was child and my motivation everyday is now to keep on getting good feedback.
I am creative because I want to get compliments for my work and my customer to be happy.
Youhai-san, we talked now for about two hours. How would my Kimono look like?
What colour do you like?
Then you are a strong yellow and need to have a balance of a brown-red and a bit of grey
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture